Thursday, May 18, 2006

So long, Amos and Andy

Let us pause to say goodbye, and good riddance, to "Will and Grace," which ends its interminable run tonight. Since I love repeating myself, I'm reposting a segment from a column I wrote a few years back for the Los Angeles Times:

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.

Granted, I'd probably a bit more forgiving of "Will and Grace" if I thought it was funny, but I loathe sitcoms where all the characters hug in the end (see: "Friends"). Judging by the promos I've seen for the W&G finale, there will be plenty of hugs, and tears, tonight. Some comedy.

Here's the queer party line: "Without a doubt, 'Will & Grace' was groundbreaking," said Neil G. Giuliano, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

It proved that openly gay characters could be "embraced by the American public," he said, and put Will and Grace in the ranks of such classic and beloved TV characters as Lucy and Ricky of "I Love Lucy."

No, it proved that a certain kind of openly gay character could be embraced, like the dress shop owner in the small town where I grew up. He also planned all the weddings in town. He was/is, very gay, and accepted, beause he fit the mold of what gay people should be. Not a threat ... kind of like Sean Hayes.

I'll admit the "Amos 'n' Andy" analogy is a bit strained, but it makes my point, so I use it. "Will and Grace" was accepted because it was safe. Straight people like their homos flaming, and the gay community has been all too happy to acquiesce.

I reflect back on my youth, knowing I was gay but not wanting to be like the gay people I knew. Seeing movies like "Torch Song Trilogy" only depressed me further. Would I have to turn into someone I wasn't in order to gain acceptance? The thought of having to learn the words to show tunes depressed the hell out of me.

Quoting my column, again (yes, I am an insufferable egomaniac):

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.

Nor to "Will and Grace." Let's hope for a real groundbreaking show to follow, one that can handle a portrayal of a three-dimensional, real live queer.

Then again, the right side of my brain says, "who gives a fuck." I should listen more to the right side of my brain.


  1. Homer: You know me, Marge. I like my beer cold, my TV loud and my
    homosexuals fa-laming.
    -- "Homer's Phobia"

    You know, I have to admit that the first season of W&G had some smart humor and very genuinely funny moments...but, you know, TV sitcoms have to aim for the Lowest Common Denominator...the non-threatening Cosby family, for example. This is a show that jumped the shark almost immediately and became just too silly and sentimental to stomach. I won't miss it.

  2. You just quoted my fave Simpsons episode, Norma:

    They've taken all our best names. Like Bruce and Lance and Julian ...

    Homer: Only two kind of guys wear Hawaiian shirts: Big fat party animals and gay guys?

    Marge: You wear Hawaiian shirts.

    Homer: Exactly!

  3. It's one of my favorites, too. Especially when Bart wears the wig! : )

  4. John: This TV Guide was owned by Jackie O. Look at the crossword puzzle -- she thought that "Mindy" was married to "Mark"!

    Homer: Give her a break! Her husband was killed!