Evan and Gordon Talk: Homosexuality in Television

GORDON: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to Evan and Gordon Talk after our long absence; try to contain your tears of joy.

CONTAIN THEM!

Now our subject for tonight is something Evan and I have had multiple conversation on over the past year or so: homosexuality in television.

EVAN: If you’ve been keeping up with these weekly installments for the past year or so, it should be no mystery what our stance is on homosexuality in general. I like to think that our opinion of what Orson Scott Card chooses to do with his money make this apparent.

GORDON: Now I’m going to jump right off into my issue with the depiction of homosexuality on TV today.

While I’m confident I’m by no means the first person to complain about this, I’m irked by how it seems most every gay character on TV is a gay character, rather than a character who happens to be gay.

EVAN: To take a step back before stepping forward, I think it’s clear to most people that gay characters are in many ways the new “black best friend.” If you were watching cartoons when I was, in the 90s, you know that many, many shows had one.

There’s definitely that push to lend more screentime to a minority that didn’t really have it in the past.

The question now, and one that Gordon is answering, is how are these individuals portrayed?

GORDON: Evan, who watches way more mainstream TV than I do, can probably tell you that gay characters aren’t always being portrayed as flamboyantly gay. “A man’s man,” I think is the term he uses.

Even so, it seems to me that the gay characters are still largely defined by their sexuality. They don’t seem to get a whole lot else.

EVAN: The one example I can think of is a character on a show Gordon hates, Happy Endings. Max Blum is a gay character, but one of my favourite parts about him is that not only does no one make a big deal out of it, no one jokes about it either.

While Modern Family features a gay couple, with a child to boot, there are quite a few jokes made at the expense of their orientation. Whether or not they’re made good-naturedly doesn’t really matter, I think.

GORDON: While what Evan is saying is true, let’s not forget that there was a whole episode dedicated to dealing with the fact that Max wasn’t flamboyantly gay. I’ve never seen any show dedicating an episode to dealing with someone’s heterosexuality.

As far as Modern Family goes, I’d probably argue that the whole point of having a gay couple on is to complete the whole rainbow thing they’ve got going on. Not saying it’s a bad thing- just that they’re not free from this practice either.

I know you’ve probably got a good retort, but one more thing-

Where are all the poor gays? Or hick gays?

Seems that even the mannerisms aside, gays still get stuck with the stereotype of being moderately wealthy urban movers/shakers.

EVAN: You’re one of the least bigoted people I know,but you have to know how hilariously offensive those questions sounded.

GORDON: Explain.

EVAN: I just think if you heard someone walking around town asking their friend, “Where are all the poor gays?” you would not think highly of them.

GORDON: Cough. ‘Scuse me-

“Persons of homosexual orientation who are of a lower socioeconomic status by contemporary standards.”

EVAN: That’s the politically correct Gordon I know and love. Anyway, to address your question-

The reason they’re portrayed this way is because, by and large, it is true. Homosexuals are a demographic that many companies try to appeal to because the fact is that a household with two working partners and no children is going to have money to spend.

Here’s a gif of Cam wearing a cowboy hat. Seriously, though, they talk about him being raised on a farm a fair bit.

I’d also like to mention that Cam, on Modern Family, could be described on some level as being a “hick gay.” He was raised on a farm in . . . Missouri? Anyway, that’s brought up a decent amount.

GORDON: Hm, well even so, it seems to be… I dunno, viciously one-dimensional? I mean, I know that statistic as well, but surely there oughta be some more representation than just that. I mean, Cam aside, can you think of any gay characters on TV today who don’t fall generally into that niche?

EVAN: Who aren’t wealthy and pretty well to-do? I’d have to point back to Max, who is poor and enjoys eating food off of the floor [or his bed, whatever works].

That brings me to something I was going to mention anyway, though.

Since I knew we were talking about this, I took the time last week to talk to my gay co-worker, who I suppose I would consider a friend because we get along pretty well. I asked him what he thought about how homosexuals are portrayed in the media.

Guess which one is which!

His answer was, as you were saying, that there needs to be more variety. He pointed to the whole “manly man/flamboyant man” couple that’s featured on so many shows, and which is prominent on NBC’s The New Normal. This undoubtedly happens in real life, but it’s certainly not the only couple out there.

GORDON: Something else I wanna touch on is the fact that most every sitcom seems to have at least one gay character.

And don’t get me wrong- I’m not saying it isn’t good that gay people are getting some representation, I just can’t help but wonder if they aren’t over-represented, you know? I mean, if 5% of the country is gay, would there really be all these gay characters? Are we just turning gay characters into- kinda what you started off with- tokens?

EVAN: Isn’t it 10%? I mean, I’m not sure if there are any actual researched estimates on that.

GORDON: No, 10% is a commonly mistaken statistic. It was taken from one of the first studies of sexuality, and was grossly misconstrued by the researcher, who often included sexual “deviations” in that category as well.

Granted, I’m pretty much winging it here, but 1 in 20 seems like a more realistic estimate.

EVAN: Well, I think we all learned something here today.

So you’re making the claim that homosexuals may in fact be over-represented, which I’d actually like to connect to the criticism surrounding the first season of the HBO show Girls, which I watched all of the past few weeks.

