Monthly Archives: March 2013

Fabulously Frustrating: Gay Stereotypes on TV

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Over the past 15 years the prevalence of LGBT characters on television has increased dramatically, but any representation does not always mean good representation. Many television producers have yet to figure out that there is a difference between having a “sassy gay sidekick” for their female lead, and having a well rounded supporting character who just happens to be gay.

It’s 2013. Many states have legalized same-sex marriage (and hopefully my home state of Illinois will soon follow suit). So why does it seem like every portrayal of a gay person or a gay relationship on TV right now seems to fit into one of two main stereotypes? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills every time a major movement in the field of equal rights happens, and no one seems to tell the television universe.

For scripted shows where the main characters are gay, it seems that the most popular “types” of gay men are the sassy, over-the-top, fashion-conscious stereotype, or the closeted/in denial or “straight-laced” type. Will & Grace is a dated show in many aspects, but it is a strong example of these characterizations. Jack is very flamboyant, embracing all of the assumptions made about gay men in Manhattan, and wearing them like an in-your-face badge of honor. He is a theater actor, one of the professions where out gay men are most accepted. Will is a lawyer, who does not deny or lie about his sexual orientation, but is determined to have a life and career outside of it.

Although it had its drawbacks in terms of stereotypes, Will & Grace was still a pretty monumental show when it comes to gay characters on television. When it first came on in 1998, there were virtually no other gay characters in popular sitcoms, and it famously featured the first gay kiss in scripted television sitcom history. Since it went off the air in 2006, there have been few shows focusing purely on characters that just happen to be gay, and not have that as their main personality trait.

Similar but more “meeting in the middle” versions of these characterizations are Mitchell and Cameron on Modern Family. Cameron is more openly emotional, but is not so extreme as Jack. He enjoys music and theater, having worked as a music teacher, but is also a former athlete and an extremely passionate football fan. Cameron is currently adopting the role of stay-at-home dad, which many people would be inclined to see as the more “feminine” role in a relationship. Mitchell also works as a lawyer, and dresses less colorfully and loudly than Cameron, but many of his mannerisms are more similar to Jack than viewers would probably expect.

It’s refreshing to see that Mitchell and Cameron are more well-rounded as characters than Jack and Will; yet it’s still frustrating to know that their personalities are based on existing stereotypes. Although, you can see the beginnings of progress if you look close enough.

Reality TV is a different beast. Even though I don’t believe for a second that reality shows are not scripted at all, I do believe that they rely more on people’s inherent personalities and less on professional writing and acting to create fictional characters. That being said, the gay characters appearing on reality shows often fall into almost identical characterizations as the fictional examples listed above.

There have been about 800 seasons of MTV’s The Real World at this point, and yet they all seem to feature either flamboyant gay men who inevitably clash with the token religious Southern conservative, or young, religious, Southern conservatives who are obviously battling closeted issues about their own sexual orientation.

Bravo is a very gay-friendly network, but I’m not sure that it does much to break away from portraying the same stereotypes less friendly networks employ. Top Chef: Just Desserts has had two seasons and each one seems like the casting call was cattier than the last. I’m not sure what exactly Bravo is playing at here, but I know that it continues to frustrate me with its fabulousness.

Lesbians, bisexuals, and Trans* people on television are an entirely different story, and deserve entirely different articles altogether. Even less progress has been made to help buck the stereotypes that these groups have attached to them, and it seems like television writers really have no interest to help this at all. Television is the main form of media that reaches millions of people days, and has the ability to really force social change to happen by bucking stereotypes that so many people seem to have regarding the LGBTQ community in this country.

Now, I get this in theory and from a logical standpoint. Television is universal, and the more people think they can relate to it, the more inclined they are to watch and follow shows regularly. I still think it’s pretty ridiculous, though, that TV representations can’t change as fast as the political climate (or maybe they just won’t or don’t). 

 

–A

Social Media and the Human Rights Campaign

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There has been much talk of proposition 8, and what it will do to American citizens.  This is a link to a webpage that will give both the views in favor of proposition 8, and for those not in favor of proposition 8 http://voterguide.sos.ca.gov/past/2008/general/argu-rebut/argu-rebutt8.htm.   Like with most changes, social media has been booming with discussions both in support of proposition 8, and not in support of proposition 8.  I would like to pay attention to Facebook as the platform in social media being discussed for this blog entry, as most individuals reading this will understand Facebook, as opposed to Twitter, and other various social media platforms.

