Portrayal of Gays in the Media

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The media has had a significant shift from the past in their portrayal of gay people including in gay marriage and gay rights. In the 1980’s and 90’s the subject was much more taboo and the idea of gay marriage was popularly opposed. However today, the majority of Americans support legalizing gay marriage. What could be the reason for such a change? Could it be the media portrayal?

Beginning in 1975, the first gay couple was shown on television. After that a variety of other programs included the ideas of homosexuality until 1991 when the first kiss between a same-sex couple was shown. This was on L.A Law and advertisers threatened to pull their ads after the scene. In the late 90s with the popularity of shows like Will and Grace and Queer as Folk.

Today television shows are widely praised for their portrayal of different characters sexuality. On Modern Family a same-sex couple’s life is shown through their relations with their family and raising a child. There’s also shows aimed at young adults that are receiving attention for their depiction of gay or lesbian characters such as Glee and Pretty Little Liars. Even the Disney Channel has shown a same-sex couple on the show Good Luck Charlie (with some backlash claiming that since Disney is intended for children that they should seek merely to entertain and not to push an agenda). On the contrary to this argument is the idea, that same-sex couples are becoming more and more normal thus they should make it recognizable to children.

This addition of multiple different depictions of same-sex couples and gay and lesbian people by television is being widely praised by the LBGT community. It makes the idea of homosexuality more common and representative of the actual community.

However there have been a variety of critiques regarding the media’s portrayal of same-sex couples and gay marriage. People who go solely off the media’s depiction of gay and lesbians could have a skewed view of what they are actually like. This could be detrimental for youth who are developing their ideas of what homosexuals are actually like and this is their only source of information on it. This leads to stereotyping different types of gay people. Also for young people, the media depiction of gay people has led to the idea that this is “cool” and treat their homosexual friends differently.

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Another critique of the media’s portrayal of homosexuals and same sex couples are shown as straight people would want to see them. Gay men are usually seen as overly flamboyant and feminine leading to that stereotype. And women are either seen as manly, or as seen on the show The L Word as what a straight man would want to see.

So is the media’s portrayal of gays and lesbians a positive thing? In one way it brings attention to something that was once a taboo and makes it more commonplace. Also it highlights the political undertones of the issue, with some people even claiming the media driving the gay marriage debate. Not only does the television media focus on the LBGT issues, but the news media is constantly covering stories on gay rights. This brings more attention to the issue and by showing same-sex couples on television in real life situations, make the public more open to gay marriage.

On the contrary though, the television media creates confusing ideas especially for adolescents who are discovering their sexuality. The gay and lesbian characters they see on television are all roughly the same, so they feel complied to act that way. For instance, if they’re a boy they feel like must act overly feminine and if they’re a girl overly masculine. The media’s portrayal of gay and lesbian characters has made them more commonplace, but has also created stereotypes.


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