NPR has a story (via) about how TV brought (and continues to bring) gay people into America's living rooms and is helping to change middle-Americans' attitudes and ideas about us. While I can't argue with that (even our Vice President acknowledged it last week), I hope that TV isn't the only thing changing minds in Peoria.
Okay, good. So TV has helped. But let's take a lot at how long it took for TV to get there, shall we? 1977 saw television's first openly gay character, Jody Dallas (played by future Oscar host Billy Crystal) on the ABC parody "Soap." Yes, for the most part, Jody was played for laughs. The joke was on us when it was revealed that Jody and his mother were both having sex with tennis instructor Peter (the late Robert Urich).
I don't remember another gay character on TV until the 80's with "Thirtysomething" (a show I despised) and in the 90's with "Melrose Place," a show I never saw. And of course, Ellen came out in life and on her show and suddenly there was this screeching halt and we were hardly anywhere, except on Russell Davies' BBC series "Queer as Folk." And then came "Will & Grace," I suppose. Almost real gay men on TV at last! And it played in Peoria! Of course, no one cared if Showtime's soft-core American version of "Queer as Folk"played in Peoria. It was purely a coastal phenom, though I took much delight in introducing K to it's many joys while visiting sis in Florida one year. She spent the majority of the hour with her mouth hanging open, poor thing.
Now, of course there's "Glee" (as silly as it may be at times) and "Modern Family" (as outrageous as it may be at times), finally featuring (more-or-less) realistic gay characters in everyday settings. The ratings on both of these shows are pretty terrific. Collectively, they've won Golden Globes, Emmys and GLAAD Media Awards. If the folks in Peoria (i.e Middle America) hated these shows, they wouldn't be the hits they are. Well, it finally seems like people are getting it. LGBTQ people are your friends, your co-workers and your family members.
And what became of Ellen? She is Oprah's gay heir apparent, apparently. The multiple Emmy Award-winning Ellen Degeneres now hosts the most popular daytime talk show on television; is a humanitarian and philanthropist and supposedly the most delightful and genuine person one could hope to meet in Hollywood. Millions of Americans welcome the world's most famous lesbian into their homes every weekday.
Yes, television has done wonders for LGBTQ rights. Visibility breeds compassion, I guess. Honestly I don't care about the why. I just know that things are finally beginning to change for LGBTQ Americans and I'm so glad that I am here to see that.
That's so gay!