I will not be using names of the people who I follow on Facebook, as this blog is in the public sphere, and individuals can read this blog with out the original poster’s permission.  As of March 28, 2013 out of my 440 friends, 15 of them have the red background with an equal sign that is pink as their profile picture.  The Human Rights Campaign suggested that people change their profile picture to this image.

The Human Rights Campaign’s logo is usually a yellow equal sign with a royal blue background.  For the duration of proposition 8, Facebook users, and some twitter users, though not nearly as many, have complied with the Human Rights Campaign request.  I wanted to find out more information about the movement, and the facts behind the sudden change of profile pictures.  I searched google and found this article which was written by Time: http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/03/26/what-is-the-red-equal-sign-all-over-facebook-and-twitter/.  In this article, the author informs us that the Supreme Court started hearings on March 26.  According to Mackenzie Yang, who is the author of the Time article I previously mentioned, in reference to the pink equality symbol “has racked up more than 25,000 likes and 78,000 shares on the group’s Facebook page in the past 24 hours”.

While I have seen much support, and numerous pink and red equality signs shared on Facebook, or made as a profile picture, there has been some issues of people not accepting the updated equality sign.  I have one person that I follow on Facebook that I saw post a profile picture that has a light blue cross with an ocean blue background.

The person who posted this image as his profile picture identifies with the Mormon religion.  I had people who I follow on Facebook comment on his photo saying things such as “If the constitution recognizes persons of the same gender in marriage will your church lose it’s rights?”. The original poster replied to this comment with “no, but it will literally change the meaning of the word. like i said, it’s not a social program, it’s a ordinance. on top of that, marriage is eternal, and we can be sealed together forever… through the priesthood, which can only be of real eternal effect if we use it the way God asks. the purpose of marriage is eternal unions, and creating families (the way God designed our bodies to fit together). so if you want a temporary, earthly union call it that. but i am in an eternal marriage covenant.” Another one of the people that I follow, and has her profile picture as the pink equal signs replied to the previous comment with “But what do your religious beliefs have to do with my legislation? No one is threatening the way your church identifies marriage within the realm of your congregation. I’m not a part of your church or your views, nor is a good segment of this nation. So why should we abide by your religious doctrine legally?” .  The person who posted the blue cross as his profile picture responded to this comment with “because your taking that religious practice out of my church and turning it into something else. outside of church, what is marriage for? outside of religion, why does ANYONE get married? outside of my sacred doctrine, “marriage” is just a social contract that you’ll hang out together until this life is over. it’s like taking communion/sacrament and saying that mcdonalds should be allowed to serve it on their menu with a toy. it is no longer an ordinance at that point. sure you can do whatever you want, and form social agreements based upon an eternal truth that works (because God designed it to), but that doesn’t make it that thing. it doesn’t make it communion. it’s not about the action, it’s about the ordinance. have all the rights you want, just don’t demean my covenant and ordinance with God.”  The individual who had the pink equal signs responded to this with “Outside of church, marriage is still the bond between two people who have despite all odds found their missing piece. My marriage is not “under god” or by my knowledge blessed by any religion. My marriage is however recognized by the state. Is my social contract to hang out with my husband only okay because he has a ding-a-ling and I have a who-ha-hole? I believe that my husband and I are bound to each other. If by chance our energy or our souls ever separate or get lost from one another we will find eachother again. And when we do it won’t matter what our anatomy is, the only thing that will matter is that we are together and our rights are respected. Just because the nation uses the same word as your church uses doesn’t mean your church will lose it’s right to marry a man and a woman”.

There is much more in response to the posting of the blue cross on blue background, and I don’t want to bore anyone further with the conversation.  The point to this example is that two of the people I follow on Facebook responded to the picture.  I also decided to take a look at how many negative responses I had on my newsfeed about proposition 8, and how many positive posts were on my newsfeed about proposition 8.  Currently I have 7 negative posts, 2 of which are from the same person, and 27 posts that are positive 3 of the people reposted at least 2 times.

I encourage you to take a look at your social media, and see what results you come up with.  I was intrigued by who posted what.  There are also some pretty creative replicas of the pink equal signs against the red background, the Human Rights Campaign’s webpage had some examples: http://www.hrc.org/blog/entry/slideshow-hrc-logo-memes.

-P

A warm welcome!

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As bloggers, I feel that it’s only necessary to provide our readers with a brief introduction and explanation as to why we started this blog…While, yes, this blog is a project for a class, we wish to shed light on two main issues within our society today, gender roles and stereotypes. Some subtopics will include: Hetero vs. Homo (LGBTQIAA), validity behind said stereotypes, the gender binary, and how these stereotypes have changed. While providing valid information and research, we hope to inform our readers of these important issues! We hope you enjoy what you find!

-B