Are Politically Incorrect Gay TV Characters “Gaycist”?

The visibility of LGBT characters on TV, particularly on sitcoms, is higher than ever — from Fox’s Glee and ABC’s Modern Family to the new comedies Partners on CBS and The New Normal on NBC. While these characters are being embraced by the mainstream, the gays are still on the fringes of soceity — if you’ve been following this presidential race thingy — leading to what GQ calls gaycism: “the wrongheaded idea that having gay characters gives you carte blanche to cut PC corners elsewhere.”

GQ cites a number of politically-incorrect jokes lobbed at women and racial minorities, such as the likening of vaginas to “tarantulas” on The New Normal or the “Taco Bell chihuahua Spanglish” of MF‘s Gloria, played by Emmy nominee/noted brickhouse Sofia Vergara. To wit, GLAAD’s recent Network Responsibility Index found that the majority of LGBT representations on TV are of white, gay men — white, gay men such as Ryan Murphy (Glee, The New Normal) and Michael Patrick King (Sex and the City, 2 Broke Girls).

King came under fire at a panel for 2 Broke Girls earlier this year for its frequent use of ethnic stereotypes before exclaiming out of exasperation, “I’m gay!” — meaning that as a minority, himself, he’s used to being on the other end of the punchline and therefore he’s not being malicious. According to GQ, though, he’s just another proponent of “lazy racial humor.”  And there they have a point.

Racial humor has always been a part of American television because race has always been part of the American dialogue. Comedy is the great leveler in society and its greatest enemy is political correctness. Sitcoms like All in the Family, Maude and Soap were lambasted and lauded in their day for covering then-taboo subjects of racism, rape, abortions and homosexuality. But because they were coming from a comedic center, audiences were able to digest these subjects with a healthy dose of laughter.

Still, there’s a difference between being provocative and being offensive for the sake of being offensive and some jokes are just really cheap. Of course with a name like 2 Broke Girls it makes logistic sense they can’t afford better jokes than the “character Han Lee, the doll-sized, ‘so solly’ Asian diner owner, who’s such a hyperbolic Asian stereotype he’d karate chop Fu Manchu to death in a caricature-off.”

So do gay characters have so-called “carte blanche” to be more politically incorrect than straight characters? Yes and no. It’s a lot easier for one minority to joke with another minority about being a minority, but there’s a thin line writers have to walk between being funny and offensive. The best jokes are both. As for the worst, well, they can’t all be winners, but it’s important to remember that once you can laugh at yourself, no one else can laugh at you.

Except, of course, behind your back.

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  • Cam

    I wouldn’t use King or Murphy as an example of somebody using the fact that they have gay characters as a defense against OTHER stereotyping.

    Cam on Modern family is a neutered hysterical clown. The gay couple gets into an argument every single episode over some hysterical overeaction from Cam. Additionally when it was first pointed out that they never showed any affection for each other they show spokesperson at first said “You are lucky that we show a gay couple”

    As for Murphy, the gay couple on American Horror Story was a completely dysfunctional couple that hated each other, and on Glee, Kurt was an annoying stalker etc…

    So I wouldn’t say that anybody on TV is using their wonderful depictions of gay characters as an excuse to stereotype others.

  • ScaryRussianHeather

    “what GQ calls gaycism: “the wrongheaded idea that having gay characters gives you carte blanche to cut PC corners elsewhere.”

    Interesting coming from GQ who was forced to apologize by GLAAD for making homophobic “jokes” about Adam Lambert lacking testosterone when he had a beard for a minute.

    Their apology on 12/13/2011?

    “Re: our Lambert tweet, we were thoughtless and apologize. We shouldn’t make stupid jokes about people’s testosterone. As always, we learn.”

    Oh so 9 months ago they were “~learning” and now they’re preaching and coining NEW HOMOPHOBIC words?”

    Sounds to me like GLAAD needs to address this new word.

    As far as other stereotypes go, that’s their problem; I couldn’t care less. Since every minority groups'”comedy” seems to be self stereotyping anyway.

    Maybe they haven’t figured out it’s not that different than homophobia: any targeting of sexuality as a punchline/snark. Something the LGBT community could stand to also remember when embracing these pop culture icons and stupid tv shows.

  • MartinDK

    What is this? An article or an editorial?? The style is cumbersome and feels more like preaching than a feature article. People come here to get news and fun features not the opinions of Lester Braithwaite. They belong in the comments section… Can we please have better writers…

  • tryintotryme

    @MartinDK: So what if it’s an editorial/opinion. Don’t tell me why I come to Queerty. I like the article and think your pointless criticism is obnoxious.

  • Cam


    Heather, I didn’t know that about GQ, thanks for the info!

