Be gay in whatever way you want to be
Published: Thursday, April 28, 2011
Updated: Thursday, April 28, 2011 03:04
I found Molly Wallace's review of ABC's "Happy Endings" ("No happy ending in sight for ABC's latest," April 25, 2011) incredibly offensive. In particular, the description of Adam Pally's character, Max, rubbed me the wrong way. For those who did not read the review, it read, "[Adam] Pally steals the show with his nonstereotypical depiction of a gay character. Max is Dave's bro−ish and sloppy best friend, an incredibly refreshing departure from the flamboyance so often seen in primetime (a la Chris Colfer in ‘Glee' or Eric Stonestreet in ‘Modern Family'). I would go so far to claim that Pally gives the most realistic portrayal of a gay character on television …"
These comments seem to imply that there is a right and a wrong way to be gay, which of course is not true. The character of Max is just one depiction of a gay man, while Kurt from "Glee" or Cameron from "Modern Family" are two other, completely valid portrayals of gay men. While "Happy Endings" should be commended for taking a different approach to how homosexuals are portrayed on TV, their take is not better nor is it more realistic.
Personally, I know many gay men who, by the reviewer's standards would be categorized as flamboyant (though truthfully, I don't think they are all that flamboyant). They are not "bro−ish" nor are they "sloppy," but they are still very real. They are also individuals, who shouldn't just be called a stereotype as if that is some sort of dirty word.
There also aren't enough gay characters on primetime for the reviewer to make such a sweeping generalization about what is "so often seen on primetime." GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, reports that for the 2010−2011 season, gay characters made up exactly 3.9% of all scripted regulars on primetime television. And even with so few gay characters (23 to be exact), the reviewer chose the two that best fit her example. Why ignore Oscar from NBC's "The Office" or Calvin from ABC Family's "Greek?" These two characters do not fit the stereotypical flamboyancy mentioned by the reviewer, yet they are somehow overlooked as "refreshing" depictions of a gay character on television.
In addition, by writing off Kurt and Cameron as just another two flamboyant gay men, the reviewer shows that she is unfamiliar with the historical context of camp and flamboyance. Andy Medhurst, in his brilliant essay on camp, "Batman, Deviance and Camp," explains that historically, camp has been used as a means of survival and self−defense. He states that "camp answers heterosexual disapproval through a strategy of defensive offensiveness … confirming that not only do queens dare to exist, but they flaunt and luxuriate in their queerness." Richard Dyer expands on this sentiment by saying that camp allowed gay men to have fun and be unambiguously gay, but it also allowed them to use wit to "make fun of themselves … to keep the seriousness of their situation at bay." Prior to the Stonewall riots and the rise of the gay rights movement (and even today), being that identifiably gay could be considered very progressive and political. I am not saying, however, that today, every flamboyant gay man acts in that manner to be political or self−protective; regarding flamboyance as just style without any substance, and therefore something undesirable, is just plain uniformed.
Ultimately, there is no "most realistic depiction" of a gay person. "Happy Endings" should be applauded for portraying a gay person on television considering how underrepresented the LGBTQ community is, but it is not the reviewer's place to judge the portrayal's accuracy. So, be gay in whatever way you want to be. I think that Dyer sums it up best when he says "you have to let people be gay in the way that is best for them."
Lina Stolyar is a junior majoring in psychology.