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Sean William Scott

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Friday, January 21, 2005

Gay and Lesbian Representation in the Media 

(or, Dorian gets annoyed about something that doesn't matter to very many people...)

The 16th annual GLAAD Media Awards nominees are announced, and as usual, I'm not very impressed with their selections. I've got a bit of a philosophical problem with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and their methodology. Primarily, they tend to award mediocrity. The projects they recognize as "outstanding" strike me as nothing so much as works whose goal is nothing other than making the disgusting, perverted faggots as palatable to the mainstream/straight public as possible. And when GLAAD does take "action" and organize write-in campaigns and boycotts against a media entity they feel have insulted the dignity of the queer community their targets are people who are so blasphemously insane that no reasonable person could ever have taken them seriously in the first place (like Michael Savage), or so obscure that no one outside of people on GLAAD's mailing list has heard of them anyway. And so, yeah, I'm not exactly impressed with what GLAAD have chosen to honor this year, and I'll tell you why.

Outstanding Film - Wide Release

Alexander (Warner Bros.)
A Home at the End of the World (Warner Independent Pictures)
Kinsey (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Monster (Newmarket Films)
Saved! (United Artists)

I haven't seen any of these films. Alexander I understand was either too gay or not gay enough, so it's probably out of the running. Kinsey is supposed to be very good, but the man is still considered controversial in some circles, so that's probably out as well. Saved! is probably the most likely winner, as the gay-themed sub-plot in that film centers on straight people learning to tolerate gay people despite the fact that they're sinners.

Outstanding Film - Limited Release

Bad Education (Sony Pictures Classics)
Bear Cub (TLA Releasing)
Blue Gate Crossing (Strand Releasing)
Brother to Brother (Wolfe Releasing)
The Mudge Boy (Strand Releasing/Showtime)

I also haven't seen any of these films yet. Brother to Brother apparently engendered some controversy, with many feeling it's depiction of the black community was racist. Bear Cub is supposed to be very good, but I suspect the film contains too many big hairy men having sex for GLAAD to want to promote it too much. So Bad Education is probably the best bet here, as Pedro Almodovar is a known quantity.

Outstanding Drama Series

Kevin Hill (UPN)
The L Word (Showtime)
Queer as Folk (Showtime)
Six Feet Under (HBO)
The Wire (HBO)

I gave up on Six Feet Under after the first season. It was much sound and fury, but nothing much ever seemed to happen. I only ever caught the premiere episode of The L Word and I thought it seemed more like an exercise in titillating the straight male audience than a serious look at the lives of lesbians.

Outstanding Comedy Series

Will & Grace

Well that's depressing. The gay version of Amos and Andy is the only nominee. Some day our culture is going to look back at Will and Grace and be vaguely embarrassed that it was ever on the air.

Outstanding Reality Program

American Candidate (Showtime)
Big Brother 5 (CBS)
Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (Bravo)
The Real World: Philadelphia (MTV)
Survivor: Vanuatu (CBS)

The very idea that there is a category for "reality" programs both depresses and angers me. Especially since the gay people on most such shows are very obviously tokens. "Let's see, we've got a black contestant, an Asian contestant, a couple of women and about a dozen white guys. Did we miss anything?" "The fags?" "Oh, that's right, better throw a fag on the show as well. We don't want to offend anyone by leaving one out."

Queer Eye for the Straight Guy is the only show that doesn't fit the same pattern as the rest, but I still tend to feel that the hosts on that show are more like jesters than positive role models. They're "safe" homos that won't threaten the public, and spend all their time trying to improve the lives of straight men.

Outstanding Advertising - Electronic

"Bouncer" United Church of Christ
"Coco" Orbitz
"Penn Pals" Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation
"Watch and Learn: Gay Marriage" MTV

Outstanding Advertising - Print

"Are You Putting Us On?" Kenneth Cole
"Jill" Grand Marnier
"Menotte Bracelets" Cartier
"This is Love. It's Not Up for a Vote." Shreve, Crump & Low

Again, the inclusion of gay people in many of these ads is tokenism, the exploitation of gay rights issues to make a political point or to garner publicity, or included as part of a PSA about how you shouldn't hate gay people just because they're gay. So while the PSA-type ads have their hearts in the right place, it does feel a little condescending.

Outstanding Comic Book

Ex Machina (Wildstorm/DC Comics)
Hard Time (DC Comics)
Luba (Fantagraphics Books)
My Faith in Frankie (Vertigo/DC Comics)
Strangers in Paradise (Abstract Studio)

Remember what I said about how GLAAD tends to award mediocrity? The comic book awards always drives that point home, I think. The gay storyline in Ex Machina clearly garnered it a last-minute inclusion, despite the fact that the reading public doesn't yet know where the story is headed. Hard Time is an excellent series, but Gerber's portrayal of Cindy is not only unsympathetic, it often borders on caricature. Luba is fantastic and truly does deserve recognition, and is probably the only truly positive and uncomplicated portrayal of the lives of gay people on this list. My Faith in Frankie was a good mini, but the lesbian aspect sort of came out of left field at the very end (I suppose this means that Law and Order will be nominated next year, for its last minute revelation that a departing character was lesbian). I'm still continually confused by the claims that Strangers in Paradise contains positive gay images, as every time I look at it, it seems to me that the same-sex relationships are uniformly abusive and the characters only seem to find happiness when they're in opposite-sex relationships.

In any case, all the nominees are either from DC comics, or are "big-name" indie talents. In other words, there's a good chance that all the nominees are something that "normal" people could find in a book-store. The gay small press, where all the interesting gay comics that are actually, you know, about gay people and not about how straight people deal with gay people, have been completely ignored. Again. Heck, with all the press manga is getting, and with the number of gay characters in manga, you'd almost think a token nomination would have made it through, but I guess manga is still considered too weird for GLAAD's normalizing of homosexuality goal.

Outstanding Music Artist

Melissa Etheridge, Lucky
George Michael, Patience
Scissor Sisters, Scissor Sisters
Le Tigre, This Island
Rufus Wainwright, Want Two

Hardly anyone has heard of Le Tigre so they're out of the running. The Scissor Sisters are truly excellent, but they're far too weird to meet GLAAD's goals of presenting nice, respectable homos to the straight world. George Michael's new album is actually quite good, if a bit uneven, but people still think of public restrooms when they think of him, and we can't have a nominee who reminds people that gay people actually do have sex win, now can we? So that leaves Rufus Wainwright, who is perhaps not well known enough, and the non-threatening lesbian up for the award. I'm half surprised GLAAD didn't find a way to nominate Elton John or Boy George this year, as there's nothing that the world loves so much as bitter, tired old queens.

Special Recognition

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Now, I like The Daily Show, and I usually think Jon Steward is funny and talented...but, again, his contribution this year largely amounted to making fun of homophobes, and there's nothing particularly noteworthy or brave about that, especially when your audience is made up largely of people who pride themselves on how open-minded they like to think they are.


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