Wednesday, August 24, 2005
The Homophobic Homo
Below is a column I penned for the Los Angeles Times a few years back. It's still releveant, I think. As a preface, I was recently accused of pretending to be gay just so I could make fun of gay people (stemming, perhaps, from a favorite character of mine, Ronnie Sproles, aka Gay Redneck. Sample quote: "Nice pumps, bitch!"). When they try to take away our self-deprecating humor, that, my friends, is facism:
I'm Gay, Therefore I Must Love Show Tunes and Barbra (Yeah, Right)
It comes as no surprise that the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) gave awards to Showtime's "Queer as Folk" and NBC's "Will & Grace" for their "positive portrayals of gay and lesbian issues" (Morning Report, May 1). But for this gay malcontent, it's a tad disturbing, something akin to if the NAACP had handed out an Image Award back in the 1950s to "Amos 'n' Andy" for its contributions to African Americans.
I'm assuming the producers of "Queer as Folk" and "Will & Grace" would argue that their shows are not meant to reflect all of gay society. Fair enough. But, as "Amos 'n' Andy" was in its day, theirs are the only shows in town. And whereas African Americans justifiably expressed outrage toward the clownish, shuffling duo, the gay community has embraced its own stereotypes. Instead of fried chicken and watermelon, we have Barbra Streisand and Bette Midler. After all, what gay man doesn't worship the two "divas"?
Maybe I'm missing something, but what exactly is so positive about these characters? Examine the "Queer as Folk" roster, stocked with, among others, a conceited materialist who beds an underage boy; a whiny, needy closet case; and your classic, stereotypical queen fond of quoting, you guessed it, Mrs. James Brolin. That last description could also be used for Jack on "Will & Grace." Correct that. He's fond of quoting Cher. Now that's diversity! Frankly, I think I'd have more in common with Tony Soprano.
In truth, the gay community has only itself to blame. Could it be we're suffering the consequences of elevating one too many lightweights to hero status, just because they're gay and famous? And where's the indignation over repeatedly trite media characterizations of homosexuals, as if it's a given that we're all theatrical and melodramatic, with a show tune in our hearts? Now there are some films that do not rely on the trite--movies such as "Beautiful Thing," "My Own Private Idaho" and "The Edge of Seventeen," which dare portray homosexuals as, gasp, three-dimensional characters. But for every aforementioned independent find, there seems to be 20 "In & Outs."
Perhaps my beef lies more with the fact that movies such as the latter actually do reflect our lives, featuring far too many shallow characters and predictable plot lines. The gay movement hasn't matured; it's grown stale. Pride marches have turned into shopworn cavalcades of been-there, done-that decadence.
While society as a whole has embraced the flock mentality, it seems even more concentrated among homosexuals. When's the last time you went into a gay club in West Stepford (er, Hollywood) and did not hear the familiar pulsing of techno/groove/ambient (whatever it's now called) sounds? And how many gay men bought Mazda Miatas when they first came out? As if the cars hit the road affixed with rainbow stickers on the bumper. Sadly, far too many of us seem content fulfilling the roles society and the media (including the gay media) expect: gossipy "girlfriends" who love to party and shop. We may be born homosexual, but we're not all born addicted to the E! network.
Before I'm branded as some kind of gay version of Ward Connerly, let me set the record straight. I'm glad to see more gays represented in movies and TV, both in front of and behind the camera. But is it quantity we're concerned with, or quality? Here's wishing the millennium brings us a few more Tennessee Williamses and a few less Kevin Williamsons. I hope a new wave is in the offing--one that recognizes an anachronism when it sees it. Remember, we're here, we're queer--and we're not all caricatures.
Christian Boone attended USC's graduate screenwriting program, and his writings have appeared in The Times, US Weekly and the Advocate. He lived in Hollywood.