FOREWORD: KD Support is now active! Volunteers and people needing virtual support can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And now, on to the post of the day…
If you were a fan of the hit TV series, Desperate Housewives, and you were very familiar with the characters, then you’d probably remember the gay couple that occupied Wisteria Lane, opposite the street from Susan Mayer. One of the characters was named Bob Hunter, played by actor Tuc Watkins (pictured above left).
Last year, Watkins took a shot at the Modern Family gay couple (pictured above right), Mitchell Pritchett (played by Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cameron Tucker (played by Eric Stonestreet). He said he had “a hard time laughing at the gay guys on Modern Family,” arguing that the show’s portrayal of a same-sex couple “doesn’t feel ‘modern’ at all.”
“It feels a little bit like the gay equivalent of ‘blackface,’” he added, according to reports. “Sure, people come in all shapes, sizes etc. So why are we fed such ‘80s stereotypes every week.”
I googled ‘blackface,’ to find out that it was a form of theatrical makeup used by white performers in the 19th century to represent a black person, and it apparently contributed to the proliferation of certain stereotypes surrounding the issue of race. In other words, by drawing parallels between blackface and Modern Family, Tuc Watkins was trying to say that the TV show was nourishing the stereotype that gays are…well, a feminine, superficial lot.
Of course, Jesse Tyler Ferguson responded to the criticism in a Facebook post, in which he said, “We can’t be expected to represent every gay person. We can only represent these two people.” You can check out his full Facebook post HERE.
A furor was kicked up over this criticism, both for and against the TV show’s portrayal of LGBT. In the wake of it all, Tuc Watkins made one final response to his controversy. He made quite the compelling argument, and that is what I’d like to share. Read below:
‘I’d like to thank everyone for both the support and admonishment I’ve received since my comment about Modern Family a week ago: “I have a hard time laughing at the gay guys. In fact, I kinda cringe. It sorta feels like the gay equivalent of ‘blackface.”
‘Since then, some people have expressed feelings similar to mine, while many others have expressed opposing views. I think that’s great. It is my opinion that the ‘gay character’ in TV and film has been too similar, too often, for too long.
‘On December 19, I cried, ‘Blackface!’ I did it in a fit of exasperation over a stereotype that shook me when I was a kid that I saw alive and well today.
‘Stereotypes create judgments. When those judgments lead to bullying…or worse…we’ve got a problem. I don’t hear a lot of bullying around the ‘cranky old man,’ ‘neurotic wife,’ or ‘bumbling husband’ demographic.
‘What’s happening over at Modern Family is not blackface. Blackface is hateful. However, I do believe a stereotype is being perpetuated that can be harmful.
‘Growing up, I was scared of the ‘over-the-top flamboyant gay stereotype’ I saw on TV and film. I’m not now. Hell, I can ‘queen out’ with the best of them. But when, I was a kid the stereotype distanced me from who I would eventually become. Maybe I would be a little further up the pyramid towards self-actualization if I had a role model at that age. Instead, I buried myself so deep into trying to make my friends laugh, theatre, sports, etc., so I wouldn’t have to spend a moment thinking about what a ‘unique’ person I was. I appreciate that the stereotype in question may have helped someone else.
‘It did not help me.
‘It confused me. It kept me in the closet. Actually it was worse than that, because I hit the denial button before I’d even heard of ‘the closet.’
‘I want to confuse the current stereotype. Gay people, like any minority, know the power of comedy. It’s often our lifeline. Don’t tell me we can’t still be funny while we do it.
‘“This gay character isn’t a stereotype, I know people just like this.” Sure, so do I. I love them and appreciate that they are different. But when I want to visit Europe and the travel agent sends me to London over and over again, I don’t feel like I’ve really seen Europe.
‘Yes, different gay characters are trickling in. But Hollywood is the gatekeeper of the cultural lexicon. We set the pace. Let’s step it up. America can handle it. If we conjured Kim Kardashian out of nothing, can’t we do the same with a gay badass who fights crime?
‘I’m glad gay characters have such central focus among truly loving characters on a comedy like Modern Family. On our next trip to Europe, let’s visit a different city. I hear Paris is pretty funny this time of year.
‘I ain’t a hero. Nor am I a villain. I’m a guy with an opinion that comes from my gut and I want to change the world. Through the gay characters that I have played, I have attempted to confuse the stereotype instead of perpetuate it. Bully for me.”
That is a portion of the actor’s post, and it had me thinking about this particular stereotype about gay men. I remember an incident that happened a couple of years ago. I was in the company of some friends. All of us were in high spirits, laughing and joking and laughing some more. One of us had just entered the room with this guy he’d recently started seeing, a relatively new face in our midst. And then, the self-professed drama queen amongst us shrieked when he saw the guy, “Ah, my sister! Na fine pikin you be o!”
And the guy snapped back, “What nonsense is that? I’m not your sister please. Better respect yourself.”
The drama queen wasn’t one to back down from a confrontation, and he instantly bristled, chastising the other guy and quickly starting a spat that was rich with recriminations and words like ‘self denial’, ‘internalized homophobia’ and ‘be a man not a woman.’
At the time, I sort of resented the new guy for being such a stuck-up dude. But as the years went by, I began to realize that the flamboyant gay man probably wasn’t the kind of homosexual he identified with. Like Tuc Watkins pointed out, there are several cities in Europe, and London shouldn’t be the only place tourists get to see.
However, I’d like to hear your opinion on this. The flamboyant gay man. The butch lesbian. Let us discuss about this particular stereotype that we perpetuate in the gay community.