Gay stereotypes in TV & Film

Every gay man likes shopping, dancing and being a “gay best friend”. Every gay woman has long hair, wears full make up, and occasionally likes to dabble in heterosexual sex. This is far from true, as we’re all aware, but tell that to Hollywood. How can we be annoyed with the heterosexual community mistaking these stereotypes for reality, when the vast majority of gay and characters inpopular, mainstream films and television shows conform to them?

Let’s start with the boys.

Too gay to function?

From the extremely popular teen film “Mean Girls” we get the phrase “Almost too gay to function.”  The film’s gay character Damien uses words like “fierce”, “own it” and “fabulous”, alongside camp acting and being overly protective of his pink shirt.Interestingly, Damien is one of the only characters never given a love interest. Why were the directors happy to exploit gay

stereotypes, but leave out the only human feature which makes a person gay – attraction to the same sex? Would it have altered the popularity of the film if Damien had been given a boyfriend? We’ll never know, but I have one more question for Mean Girls:

How can a character be “too gay to function” if he never actually gets the chance to be explicitly gay?

Popular TV show Glee is another culprit in stereotype exploitations, with main character Kurt’s high singing voice and love of

fashion. At least Kurt is allocated a boyfriend at some point in the series, and as far as I’m aware, this hasn’t altered the show’s ratings at all.

Britain isn’t exempt either; “reality” show The Only Way Is Essex provides us with the character of Harry, whose main influence on the show is being a camp stylist in an entirely pink beauty salon. We’re never told Harry is gay, but the show’s creators seem to use the clichéd characteristics as a shortcut.

Lesbian representations are a totally different story. In most mainstream shows which feature lesbian characters we see examples of femme lesbians, and not much else. The example which springs to mind first is Carol from friends. Other examples of well-known Femmes include Arizona and Callie from Grey’s Anatomy, and characters from Skins and Sugar Rush. These women are all feminine, and tend to be open to heterosexual sex too.

Who are these homosexual characters for? Not the LGBT community, that’s for sure.

Numerous heterosexual women are drawn to the idea of boys who can give them fashion advice and go shopping with them, whilst occasionally entertaining them with a spontaneous dancing session. Straight men love the idea of a conventionally beautiful bisexual woman.

It’s no wonder more masculine lesbians come under fire from heterosexual females when there are little to no examples of them in popular culture, and it’s no wonder gay men are met with the patronising “gay best friend” tag.  When will we see characters that highlight and celebrate the diversity and variety of the LGBT community?

This piece was written by Roisin Morrison, member of Newcastle Univeristy LGBT Society. If you would like to tweet her thoughts, you can find her at @RouxShn