Gay news websites are a special kind of crazy most of the time. One that I still follow on facebook is Autostraddle and every now and again I click on a link to one of their new stories and usually I read it with some sort of morbid fascination for how stupid their topics are. Much like the article I read today.
Anyway, you can boil the article down to one essential complaint.
“Everyone who is gay on screen should be super perfect and have no flaws, because if they have flaws you must be secretly trying to make gay people in general look…shady.”
Let’s look at the character of Thomas on Downton Abbey. The character is dark and complicated. He isn’t supposed to be a source of amusement for the viewers, as some representations of gay men on television often are. He is a fully realized human being with flaws who happens to be gay. At least it would seem that way, until you realize that he also fits the classic stereotype of homosexuals as untrustworthy. Even his closest friends and conspirators can’t rely on him to keep his word. His nefarious actions are not portrayed as separate from his sexuality.
This conforms to suspicions straight people have always had of homosexuals, whether they are out of the closet or not. There is disbelief that someone could enjoy or prefer a sexual activity other than the widely accepted norm. That reluctance to understand breeds mistrust. That mistrust manifests itself in characters like these, whose homosexuality and deceptive nature are inextricably linked.
Now in my defense I haven’t watched much of any 3 of the these shows (but I did read The Great Gatsby which is talked about for 1/3 of the article) but from what I know, the gay characters (whether obviously gay or implied) are not the only “shady” characters. In fact, all of these shows have several people who are doing shady things to get their way and manipulate people, especially Revenge and The Great Gatsby. It’s the genre of the story, not the sexuality of a character, that lends to shadiness and dishonesty.
Look, everyone has flaws and until the gay community acknowledges that and realizes that well balanced characters (gay or straight) need to have flaws and that gay characters should not be exempt because of some affirmative action reasoning, you’ll never get gay characters that are anything more than a series of stereotypes and shallow, one-dimensional characters.
I’m not a stereotype (obviously) and I’m not one-dimensional. I have flaws and I don’t want to watch gay characters who have no flaws, I want to watch well written characters who happen to be gay…or straight…or transgender or anything else.
I’m a real person, I’m gay, and I have flaws. (I know you all think I’m perfect, but I’m not). I’m occasionally petty, stubborn to an unbelievable degree, judgmental of stupid people, and rather obsessive compulsive.
And so are other gay people. Why would we want to give writer’s permission (in fact, encouragement) to write gay characters that have no depth and no flaws? That’s not what we are, we are human beings and it’s time we were written as such.
Every flaw given to a gay character is not necessarily a jab at gay people in general and if that’s the way you are going to take it, maybe you need to turn off the TV and stick to the gay/lesbian movie section on Netflix, shallow, one-dimensional characters are what those movies are good at.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Bret Easton Ellis of OUT magazine.
The reign of The Gay Man as Magical Elf, who whenever he comes out appears before us as some kind of saintly E.T. whose sole purpose is to be put in the position of reminding us only about Tolerance and Our Own Prejudices and To Feel Good About Ourselves and to be a symbol instead of just being a gay dude, is—lamentably—still in media play.
. . . .
Where’s the gay dude who makes crude jokes about other gays in the media (as straight dudes do of each other constantly) or express their hopelessness in seeing Modern Family being rewarded for its depiction of gays, a show where a heterosexual plays the most simpering ka-ween on TV and Wins. Emmys. For. It? . . . . But being “real” and “human” (i.e. flawed) is not necessarily what The Gay Gatekeepers want straight culture to see.