Author Topic: "How TV Brought Gay People Into Our Homes"  (Read 2064 times)

Offline TOoP/Bruce

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"How TV Brought Gay People Into Our Homes"
« on: July 20, 2012, 06:33:15 am »
http://www.npr.org/2012/05/12/152578740/how-tv-brought-gay-people-into-our-homes


How TV Brought Gay People Into Our Homes
by NPR STAFF

May 12, 2012
In one of the most talked-about moments from the hit TV show Glee, Blaine declared his love for Kurt and then they kissed.

Glee is just one of many popular shows on television right now that feature gay characters. Those characters aren't just entertaining us, they're changing Americans' attitudes toward homosexuality.

In five separate studies, professor Edward Schiappa and his colleagues at the University of Minnesota have found that the presence of gay characters on television programs decreases prejudices among viewers.

"These attitude changes are not huge," he says. "They don't change bigots into saints. But they can snowball."

Schiappa tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz that indeed, as Vice President Joe Biden said last Sunday, the hit TV show Will and Grace really did help America get to know gay people.

"With the emergence of the extraordinary Will and Grace show, more and more Americans, sort of from the safety of their armchair, could learn a bit about gay people who they might not otherwise have learned from in real life," Schiappa says.

That was a turning point, he says, even though there were gay characters on TV before Will and Grace premiered in 1998.

"I think that was a turning point simply because of two factors: One is it was enormously popular, so the popularity of that show and the fact that there were two major gay male characters who were very different, allowed the show to do what I call important 'category work' " Schiappa says.

"What I mean by that is there were some critics who said, 'Well, Will isn't gay enough, and Jack's too gay.' Well, actually that's great, because you learn that there's diversity within that category that you had in your head before of gay men," he says.

Viewers met straight-laced Will, an attorney, and his friend, the flamboyant Jack characters who were likable and could even be identified with in some way, no matter if viewers weren't gay or didn't know gay people. Schiappa says his research found two key ingredients can lead to attitude change.

"Are they likeable? Or are they trustworthy? Are they attractive there's research that says if they're attractive it can influence your attitudes," he says.

"The other part of the mix is are you learning things through their behaviors and observing them that you didn't know about that category beforehand?" he says. "If so, then the more complicated your category of whatever it is lesbians, gay men the less likely you are to reduce them down to a stereotype."

Modern Family is now the most popular TV show in the U.S. There's not only a gay couple, but this couple is in the process of adopting a second child. Schiappa says the idea of a gay couple with children is much more mainstream now.

It must be: Modern Family has won awards from Catholic organizations and even Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has said he likes the show.

"There's no question that that the show is doing what I just described before as category work," Schiappa says. "It's changing our understanding of what gay men are like, particularly as parents."

More and more gay married couples are showing up on TV these days like Grey's Anatomy, for example making something of a trend. NBC plans to roll out more programs with gay married couples next season. Whether these shows continue to build a positive image of gay people depends on how they'll be portrayed, Schiappa says.

"If they continue to be sympathetic, [it] will only contribute to that larger sea change that we see across society, really in terms of the attitudes toward gay marriage," he says.
Former IMDb Name: True Oracle of Phoenix / TOoP (I pronounce it "too - op") / " in fire forged,  from ash reborn" / Currently: GeorgeObliqueStrokeXR40

Offline milomorris

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Re: "How TV Brought Gay People Into Our Homes"
« Reply #1 on: July 20, 2012, 08:39:16 am »
As a black man, I say: be careful what you wish for. We went through this process in America, and not all the results were positive.
  The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

--Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Offline Monika

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Re: "How TV Brought Gay People Into Our Homes"
« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2012, 09:07:54 am »
I think the first kiss between females was between Tara and Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Offline Jeff Wrangler

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Re: "How TV Brought Gay People Into Our Homes"
« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2012, 09:15:26 am »
I think the first kiss between females was between Tara and Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Of course, straight males are more comfortable with that than they are with two guys kissing. Straight males think girl-on-girl action is hot.
"It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide."--Charles Dickens.

