Re: shock value vs. reality
Funny, it doesn't seem to me that there really is all "that" much gay programming, now or ever. When you consider that, still, probably 90% of everything we see is hetero --- it could be an ad for a sofabed company or a cigarrette ad or an ad for a cruise ship --- it could be a news story about the homeless during the holidays or about the Iowa caucus or about a local school district teacher's strike --- almost always the point of view being presented is the "straight" point of view. They show two straight parents' reactions to the strike, the cigarrette/sofabed/cruise ship ad shows a straight couple, they interview straight people about issue A or B. Meanwhile, there are gay people involved in living each part of these lives, too. How come sofabed ads don't show gay couples? How come nobody shows two lesbian moms on tv and asks them what they think about the teacher strike? How come the action hero never rides off into the sunset with his loyal male sidekick, instead of with some woman he's had to save about fifty times in two hours? How come a gay kiss on tv is a media event when hetero almost-soft-core-porn is shown regularly without so much as the batting of an eyelash?
The thing is, we all go through our lives, and most of the time, we don't even notice how incredibly hetero-centric everything (and I do mean everything) is in our lives. Then gay people are given --- what? 4? 5? shows, and maybe another 4 shows with recurring gay minor characters, a handful of movies --- and it's like everyone is talking about the gay media phenomenon, pro or con. What phenomenon, I say? After 2000 years of civilization, we get thrown a few tv shows? This is not exactly what I would term a landslide of gay imagery. Meanwhile, gay people all over are still, many more times and on a daily basis, having to "translate" straight imagery in their minds, if they want to have something to relate to. Which means gay people see a cigarrette ad with a straight couple looking all happy and carefree as they enjoy those cigs, and the gay person has to sort of switch the genders in his or her mind, if he or she wants to directly relate. As far as I'm concerned, we could go through 100 years or so of having gay couples in all of our ads and tv shows and movies and see how straight people like having to "translate" for awhile, and even then we'd still be several hundreds of years behind.
I can understand why people wonder why shows like "***** As Folk" are on tv and why they are being celebrated --- frankly, I think the show is complete crap and don't even watch it. But so many gay people are so desperate to see some image of themselves represented in the media --- any image, no matter how inane or insulting or marginalized --- that they'll take what they can get. At least it's something.
It feels good to be validated, and seeing yourself represented in the images of the media is, yes, a superficial validation, but it is validation nonetheless. And it's of real value --- unfortunately, the statistics for the number of gay teenagers who try to kill themselves are still too high. Many times, these people feel alone. Visibility helps to decrease the isolation and loneliness many gay people feel, and that is important. Even if it's just an image of a gay couple in a sofabed ad, that helps someone, somewhere go --- "wow, people like me." Even if it is the once-funny but increasingly-lame "Will & Grace", it helps some people to get "used" to gay people and think of them as normal, contributing members of society. Even if the images are not so great and the media's momentary celebration of them seems annoying, it's better than not having it at all.
It is unfortunate that with increased visibility comes a much larger target placed on Gay America's back. I hope that the good that results will be greater than the backlash.