Friday, March 30, 2012

better gay than grumpy...

The presence of the LGBT community in media has changed drastically, especially in the
realm of television. Raymond discusses this transition from a TV culture that merely hinted
at homosexuality to one that is beginning to embrace it on a number of levels. Not only are
gay characters more widely portrayed in modern television shows, there are also more
gay writers and an increase in the number of heterosexual actors who are willing to play
gay characters. Raymond looks specifically at the intersection of the LGBT community and
comedy television, but I think that her argument is applicable to other areas of television as
well. I am especially struck by the evolution of gay characters in television shows that are
targeted at teens/young adults. Raymond argues “what is constructed [in the media] can
come to seem natural and inevitable” which is why I see the plot lines of LGBT teens to be
particularly powerful as they hold great potential.

Glee is well known for its incorporation of a strong LGBT presence. The current season of
the show features a gay couple and a lesbian couple as well as another character that is
coming to terms with his sexuality. Each of these story lines is unique and does a good job
of helping to show that “gays and lesbians are not a homogenous group with a singular,
uncomplicated sense of identity.” Glee shows its characters questioning their sexuality,
discovering the difficulties they face as gay high schools students, and the troubles
associated with exploring a new realm of physical sexuality. But the show also does a
great job of showing its gay characters finding empowerment in their sexuality (“Born
This Way” S2:E18), positive interactions with parents, and how the high school community
can be accepting with time. Glee is a great example of show that manages to appeal to the
mainstream while also incorporating a strong LGBT presence in its plot and characters.
Yet Glee is not unique, there are a number of teen sitcoms that also do an excellent job of
working towards a new portrayal of LGBT youth: Skins (UK and North American versions),
90210, Degrassi: The Next Generation, Pretty Little Liars, The O.C.,  and a number of others. Just as
Raymond argues that the queering of comedy is helping to change the role of the LGBT
community in society, I argue that the queering of teen sitcoms has the potential to make
even more powerful changes in the mindsets of youth.

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