Offline Monika

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Re: "How TV Brought Gay People Into Our Homes"
« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2012, 09:41:09 am »
Of course, straight males are more comfortable with that than they are with two guys kissing. Straight males think girl-on-girl action is hot.
well, half of the population is female

Offline TOoP/Bruce

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Re: "How TV Brought Gay People Into Our Homes"
« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2012, 09:48:09 am »
The interesting development here is the interweaving of gay characters into storylines where being gay isn't their sole defining purpose in the story.  By embedding diverse gay character types in shows like Ugly Betty, Desperate Housewives, Brothers and Sisters, Glee, True Blood, Grey's Anatomy, Modern Family, Law and Order, etc., being gay becomes an ordinary and visible lifestyle, and being gay has a place in the fabric of the perceived social fabric for viewers.
Former IMDb Name: True Oracle of Phoenix / TOoP (I pronounce it "too - op") / " in fire forged,  from ash reborn" / Currently: GeorgeObliqueStrokeXR40

Offline milomorris

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Re: "How TV Brought Gay People Into Our Homes"
« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2012, 10:01:47 am »
The interesting development here is the interweaving of gay characters into storylines where being gay isn't their sole defining purpose in the story.  By embedding diverse gay character types in shows like Ugly Betty, Desperate Housewives, Brothers and Sisters, Glee, True Blood, Grey's Anatomy, Modern Family, Law and Order, etc., being gay becomes an ordinary and visible lifestyle, and being gay has a place in the fabric of the perceived social fabric for viewers.

While I would say that this is a change in recent years, from what immediately preceded it, if look back even further, we did have characters that were integrated into the story lines. Two shows that come to mind were Soap, and Dynasty.
  The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

--Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Offline TOoP/Bruce

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Re: "How TV Brought Gay People Into Our Homes"
« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2012, 10:38:44 am »
While I would say that this is a change in recent years, from what immediately preceded it, if look back even further, we did have characters that were integrated into the story lines. Two shows that come to mind were Soap, and Dynasty.


You are absolutely correct in citing Soap and Dynasty as early examples.  Soap had a cross/dressing gay character, and Dynasty had a son who was sometimes gay, sometimes not, sometimes a different actor entirely.  In their day, they were groundbreaking examples, but with the HIV crisis, gay characters became much rarer.  Often linked to HIV storylines, being gay was often linked to being infected or infectious.  

Beyond BbM, the embedding of gay characters in TV storylines has a much more ordinary feel to it.  Often, the characters are just gay, and the story isn't about coming out, or hiding being gay, or about dying of AIDS.  They are about living life visibly and openly, and the straight characters around them accept them as they are.  Being gay in this new age is not a big deal on many of these shows.  It just is what it is...

Modern Family has an example of gay parents, and they are no better nor no worse than any of the straight couples on the show.  That is a slow and subtle drip drip drip of progress.  Celebrities now announce being gay in a very off-hand sort of way, without making it a big reveal on the front of People Magazine (Zach Quinto, NPH, Anderson Cooper, Matt Bomer...)
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Offline milomorris

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Re: "How TV Brought Gay People Into Our Homes"
« Reply #8 on: July 20, 2012, 11:04:31 am »
You are absolutely correct in citing Soap and Dynasty as early examples.  Soap had a cross/dressing gay character, and Dynasty had a son who was sometimes gay, sometimes not, sometimes a different actor entirely.  In their day, they were groundbreaking examples, but with the HIV crisis, gay characters became much rarer.  Often linked to HIV storylines, being gay was often linked to being infected or infectious.  

Beyond BbM, the embedding of gay characters in TV storylines has a much more ordinary feel to it.  Often, the characters are just gay, and the story isn't about coming out, or hiding being gay, or about dying of AIDS.  They are about living life visibly and openly, and the straight characters around them accept them as they are.  Being gay in this new age is not a big deal on many of these shows.  It just is what it is...

Modern Family has an example of gay parents, and they are no better nor no worse than any of the straight couples on the show.  That is a slow and subtle drip drip drip of progress.  Celebrities now announce being gay in a very off-hand sort of way, without making it a big reveal on the front of People Magazine (Zach Quinto, NPH, Anderson Cooper, Matt Bomer...)

Agreed. What I still see though is that some of the current crop of characters are still being written in stereotypical ways, and--while accepted by the other characters around them--still have an air of "otherness" about them. Reminds me of the way some black characters were written about 20-30 years ago. They often had an "edge" that was missing from the white characters, or a "knowledge" that was beyond the white characters around them. Its like being a dish on the table among the other dishes, but not being part of the tablecloth. Nowadays, it seems like blacks have become part of the tablecloth. And I'm sure that as the "drip" continues, so will sexual minorities.
  The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

--Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.