A topical issue in entertainment these days seems to be LGBTQ representation, or better put ‘Alphabet’ representation (given the constant expansion of the acronym). While looking at the cultural and entertainment landscape, I’ve personally concluded that media representation of homosexual men has no further room for improvement. Although representation in media is not accurate to reality as it is based on the values of the creators themselves as well as the values of the larger society and culture, this is not the issue when it includes gay men. As the stereotypes are altogether accurate depictions, not misrepresentations of the gay community. Thus, it necessary to discuss gay culture as it produces the supposed stereotypical images of homosexual men seen in media; the same ones that members within the community embrace readily.
Gay Culture, A Color of The Rainbow
Culture is a term that encompasses the social behavior and norms of human societies, including; its knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, customs, capabilities and habits of its members. Therefore, the Alphabet community has a culture, however, it is multicultural due to its number of select groups. This means that its gay members must have a culture, a gay culture to be specific.
The term ‘gay culture’ possesses a traditional usage that is strictly reserved for homosexual men, while its more modern use includes all members of the Alphabet community. Thankfully, its traditional use is more appropriate, though due to the ever-changing nature of gay culture it is best to highlight chief characteristics as a way of bringing about an understanding of the subject. The characteristics commonly associated with gay culture are; the pride flag, drag queens, promiscuity, effeminacy, and so on. Many can claim these are false conceptions, however, these same individuals have most likely either seen first had, heard anecdotally, or participated in the above.
Accuracy and Affirmation
With gay representation in media, some works of fiction showcase homosexual men as stereotypes, and yet these remain fairly accurate depictions, while others represent them as normal individuals with their sexual persuasion being the unique difference. Unfortunately, the former is the more often encountered representation regardless of whether gay male characters occupy major or lesser roles. Furthermore, many media productions are guilty of this; whether it Glee and Queer Eye or Philadelphia and Moonlight. Each of these affirms so-called stereotypes of homosexual men, though it is either a single stereotype of multiple ones.
In Glee, major characters Kurt Hummel and Blaine Anderson are gay (as many other characters on the show are), however, they come across as stereotypical. This is due to both the characters possessing so-called visual and audible cues for homosexuality, such as; flamboyant appearance, a ‘gay voice,’ effeminate mannerisms, and more. Further emphasis is given to these aspects of Kurt and Blaine in comparison to Sebastian Smythe and David Karofsky, who are also gay, yet appear to be far more masculine than Kurt & Blaine, demonstrating little to no stereotypes as part of the makeup of their character.
The effeminacy in Glee is also apparent in Moonlight with its protagonist. Moonlight‘s lead displays all telltale signs of his homosexuality throughout his youth and adolescence, although there is an abrupt departure toward the end of the film. And while the film takes Chiron from a gay character that comes across as a homosexual through visual cues and subverts this later in his adulthood, it doesn’t dismiss the fact that for most of Moonlight he was presented to the audience as effeminate.
Queer Eye, unlike the mentioned series and films, is a reality program whereby a team of gay men from various fields, such as; fashion, personal grooming, interior design, entertaining, and culture. Furthermore, they perform makeovers usually for straight men. The show helps to affirm the stereotype that homosexuals have a natural affinity for the aforementioned, unlike their heterosexual counterparts. This is in no way problematic as almost all gay men display an interest – or an obsession – in fashion and such.
Philadelphia’s main protagonist, Andrew Beckett is a lawyer that finds himself unfairly dismissed and believes that his sexuality and Aids were the main motivators for the dismissal. The significance of Andrew is how he contracted the illness, he engaged in anonymous sex with another man at a pornographic movie theater. His impromptu rendezvous is suggestive of the promiscuity that dominates the gay community since cruising is commonplace and there are even apps built for homosexual and bisexual men to cater to their sexual appetites.
End of The Road
The claim that gay representation has no room for improvement may come across to many readers as ludicrous. However, many media works that feature homosexual males whether in major or minor roles represent them with accurate depictions. Yes, one can argue that there are productions that counter what has been said here; though this a minority issue, meaning it is an exception and exceptions do not break the rules. Therefore, gay representation cannot improve since it provides a telling depiction of gay men. Though as somewhat of a silver lining is how it still has the potential to broaden its scope and have characters that are both masculine and gay.
It should also be noted that a recent Gallup poll found that only 3.4 percent of the U.S. population identifies as homosexual, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, while the number of films featuring homosexual characters seems to be inordinately large in comparison. GLAAD, a gay advocate group, analyzed the film releases of seven major film studios and their affiliates and found that out of 161 movies released in 2014, 25 featured characters with non-traditional sexual preferences such as homosexuality or bisexuality – a total of 15.5 percent. The major film studios were more likely to feature gay characters – nearly 18 percent of their films did so, compared to just 11 percent of those released by their smaller, “indie”-style affiliates.
Considering these numbers, it would appear that there is substantial representation of the Alphabet culture in modern entertainment. Maybe we can put that concern to rest.