In this essay I plan to discuss the stereotypes of homosexuality in times of when it was deemed unacceptable and now in the 21st century when it is main stream. I shall be looking at a wide variety of both films and television programs from the United States and the United Kingdom; titles include Brokeback Mountain – film, Transamerica – film, Shameless – television, Will & Grace – television and many more. Throughout the history of film, gay men were portrayed as sissies while lesbian women were portrayed as butch.
If it were not for these portrayals we would not know if someone was gay and as there is of course no physical markings for them to stand out and people would not know if they were gay or straight. Using this, an American television company created a reality show called Playing it Straight. A woman dates X number of men and has to eliminate one a week to find her true love, but then whilst doing that also has to figure out who is gay and who is not. If at the end she picks a gay guy then he will walk away with the money.
The show sounds easy to do but when watching it, which is far from the truth as they all act what mainstream calls “normal”. Homosexuality was condemned until it became legalised, even then people still condemned it. Films had characters with sissy or butch traits but still not declared as homosexual. But in 1973 American television produced its first homosexual character in a tv movie “That Certain Summer” where a gay man tells his son that he is gay.
Other American television companies were then due to more programs with the theme of homosexuality but then were cancelled as the nations mood rose to the Moral Majority who were against with the amount of sex and violence shown on television.. It was only in the late 1980’s where lesbian characters started to be shown on television on shows such as The Golden Girls, Moonlighting and LA Law. Although they were shown they people say that they were negative portrayals and just stereotypes and only put it on the shows to make them look contemporary.
However in the past decade it has become mainstream and highly popular, although some may beg to differ that it is only there for comical value with shows such as Will ; Grace. Two gay men, and 2 straight women are the main characters, one of the men is sissy whilst the other is more masculine but with sissy traits. The comical value is mainly about gay jokes and situations said by both sexualities in the show and with constant references between the two men as their “bitches” and saying comments such as “kiss it, kiss it, spank it”
An English television program “Queer as Folk” again follows the “sissy” and “butch” stereotypes. The men in the show are sissy and camp whilst the women are butch and masculine. It is aimed at homosexual audiences with problems that homosexuals would face daily unlike Will ; Grace that use just the gay factor as a joke. The queer theory, although not a theory, builds on some on some ideas developed by Foucault. It says that nothing within your identity and that the identity is things that one has previously expressed or things that has been said about you.
Gender is like the identity , a performance although it may not be a consciously chosen one so people can change. Whilst people believe that they are born homosexual and it is not a choice as they may have tried to be straight but to them it just did not work. The film Transamerica is about a man named Stanley on his way to having the sex change to become a woman, and his journey along the way and not wanting anyone to know his is in fact a man. He takes up a persona as Bree and does everything in his power to be feminine which includes the clothes, voice and actions.
So desperately he wants to become a woman that even his own family disowns him and he continues without their help. Although being cross gendered is now accepted as a mental illness and not as their identidy they still have similar qualities such as the femininity. Although saying that the film Brokeback Mountain, is about two cowboys herding sheep who then fall in love with each other but, because of the time it was set in (1960s to the 70s) they could not be public and have to continue living a normal heterosexual life, but meeting up every few months for rendezvous in the mountains.
The character called Jack dies because he was beaten up due to the fact was homosexual whilst his partner falls apart with out him. They were known as life partners but were not in anyway portrayed as sissies, which shows us that the way Hollywood is now changing their ideals and not following the tradition of the equation gay men = femininity and sissy. In English television, soaps have covered this subject many a times, for instance, at the moment there is a storyline in Eastenders where a married couple break up due to the wife, Sonia, falling for her best friend and living with her to become her partner.
In no way do either of them comes across as butch, in fact they are the total opposite. The two young women are hip and feminine, you can tell this by what they wear, how they act and even what they drink. Pop music now a days is aimed at young teenagers as well as gay men, if you were to walk in a club such as G-A-Y or Heaven the vast majority of music played is by bands such as Sugababes and artists such as Madona and Britney Spears.
Men will dance and sing along and act very camp. They also have what they call as gay anthems such as Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive. Music such as these are about women singing about men and being stong and independent, something gay men can relate to. Gay men also seem to like the cheesy pop songs such as the Cheeky Girls and Steps. All the television and films I have spoken about are all about flaunting their sexuality bar the ones that are not portrayed as sissies.
