One of the reasons that I love television is I think you can learn a lot about people by paying attention to the content of the programming the Powers That Be choose to put on the air. It says a lot when, Glee, one of the most popular shows on TV, features not one, but two gay main characters at once. And they’re not even dating each other! That means two MAJOR gay storylines. In the same episodes. It’s awesome. It’s not just token gay characters; Kurt and Santana are driving the action this season. Honestly, who really cares about Quinn/Finn/Rachel anymore? (Actually, I do, but mostly because Diana Agron is hot.)
I don’t really watch Reality TV, but gays are getting much better representation there too. We have gay chefs, gay singers, gay dancers, gay “housewives”, gay…umm…people in New Jersey…we even have the Real L Word, for better or for worse. No, I wouldn’t consider all of these to be exactly positive representations of the gay community, but if you look at the straight people on the show, it’s really a wash. Nobody comes off well on Jersey Shore.
Rachel Maddow is now one of the most recognizable news anchors in the country. She’s basically the face of msnbc, which is fine with me since I think her face is quite beautiful. Ellen is owning daytime television. And seriously, whenever Portia’s on the show I die from the cuteness attack. Gay and Lesbian content has pervaded almost every facet of television programming.
Ok, occasionally, ESPN2 will air some segment about women’s basketball and homophobia. But for the most part, sports are just about the straightest thing on tv. Except for all the sexual innuendo inadvertently contained in the commentary (they say “fisting” a lot in baseball, and “penetration” happens in just about every sport. Also, I love it when commentators go on extended monologues about some linebacker’s thighs). There’s pretty much no reference to gay people anywhere. None of the athletes, coaches, commentators, parents, none of them ever say anything even remotely referencing an alternative to heterosexuality.
I should mention that I don’t actually watch a lot of women’s sports. The majority of my attention goes to NCAA football, basketball, lacrosse, hockey, and the MLB, NFL, and NHL. I did watch the UConn/Stanford game early in the season where Stanford snapped UConn’s winning streak, but that’s kind of it.
But think about it. There are no openly gay athletes in the four major sports leagues. None. It’s not like I need to hear about players’ personal lives all the time. But there’s just nothing. Whenever I switch to ESPN, it’s like I’m in a world where homosexuality just simply doesn’t exist. Players wearing pink ABSOLUTELY does not mean anything gay. It means it’s October and it’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Commercials are hyper-genderized (is that a word?) and masculine, and I don’t count the godaddy.com commercials with Danica Patrick and Jillian Michaels to be gay…it’s gay in the same sense that lesbian porn made for straight men is gay…in that it’s not. Chris Berman endorses steaks at Applebee’s. Warrior Lacrosse equipment uses a penis metaphor to sell sticks. It does feel anti-gay. It feels just that there is zero gay visibility in this world. There are gay athletes and sports personalities out there. But you could watch every game of the NCAA DI basketball schedule and never know it.
I’m so thrilled that gay people are everywhere else on my tv. And to be fair, Glee brings football into the conversation a little. And there was that lesbian in Hellcats. And Emily Fields is a swimmer. Hopefully soon we’ll have some progress, in Real Life, and sports tv at least to have a little visibility.