I’d like to thank everyone for both the support and admonishment I’ve received since my comment about Modern Family a week ago: I have a hard time laughing at the gay guys. In fact, I kinda cringe. It sorta feels like the gay equivalent of ‘blackface.’
Since then, some people have expressed feelings similar to mine, while many others have expressed opposing views. I think that’s great. It is my opinion that the ‘gay character’ in TV and film has been too similar, too often, for too long.
On December 19 I cried, ‘Blackface!’ I did it in a fit of exasperation over a stereotype that shook me when I was a kid that I saw alive and well today.
Stereotypes create judgements. When those judgements lead to bullying…or worse…we’ve got a problem. I don’t hear a lot of bullying around the ‘cranky old man,’ ‘neurotic wife,’ or ‘bumbling husband’ demographic.
What’s happening over at Modern Family is not blackface. Blackface is hateful. However, I do believe a stereotype is being perpetuated that can be harmful.
Growing up I was scared of the ‘over-the-top flamboyant gay stereotype’ I saw on TV and film. I’m not now. Hell, I can ‘queen out’ with the best of them. But when I was a kid the stereotype distanced me from who I would eventually become. Maybe I would be a little further up the pyramid towards self-actualization if I had a role model at that age. Instead, I buried myself so deep into trying to make my friends laugh, theatre, sports, etc., so I wouldn’t have to spend a moment thinking about what a ‘unique’ person I was. I appreciate that the stereotype in question may have helped someone else.
It did not help me.
It confused me. It kept me in the closet. Actually it was worse than that because I hit the denial button before I’d even heard of ‘the closet.’
I want to confuse the current stereotype. Gay people, like any minority, know the power of comedy. It’s often our lifeline. Don’t tell me we can’t still be funny while we do it.
‘This gay character isn’t a stereotype, I know people just like this.’ Sure, so do I. I love them and appreciate that they are different. But when I want to visit Europe and the travel agent sends me to London over and over again I don’t feel like I’ve really seen Europe.
Yes, different gay characters are trickling in. But Hollywood is the gatekeeper of of the cultural lexicon. We set the pace. Let’s step it up. America can handle it. If we conjured Kim Kardashian out of nothing can’t we do the same with a gay badass who fights crime?
I’m glad gay characters have such central focus among truly loving characters on a comedy like Modern Family. On our next trip to Europe let’s visit a different city. I hear Paris is pretty funny this time of year.
I ain’t a hero. Nor am I a villan. I’m a guy with an opinion that comes from my gut and I want to change the world. Through the gay characters that I have played I have attempted to confuse the stereotype instead of perpetuate it. Bully for me.”