In an English drama called Shameless, there is a character called Ian who is a 15 year old who is described as “actively gay but very private” on the back of the DVD case of series 1. He does his best to hide the fact he is gay by having a girlfriend and having his brother to sleep with her in the house so people would not get suspicious of his true sexuality. His father openly says that he hates gay people and beat him up when he had an incline thinking it would “knock some sense into him”.
The father’s reaction shows that to this day there are people who only think that being homosexual is wrong and this is known as homophobia. In the Critical Reading of Media and Gender it states that “homophobia is typically linked to a cultural fear of homosexuality – that it threatens or undermines the ‘legitimacy’ and cultural dominance heterosexuality, patriarchy and the nuclear family. ” This basically means that that homophobic people find homosexuals threatening the human race by they not reproduction naturally or having a conventional family life.
In this day in age, society has come up with a new gender for men, the metro sexual. This is a label for a heterosexual man who has some homosexual traits for instance their importance for appearance. A show called Queer eye for the Straight guy is about 5 gay guys teaching the importance of self maintenance such as clothing, hair and lifestyle. They take a heterosexual who is somewhat homophobic and transform them into a metro sexual and change their opinion on homosexuality by showing that being gay is not a crime nor catching.
In shows such as Sex and the City, the characters Charlotte and Carrey both have their gay friends. They both talk to them about their problems and men and they are in fact like having a girl around them. They both are portrayed as bitchy sissy men who have no real luck in finding love and use each other as last minute dates when they have no luck. In this show is comes across as gay men being just like one of the girls and being the perfect shopping buddy and not really as what society considers a normal man going about his business.
When is comes to the gossip columns, when a celebrity is single for a while some will say that that celebrity is homosexual which puts the celebrity in an awkward position when they come to declare they are not and just going through a dry spell because if they were to jump out as say they aren’t it could offend homosexuals as it may seem that the celebrity is saying that being gay is bad and seem homophobic whilst if they say nothing they are then silently agreeing to the gossip.
Famous homosexuals include Elton John, George Michael, Whoopi Goldberg and Ellen who had her own show named, Ellen was playing a straight character but when gossip columns starting saying she was a lesbian she agreed and turned her character into a lesbian as well. The friends of the character reacted in the way people have known to in reality, friends of the same sex are worried if they homosexual friend fancies them. Ellen what always butch on and off screen, she never wore dresses and had short hair. She did not cook, clean and owned her own book store.
Male models for clothes always have a feminine streak even though they are well built and even be heterosexual, and there is a stereotype that well built men are gay and will behave in a sissy way. In fact women who see good looking men will most likely assume that they are gay because they take care of their looks and straight men know tend to wear pink shirts which was once deemed as a gay colour but now with the metro sexuals in the mix it’s even harder for women to pin point who is gay and who is not. People now say to women that they need to have a gaydars to pin point who is gay.
Up until recently in the United Kingdom, it has not been legal for gay couples to be married. A new law has been placed to allow such unions to take place. Couples now wear their rings with pride and have ceremonies to sanctify their love. Shows such as Wedding Stories on BBC 3 show the preparation and the actual ceremony of wedding of both gay and straight people, showing that it is now becoming an accepted way of life. In conclusion the general stereotyping of gay men and gay women have been largely influenced by the media, whether it being films, television, or music; especially between the 1950’s to the present day.
Although there are some pockets in the industry that do not follow the stereotype and create them as individuals who just happen to be homosexual. Labels such as queers, fags, big girls blouse and poofs all being derogative terms are there to offend both homosexuals and heterosexuals as none really want called such terms, although in the gay community it is quite natural to call each other these terms along with the phrase “bitch”, Similarly it is morally wrong for a white person to refer to a black person as a “nigger” whilst it is acceptable for black people to refer to each other as “niggers”.
Today homosexuals are still labelled as sissies and butch, and actually follow this way of life. It is unknown whether it is because it is influenced by the media or by their peers. Lesbians that I have noticed in clubs such as G-A-Y are butch, and have short hair, tattoos and have a masculine flare to their style or attitude. Whilst the gay men are very camp, flamboyant and feminine, they also are obvious the untrained eye that they are indeed gay.
With the media now slowly changing is perspective of homosexuals it is unknown whether the homosexuals will as well. Personally I think the stereotype will never end as it such a strong one that we all have and it will be very difficult for it to stop because it will be passed down to each generation. It may die out but it will not be extinct like the Nazi opinions as they still exist today.
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