  • yaoming

    I like the news and opinion on Queerty. Just sayin’.

  • vklortho

    But All in the Family used race and all sorts of taboo subjects to highlight issues that were going on at the time. Norman Lear wasn’t trying to go for easy racial stereotypes to get cheap laughs.

  • RomanHans

    The good news is, it’s not just gays who are stereotypical figures of derision. I’m pretty horrified by Two Broke Girls, with both an Arabic and an Asian man with hysterical accents.

    It seems like comedy writers have settled on a formula: relatively plain Caucasian stars, and totally wacky, diverse sidekicks. It’s plainly offensive, but clearly they’re assuming that Americans wouldn’t watch a show starring an actual minority.

  • Neo

    @RomanHans: Unfunny and witless comedy has always relied on playing up stereotypes, especially American writers who unanimously destroy even average conceptions of a sitcom by turning every show into Friends only with different colours and outrageous accents, and talking to the hand etcetera.

    That isn’t to say we in the UK haven’t produced some of the worst, most offensively unfunny material ever produced, after all the people of the UK loved Bernard Manning and Jim Davidson.

  • erics

    I’ve always thought Modern Family was racist and homophobic, at least when I’m forced to watch it. Every episode seems to have everyone except the old, straight, white man acting all crazy and hysterical the whole time, and then the old, straight, white man keeps his cool and fixes everything.

  • MartinDK

    @tryintotryme: Yeah i guess it relieves you of thinking for yourself. Sounds like you could need the assistance…

  • MartinDK

    Obviously opinions are welcme and potentially fun to read, but only when they are clearly labelled as such and distinction is made between reporting and opinion. Lester Braithwaite seems unable to do just that and passes of personal opinion as some kind of universally valid conclusion. This is dishonest and makes you wonder in what other ways these articles have been manipulated, selective quotation use etc etc.
    Go write for a high school magazine or research proper journalism…

  • Bienclar

    So much for “avoid personal attacks on bloggers.”

  • PTBoat

    @Cam: Funny, I don’t feel neutered, but my friends joke that the writer’s of “Modern Family” are secretly taping me. I think the full spectrum of the gay world is finally able to be shown on prime time. Gay men and women are combinations of things. Cam, for example can be soft, emotional, and even fey as he screams when he leaves his daughter in the car; however, he’s doing it while he is lofting a heavy trash can in a very “he-man crash window” moment. His character is an ex football playing hick of a guy who can do about anything, but who is not at all afraid to play Diana Ross during the Mahogany years.

    No one is all one thing. I think Murphy, and his crew, are doing a great job of showing the evolution of self in high school. The Kurt character does act as an annoying stalker, but eventually comes into his own and finds a stronger love than, perhaps, the other kids around him. This is true for the self loathing, Santana, who is beginning to blossom this season. While the story arcs are following main stream acceptance levels, they are still arcing and more and more progress is being made and I am especially pleased that the gay character is not longer expected to be an angel, pitied, or the representative of pure, broken evil.

  • Kev C

    Who cares? Watching TV is for old people. Old people enjoy stereotypes and smelling stale.

  • PTBoat

    I find it fascinating that GQ, a magazine who’s subscription I suspended ages ago because of their blatant homophobia, is now acting as the defenders of all things gay. How the world changes.

  • Kev C

    @PTBoat: Gays are still not accepted by society. Just pinkwashing is. Pinkwash everything, yeah yeah yeah!

  • Dumdum

    @RomanHans: The cook is Hungarian not Arabic.

  • Dumdum

    @Kev C: You crazy kids with your X-Boxes and your YouTube got your fingers on the pulse of the world.The all knowing, all seeing youth of today.So smart and stylish how I envy you.George Bernard Shaw said that” youth was wasted on the young.”Guess he never thought about kids like you.

  • RomanHans

    @Dumdum: Thanks for that. I can’t get through more than three minutes of the show without throwing something at the TV. It makes “Flo” look like Chekhov.

    And bad news: I watched “The New Normal” and it’s not good. I think the main flaw is the queeny lead who has all the mincing swish of Jack from “Will and Grace” but none of his ditzy charm or wit.

  • balehead

    All gays are cliches anways…take them all off tv…

  • Dumdum

    @balehead: In our current(and I use the term loosely)culture. Everything and everyone is a cliche,even you. Perhaps especially you.

  • Dumdum

    The modern media has all the depth and glitter of a worn dime.However showing Gay characters on prime time T.V. is a step forward and does create an environment of acceptance. I am grateful that we are perceived in a non-threatening humorous manner.

  • hyhybt

    I’m just trying to figure out how a vagina is like a tarantula, other than my not wanting to see either of them.

Comments are closed.