A few months ago, my partner and I decided to start watching the Netflix series “Grace and Frankie”, starring Jane Fonda as Grace and Lily Tomlin as Frankie. While we both have really enjoyed the show overall, there is one aspect of it that truly bothers me and it deals with how gay people continue to be regularly portrayed in the majority of scripted entertainment.
But before I talk about that, it’s probably best I give a quick description of what “Grace and Frankie” is all about. In a nutshell, it’s about two women who forge an unlikely friendship after their husbands of 40 years (Martin Sheen as Robert and Sam Waterston as Sol) come out of the closet and declare their love for each other. And while the chemistry of Grace and Frankie is what makes this show extremely comical and keeps drawing me back, it’s how Robert and Sol’s relationship is depicted and how the rest of their gay friends are depicted that frustrates me greatly.
You see, as soon as Robert and Sol come out of the closet at the beginning of this series, they are immediately illustrated as a very flamboyant couple who like showtunes, cooking, and theater. Essentially, they are portrayed as feminine in nature, as is each of their closest friends on the show as well. And as the series progresses, the viewer learns through one of Robert’s friends, Peter (Tim Bagley), that most male gay couples are in open relationships after a few years of being together because they get bored with each other. I.E. They are no longer monogamous and instead allow themselves to have sexual partners on the side or together, but usually with “rules”.
Being a gay individual myself, these gay stereotypes are by far the most frustrating part of scripted entertainment, because there are many gay men in this world just like me who aren’t flamboyant, who don’t like showtunes, who don’t enjoy cooking, and tend to abhor most theater-based productions, especially musicals. Just as much as there are plenty of gay men out there like me who are in long-term monogamous relationships and haven’t ever been in an open-based one nor have any desire to ever be in one either. Yet, this is still the way the majority of scripted television entertainment keeps portraying gay men over and over and over again. Thankfully, there have been a few movies though in recent years like Brokeback Mountain and Moonlight that have worked to erode those gay stereotypes and show gay men as being more masculine as well. Unfortunately, I still haven’t seen much of this being portrayed at all on scripted television though.
The very reason why these gay stereotypes on television bother me so much is because of all those people in the world who don’t have any gay friends and have never been around anyone gay in general. It’s they who end up forming judgments, opinions, and projections on what a gay person is like because of what they see represented on TV, which only causes more disunity and damage to our society as a whole. Many of them also tend to be religious people who then tend to form the belief that gay men are nothing more than godless promiscuous individuals filled with nothing but drama. And why wouldn’t they believe this when all they see on television in many of the popular shows is the same gay stereotypes? This is why I honestly wish the tide would change soon in the scripted entertainment industry and begin to show the many facets of gay culture, especially when it comes to gay men. Because not all gay men act or look like what you see depicted on television.
So, the next time you find yourself making a judgment of what you think a gay person is like just because of how one is being illustrated on a television show you’re watching, please know there are many other gay men in this world who aren’t like that and may actually be God-loving, monogamous-minded, masculine-acting individuals…individuals just like me…
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson