The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday August 12th

Television helps gays become accepted

In an article in The Daily Tar Heel last week, N.C. Pride spokesman Keith Hayes said, “Now the (N.C. Gay Pride) parade is really about celebrating what we have accomplished for gay civil rights — free from fear.”

But even with gay marriage legal in four states and Gay-Straight Alliances at hundreds of schools, many people still adopt the quasi-tolerant stance of NIMBY: Not in My Backyard.

But what about on your TV?

“(The girls) all think (Logan)’s hot,” said Project Runway designer Gordana Gelhausen on this past week’s episode, referring to one of the series’ few resident straight men. “The boys like him as well,” she laughs.

But rather than being a show-stopping revelation, her comment was merely another sound bite between Tim Gunn’s “Make it work!” and Heidi Klum’s “Auf Wiedersehen.”

Television has helped gay become OK.

One of the first gay recurring characters on a popular prime-time show was played by Billy Crystal on the late-1970s sitcom “Soap.”

Since then, shows like “Will and Grace,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Sex and the City” allow people to get to “know” a person who is homosexual.

Reality TV helps take those sitcom caricatures and show the real-life stories. Danny Roberts on “The Real World: New Orleans” created shock waves when he came out to his housemates. This happened not only because he did not “look” gay, but mostly because it really was not that big of a deal.

For straight viewers, he provided an education on not judging a book by its cover. For viewers struggling with their sexuality, he gave them hope.

Twelve years ago, when much of the undergraduate population here was still in elementary school, Ellen DeGeneres came out on her television sitcom as well as on the cover of Time with the famous quote, “Yep, I’m gay.”

For a few years, her sexuality was the first topic of discussion in most interviews or profiles.

But now she is “Talk Show Host Ellen” or “Next American Idol judge Ellen” or even “Just Ellen” before she is “Gay Ellen.”

When Adam Lambert came out on the cover of Rolling Stone, he said his sexuality is “just another part of me,” not something he has ever hidden nor needs to announce. If Lambert came walking through the Pit in a white suit and rhinestones on his eyelids, he might garner some stares and some whispers of, “Do you think he’s … gay?” But from the comfort of our couches, people are “safe” to enjoy his performances.

Neil Patrick Harris. Portia de Rossi. Suze Orman. T.R. Knight. Cynthia Nixon. Pedro Zamora. Tom Ford. Ian McKellen.

When you hear these names, do you think about them being gay? Or about what they’ve accomplished?

Chris Rock once said that equality in baseball was only achieved once there were bad black baseball players in the major leagues.

In accepting gays — virtual or not — one has to allow for failure. Gay marriage is going to create gay divorce. For every gay politician fighting the good fight, there’s going to be one that’s corrupt.

A true victory will be when we don’t judge people based on whom they choose to be romantic with, but rather, as a wise man once said, by the content of their character.

 

Jessica Fuller is a second-year journalism graduate student from Greensboro. Contact Jessica at jvfuller@gmail.com.

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