GORDON: Go on-

EVAN: People were harping on Lena Dunham [creator, writer, and star] for not having any minorities appear, and she took quite a bit of flak for it. One of the many defences, which I more or less agree with, is that it made sense for the four white female protagonists of the show to hang out with similar people, i.e. other white girls.

In response to all the complaints her character dates a guy named Sandy, portrayed by Donald Glover. His entire appearance is basicall a big middle finger to those making a big deal out of it, I might add.

Anyway, what I mean to say is that I agree with you, and that there may be cases where gay characters seem shoehorned in.

GORDON: I mean, one of our running issues is that TV doesn’t portray anything close to an accurate representation of the world we live in.

I mean, we’re [he means the US. -Evan] what? 48% white now? Something like that? Yet every tv show is dominated by a white cast- blacks and Hispanics get a handful of supporting roles, if that. And don’t even try looking for Asians.

EVAN: Don’t. Even. Try.

…’s are more prevalently represented on television than Asians” -Chang

GORDON: If you wanna portray a realistic, relatable world- that’s going to mean, as strange as it sounds, scaling down the use of gay characters, and up the number of non-white characters. Also- where are the non-white gay characters?

EVAN: I think that’s probably a baby steps sort of thing- we start out with the Caucasian homosexuals, and the move on to others.

To be fair, though, I feel like if there were an Asian gay character people would accuse the show of “double dipping” when it came to diversity, as opposed to applauding them for it.

GORDON: And while I’m at it, can we applaud the latest James Bond flick for giving us a gay bad guy?

There’s got to be few things more condescending than a group getting stuck as “good guys.” It’s like the wise old ethnic man, or the charming little brown kids.

EVAN: Was he gay, though?

GORDON: Wasn’t he? Dude seemed to be cozying up to Bond pretty aggressively.

EVAN: I feel like he was probably at least bisexual, and simply trying to get under Bond’s skin.

GORDON: Bi, then. Baby steps.

EVAN: That being said, there is a huge issue with bisexuals constantly being portrayed as the villains, or at the very least extremely untrustworthy. It is definitely a thing.

GORDON: It is? Well, scratch that then. Let’s get some evil gays on TV, people.

EVAN: Again, I want to point out that hearing someone say this in public would sound incredibly offensive, but I think we all get your point. Having an oppressed minority constantly portrayed as the heroes is pretty condescending.

GORDON: At least we’ve got Magneto as a start to evening things out.

So any other thoughts on the issue? Any angle we haven’t hit yet?

EVAN: I initially read that as “angel we haven’t hit yet.”

GORDON: Well, that too.

EVAN: I think that at the very least we’ve hopefully fostered some discussion for people to take part in, and I do expect at least one comment on this post, minimum. This is a thing you should be thinking about, you guys!

GORDON: And we’re out of time. Resume your frenzied applause after taking a moment to leave a comment with a suggestion for our next topic. See ya later.

EVAN: Like the man said, we’re willing to discuss almost anything you suggest, within reason. We are happy to be back, and we hope to see you all again next week.

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9 responses to “Evan and Gordon Talk: Homosexuality in Television

  1. Did you consider British TV? I feel like, from the limited experience I have with British TV, gay characters are largely NOT defined by their sexuality. I’m thinking of the latest season of Doctor Who, where there was a female (and mixed species) couple who are just good chars rather than diversity check boxes, and of the movie Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy, in which Bendeict Cumberbatch’s character has a good scene where he has to ditch his boyfriend because of spy stuff, although it’s the one and only reference to his homosexuality.
    Also, in the US/Canada, do you think that lesbians are under-represented in television? I feel like we have a lot more gay men on TV than we do gay women, but that’s just me. I also don’t watch enough TV to accurately judge, so.

    • My experience with British TV pretty much boils down to the sitcoms Black Books and The IT Crowd, which you should watch if you haven’t.

      Also: Dang it, Adam! When I was talking to my friend about the representation of homosexuals in the media it actually came up how few lesbians you see on television! This is a true fact. I came to the conclusion that this may be because of how “threatening” they are to males, but I dunno.

      There’s actually an ABC show called The Fosters which will feature a family run by two moms coming out this fall, so there’s that.

  2. I was all set to suggest Happy Endings until you brought it up almost right away.
    Also, I feel like there are a good amount of gay black men on television. I can’t cite a lot of examples besides D’fwon on 30 Rock (really bad example), but maybe someone else can list other examples, or call me crazy.
    Finally, one or both of you need to add to the conversation something about GOB’s second episode in the new season of Arrested Development.

  3. Adam Reinhardt

    I watched one episode of Two Broke Girls once. There was a gay black man in that episode, though I don’t know how often he recurs. His character was awful though. Actually, it wouldn’t be fair to call him a character. Caricature would be more accurate. (Then again, the show seemed to lack good character development anyway.)

    But seriously, as a gay man myself, who is neither promiscuous nor particularly effeminate, and who has absolutely no fashion sense, I feel very unrepresented in TV entertainment.

    • 2 Broke Girls is a terrible show, and the showrunner, a gay man himself, seems to think that this gives him the freedom to poke fun at stereotypes. Pretty much every other character aside from the main cast is a gross caricature, so it’s really nothing new.

      Max from Happy Endings is not particularly effeminate or fashionable either, and I wouldn’t call him promiscuous. That’s at least one character, right? Seriously, though, I think it’s a really funny show.

  4. Pingback: Culture War Correspondence: Minority Representation | Culture War Reporters

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