Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Gossip Girl (and the Gays)

With numerous reruns crowding the television channels that I watch, I finally segued into an old, favorite station that I've abandoned in recent years--the CW, which was once the glorious WB. Thanks for a wonderful recommendation from a dear friends (shout out to Fink), I found myself watching a rerun of Gossip Girl on Monday night. Catching the season in mid-stride--I was actually watching the Christmas episode--I had no idea what came before or after this rather interesting episode. Of course, the first one I happened to have seen was missing the two of the three reasons I was watching the show. Michael Ausiello, TV Guide's amazing gossip boy and columnist, recently revealed via the Paley Festival that one of the three main male characters was going to be thrown out of the closet when the show's new episodes air in a few weeks. In a desire to see more gays on television, I thought I would scope of the terrain created by the show and check out these possible gays. Two of the main male characters did not happen to be on the show that night, which then led to me to finding full episodes online. Tuesday night arrives, and I ended up watching the only four full episodes that on the CW website.

Well, it looks like they might be some interesting prospects and possibilities as to who will be outed in the near future. Immediately stepping back from the Gossip Girl show, I became obsessed with trying to find out about ever-diminishing population of gay characters on television. So, here is a quick run through of what I watch and what I know: Queer as Folk, The L Word, Will and Grace, Ellen, Brothers and Sisters (one main, two minor characters), As the World Turns (two minor characters, not the whole show) ... [I can't go on any further than this because of something that I think is really interesting.]

Surely there must be more gays on television, you ask? We've all been in theatre, dance, and music departments on campus. To say homosexuality was in vogue would be an understatement. Is it that the gays are more attracted to the stage (i.e., the rather notorious thanked partner at the Tony's rather than lover/spouse at the Oscars) than they are on celluloid? Well, as a matter of fact, there are a number of homosexuals acting in Hollywood, except that a large majority of them on television seem to be playing heterosexuals. [Here, I would say my flair for hyperbole should be evoked since I only actually know of two prominent examples.] Why is it that some of the more prominent members of the gay Hollywood elite aren't playing homosexual characters? Why are people hiding behind the sex-crazed Barney (Neil Patrick Harris on How I Met Your Mother) and the adorable nerd George (T. R. Knight on Grey's Anatomy)? And why is that heterosexuals are playing some of the great homosexuals out there--Brian Kinney (Gale Harold), Will Truman (Eric McCormack), Jack MacFarland (Sean Hayes)?

The reason why I find the need to expound upon this is because of some of my recent viewings, in particular Jennie Livingston's documentary, Paris Is Burning. Watching the film suggested to me that there is a facet of culture (transvestites) that truly epitomize the idea that gender is a construction. In their desires and dreams to be more "heterosexual," the drag kings and queens of the documentary demonstrate that everything under the sun--from sexuality to class to intellect to gender to identity--is about performance. Of course, Judith Butler states all of this rather high-handedly in her works/essays that I've read, and while I've understood the concept for some five years now, it is only recently that I beginning to understand the impact it might have on me and the culture that I inhabit.

Therefore, does it matter that gays or playing straight and straights are playing gay? Yes, it does. Even though it is all about performance and everything we do is about creating and performing who we think we are, I think by passing as heterosexual is somehow inherently false, and I apologize for perhaps not articulating this a bit more clearly. And the very fact that prominent and recognized shows with a major homosexual theme are being canceled disturbs me. Was the cultural swing into accepting homosexuality, particularly of the male variety, via the hot metrosexual male about to shift in the other direction? Unfortunately, I feel that it already has. Look at the number of canceled and failed shows that highlight homosexuality--Queer as Folk, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy/Girl, Boy Meets Boy (which only lasted one season), The L Word (with only one season to go), Will and Grace, and the abysmal, Lifetime failure Gay, Straight, or Taken. It's almost as if those shows that highlighted or fore-fronted homosexuality is gone or about to leave the television screen. Are the gays doomed to reruns (at least of syndicated television)?

I don't have to answers, but I would at least like to return to the first subject--Gossip Girl. Show likes this seem to be doing fine. Heterosexual love and intrigue have always worked well in the entertainment industry, and I think this show does a fine job hooking an audience. It's refreshing to see a show where the primary couple doesn't break up every week to sustain a season worth of episodes. I certainly recommend the show to those still nostalgic about high school, those slightly romantic, and those who think that being an adult makes things easier (because it doesn't). However, I wonder if this show is emblematic of the show for the new 21st century, where the romance and relationships of the adolescents parallel the adults and gays are relegated to a minority?

Enough ranting, peace out.

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