Saturday, November 13, 2010

Not really that scary at all

So i was thinking about writing a little bit about this, but didn't think I could really post it on here because it doesn't have to do with fear or knitting.
But it does. It is a thing that many people in our society fear these days.

I'm talking about homophobia.
More specifically, the portrayal of gays in the media.

I was thinking about this watching modern family, and i thought about it watching project runway this season too, and a little bit with the one episode of Glee that i put myself through. Not scary movies, but they've been dealing with scary issues--anti-gay sentiment, HIV, etc.

Let's start with Modern Family, because i was just watching it. If you haven't seen this show, it's about three family units who are all related, one of which is a gay couple.  If you haven't seen this show, watch it now.

First off, i love the gay couple in this show. They are hilarious and lovable. But while i was watching it today, i realized: they are very very stereotypical.
And is that what the LGBT community wants? Sure, it's easy for the average american person to enjoy watching these guys, but for some people--who live in tiny towns in southern new england, like myself, where there's only one openly gay person who hasn't moved to New York or London--this might be the only exposure to gay people that viewers get, or, potentially, allow themselves to get.

And hey, I'm certainly not one to say that all gay people aren't like that, since i only know, like i said, like four people who have come out of the closet. (note, i'm almost positive all gay people aren't stereotypical. I mean no offense by this.) And even if they were, that's fine with me--like i said, these stereotypical characters are so lovable.
But some people love them not for their character and their senses of humor, but simply because they fulfill the stereotype. Take for instance, the made up character I'm about to discuss (cough, my father, cough) Mr...Jones.

So Mr. Jones doesn't know a lot of gay people (or doesn't think he does,) and also listens to a lot of conservative talk radio. As a result, he thinks that he doesn't like gay people, because, "he doesn't like watching men kiss." (no word yet on how he feels about women kissing, but when his teenage daughter brings home her black/hispanic/muslim girlfriend from college, we'll find out.)
Whenever Mr. Jones imitates gay men, he adopts a terrible rendition of a stereotypical flamboyant voice, leading people to believe that he thinks all gay men talk that way. In Mr. Jones' mind, he doesn't like people who talk that way (they are foreign, he doesn't understand them: they scare him,) so he doesn't like men who are attracted to other men.

One day, Mr. Jones says something in that voice in the context of telling a joke about two men who live together. The following conversation goes like this:

Mr. Jones's one liberal relative: not all men that live together talk like that!
Mr. Jones's mother in law, who hasn't left the house in six weeks: Yes they do! That's how they talk on TV!
Mr. Jones's daughter: *apalled*

That conversation happened. There is at least one person in the world who thinks that all gay people are exactly as they are portrayed in the media. And when there is one adorable and sweet, but sheltered and close minded old woman, there are a thousand. Maybe.

Project Runway, unfortunately, portrays gays--and fashion designers-- often in much the same way, but this is a reality show. My father, i mean, Mr. Jones, refers to all the male contestants and Tim Gunn and Micheal Kors as "that wicked gay guy."
As it is a reality show, it deals with some more realistic and scary issues than Modern Family does. (Not to criticize Modern Family, i know that it's purpose isn't to address realistic issues in hard-hitting ways, it's a satire.) I thought it was incredible that this season they got into the personal aspects of Mondo dealing with his  very religious family, his sexuality, and his HIV. That was intense. Tim Gunn discusses his sexuality more this season than any I can think of, and i think the show really represented the climate of the LGBT civil rights movement that (thank GOD) is so prevalent right now.
Yet still, people can be insensitive. I very nearly was sobbing when Micheal Costello got kicked off, yet during one of the floating head interview things, maybe in the preceding episode, my parents laughed at how affeminite he had to be to be getting so emotional over the show. Terrible. Terrible stuff.

And of course, i probably shouldn't get into the ending (i haven't even watched the finale.) Here's one way to not get ratings: Having the bitchy single woman beat the gay guy with the catholic family and HIV during the height of a LGBT civil rights movement. Way to go Lifetime.
So still, the theme is conflicting messages. We want to accept gays, they have a hard time, they are people too--but look at those weird clothes they wear! I'm a conservative New Englander, I can't interact with people who are that creative and brilliant!

Last, and actually probably most importantly, Glee. I'm not much of a Gleek, but I watched this episode, one, because i've seen "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!" so many times, and two, because i adore Rocky Horror.
Now, i love some of what Glee is doing. Having an openly gay character (no matter how stereotypical,) is a good thing, and addressing this issues is important. Most importantly, they've been massively helpful in the advent of the It Gets Better project in light of the recent suicides, and i love the It Gets Better Project. More on that later.
Since Glee is coming off as such a trailblazer in the world of portrayal of diversity in the media, I'd expect a pretty uncensored Rocky Horror portrayal. There is some pretty racy stuff in that movie. Like "Creature of the Night." Which they recreated. Shot by shot.
However, they edited out some key "inappropriate" words. Heavy petting became heavy sweating. (What?) Bed wetting became bed fretting (wait, do these sound worse to you?) Most importantly, though, was the way the edited "Sweet Transvestite." Give it a listen:

If you didn't see the episode and don't feel like clickin' about, the gist is that Mercedes is a sweet transvestite (wearing girls clothing, replacing every time she says "man" with "girl," so...cute?, from sensational Transylvania. Not transsexual Transylvania, which is how the song really goes, but sensational.
This edit doesn't make sense on so many levels. Not the least of which, transsexual isn't a bad word. It's just...a thing. That some people are. It's not a derogatory term or even something that the legality of is up for debate. It's just...a word. Not to mention, Transylvania is not a person. So we're not even talking about a person who's transgender, we're talking about a country or, more accurately, a made up planet that's being described as transsexual for no apparent reason other than to be whimsical. It's basically the equivalent of saying....The amputee planet Geneva. It has no relevance to anything. Are amputees offended by it? no. Are people who hate amputees offended by it? Not with any good reason they are.
The only effect of this edit is to offend people, as far as i can see. I haven't talked to any trans-gender people about it, because i don't know any, but it at least upset me quite a bit. As far as I'm concerned, fox can do whatever it wants, but if you're going to be a show that makes it self out to be in full support of teens trying to discover their sexuality, for god's sake, don't do something like this.
"We support you, who ever you are. If you're confused about your sexuality, come out of the closet. If you're confused about your gender, you can maybe become one of those..things. That we aren't allowed to say because it's too racy. But we support you!"

I feel like after all that jibber jabber my thoughts aren't portrayed entirely accurately. I am in full support of any and all homosexuals. I have crazy amounts of respect for them, and I'm honored to be part of the generation that seems to finally be making some headway on this anti gay nonsense. And I'm certainly not opposed to gay people who are open about their sexuality, and i wish we lived in a world where everyone could express themselves without automatically being stereotyped as sacreligious or whatever.
Thus, i'm in full support of portrayal of "stereotypical" gays in the media, especially if that is realistic (i certainly am not one to say whether or not it is.) I hope that this portrayal leads to an acceptance of these personalities, but i have my doubts and i think it deserves some thought.

In writing this, i was trying to think of a place where a gay man wasn't portrayed as affeminite or flamboyant: i could only think of one, but it's a darn good one.

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