Is acceptance and tolerance a channel change away?

By Erin Clarke

When I look at the world as a single woman in her mid-30’s (let me just say that is a tough way to start a sentence), I see many, many changes in rapid succession and I wonder if we are now in a time when the entertainment industry is doing more than any other facet of society in making changes to it.  When you look back 10-20 years, did you think that there would be such liberal pro-LGBT views espoused from mainstream TV?  And Will & Grace is just the beginning.

There have been great strides made in the society to the South of us (eh hum, clears throat for recognition that gay marriage has been legal in parts of Canada since 1993 with the whole country following suit shortly after) for our LGBT brothers and sisters in the past few years and I think that the “in your face, in your home” way that TV has handled the issue has been a big help to the “middle” of the country’s view of tolerance.  When I was a kid I realize now there were gay couples on TV, but in the 80’s we called them roommates, such as My Two Dads or Full House.  Today there is such openness to the LGBT culture that people are almost blasé about the “gay” character on a show.  Remember when Jack McFarlane and Will Truman were introduced to America, flamboyant and mainstream respectively, they both had a great amount of public attention, not just because the show was funny but people got to say “There is finally someone like me on network TV”grays-anatomy

This of course has not always been a positive, there have been horrible and destructive images on TV of the LGBT community, just think of cross-dressing Corporal Maxwell Q. Klinger in the CBS television sitcom MASH, dressing in women’s clothes as a form of mental illness to get sent home from the war. Two decades ago there were no gay teens on TV; now there is a representation of LGBT youth on many, many shows with examples on Degrassi, Pretty Little Liars and Glee.  I am also uncomfortable with the damaged, serial killer closet case male that seems to turn up on Criminal Minds, CSI and Law & Order SVU from time to time, because I feel they perpetuate the myths that are already out there and really do nothing for the advancement of a minority in society. It makes me cringe also because I know that some people, not all of course, but some feel that those are traits of a damaged gay person and that can do more damage…..don’t even get me started on how the LGBT community is used by the movie industry as a type of boogie man.modern-family

All in all, I think that there are a lot of shows that have had gay characters and used those characters for the advancement of a community that has been part of society since the beginning of time and they are doing a great job in showing that just like the spectrum of personalities and preferences straight people have in life, there is no one brush to paint the LGBT community either.  Lafayette Reynolds on True Blood (note; this show has the highest number of LGBT characters on TV) may be a fabulous queen in his life but he can throw down like anyone, Kurt Humell on Glee is just like every drama kid every high school had and will continue to have, there is a married, mixed race lesbian couple on Grey’s Anatomy (and really how much more mainstream can you get than Grey’s Anatomy?) and the penultimate current gay characters on “Modern Family” Cam & Mitch.  How can you sit on your couch and laugh and love those characters and hate and belittle the same people in real life?  I think that time and exposure changes a lot of things and it’s a big responsibility to put on the entertainment industry, but something tells me they are up for it.  What do you think? Is TV changing society or is it a natural evolution of thought?  Tweet me at erinl_clarke