Our job here at AfterEllen.com is to not only let readers know about what is going on in the world of lesbians and bisexual women in pop culture, but to analyze whether or not that exposure is good for the queer community as a whole. As most of us know, just because a gay character exists on a television show doesn’t mean victory for the gays. It often means infuriating stereotypes, sexism and other ways the mainstream manages to marginalize the homos.
In an article published Thursday, Newsweek writer Ramin Setoodeh is skeptical. Sure, we have seen an influx of gay characters and television personalities on the small screen lately, but are we taking two steps back?
The article, titled “King of Queens,” first points to Glee — calling it “TV’s gayest product since Richard Simmons.” Point taken. Setoodeh wonders whether flamboyant characters like Kurt (played by Chris Colfer) allow for gay stereotypes to be perpetuated. While I do see to some extent where the writer is coming from, I found myself irritated by his tone and his solution: tame the gays!
As Setoodeh condemns television shows like True Blood, Grey’s Anatomy and House for filling their queer quotas with hot, femme, bisexual women (which he claims caters to straight males) he applauds Rachel Maddow for wearing lipstick even though she clearly does not want to.
“The key is balance,” Setoodeh writes. “There’s so much more to the gay community than the people on TV (or at a gay-pride parade).”
The article cites past TV characters like Jack from Dawson’s Creek, the mild-mannered jock who comes out after dating Joey (Katie Holmes). It also claims characters from The L Word and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy are more “multifaceted” or “less lavender and more grey.”
Maybe instead of being so damn loud about our queerness, we should just blend in and trick the general public into accepting our “lifestyle.”
Setoodeh also repeatedly mentions anti-gay policies like Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, California’s Prop 8 and Maine’s Question 1, perhaps in an effort to highlight all of the gay community’s recent and not-so-recent failures.
Possibly blaming flamboyantly gay television characters for a shift in priorities among the gay community, he goes on to claim older gays care more about equal rights. Which, if you look at polls or talk to pretty much anyone in America, you know is not the case. Young, gay activists are becoming more and more engaged.
“Last month, gay groups held a march on Washington for marriage,” Setoodeh writes. “The older folks gave speeches. The younger ones seemed more interested in snapping a Facebook picture of Lady Gaga.”
Actually, Mr. Setoodeh, the younger generation’s willingness to come out at an earlier age and not hide their sexuality at school, work or in their homes is probably thanks to more gay visibility in pop culture — and I don’t think sassy dancing or a makeup free face changes that. You may think Adam Lambert’s eyeliner is too gay, or Kurt’s Single Ladies dance is too feminine, but slowly (and surely) we are making progress.
Perhaps the most offensive comments in the Newsweek article come near the end (take a deep breath):
Marriage (and the military) are sacred institutions, so it’s not surprising that some heterosexuals will defend them against what they see as a radical alteration. But if you want to be invited to someone else’s party, sometimes you have to dress the part.
Someone else’s party, huh? I’m pretty sure Setoodeh is a gay man, but I’m not really getting where he’s coming from on this.
Do you think gay characters should be “toned down” to appease a straight audience?