Gay people: slowly becoming prominent in the media after years of hating ‘em. Since the first queer TV character, who dates back to the ‘70s, we have seen many more diverse characters hit the big screen. You may think that simply saying somebody is gay is enough but no. This might seem crazy, but they do actually need a personality. And, although it’s asking a lot of our old straight white filmmakers, it’s always best to represent the gays in a non-harmful-or-insulting-or-gut-wrenching-or-soul-crushing-or-malicious kind of way.
From the most disgustingly stereotypical gay man to a girl whose sexuality doesn’t define her character but is still a great part of her, we will discuss the ups and downs of the portrayal of gay people in television. We will analyze them so deeply that you’ll feel like you are them. That’s the goal. Now . . . how about some gay people?
Bad Rep: Kevin Keller, Riverdale
Obviously, everyone who’s watched it has some extremely strong opinions about Riverdale. It’s a love-hate relationship for me, and it always has been. Overall, Riverdale has had quite a few LGBTQ+ characters and has indeed improved its skill for representing them in a non-stereotypical way, although they’re still not perfect at it. The first character introduced as LGBTQ+ in the show, Kevin Keller, is an example of one of their not-so-great gay rep moments. He walks into frame, flamboyant as ever, a best friend of Betty Cooper (a straight female lead). Already not off to a great start.
When he meets Veronica Lodge (another straight female lead), their interaction goes as follows:
Veronica: “Gay, thank God.”
Yikes. Pretty problematic on Veronica’s part (and the writers’ part), especially when Kev brushes it off like a fun little joke. This alone feels like a jab at how obviously Kevin presents himself as gay, and while, of course, there are flamboyant gay men out there and there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s leaning into the stereotype that’s the problem. So, already a walking stereotype, serving only as comic relief, talking only about how hot all the guys are and making references only to female celebrities, it’s again not off to a great start for Riverdale.
Bad Rep: Any queer character in Glee
Sometimes I look back on my Glee phase and wonder what really happened. What was going on in Ryan Murphy’s mind? Why does he think he can do what he does? In Glee, there are 2 main queer couples: Kurt and Blaine, Brittany and Santana. One is better than the other, although both are bad. Kurt and Blaine make me want to cry sometimes and not in a good way. I could write a whole article about just Kurt Hummel, but we’re not up for that. Here's a smaller version: Similar to Kevin, he is the epitome of “gay.” He wears scarves and Justice t-shirts and cat tails and talks about The Sound Of Music singalongs and is the only mediocre countertenor to hit TV screens. He’s quite unforgettable. Every single one of his storylines revolve around him being gay or feminine, which just ends up going back to him being gay. His partner, Blaine, is a little less stereotypical, so go him!
Moving on to the girls, Brittany and Santana are something! Santana is a homophobic lesbian who is constantly excused for being homophobic because she’s a lesbian and hot. Brittany is a “sleeps with everyone” bisexual girl. Santana was always trying to convince Brit that cheating was okay because it wasn’t “the same piping” (actual quote from the show), which made no sense by the way, and hurt Brittany a lot in the process. It’s bad. They also had a double gay wedding. I don’t know why I watched this show.
Good Rep: Ian and Mickey, Veronica and Svetlana, Shameless
Shameless is one of those iconic shows with iconic queer people, and when you think of ‘em it’s Ian and Mickey. When the show came out in 2011, not many pieces of media had an openly gay character; especially not one that isn’t a stereotype like the ones I previously brought up. Ian Gallagher, one of our characters, defies pretty much all stereotypes. A main plot point in the early season is that he wants to be in the army, which is pretty crazy since during that time, gay people on TV obviously didn’t want to do anything a “straight guy” would. What’s even better is that he doesn’t question his sexuality and is super comfortable with it. His storylines don’t only revolve around him being gay. He’s three-dimensional and is more than his sexuality, contrary to the “bad-rep” shows. It’s honestly a breath of fresh air.
Moving on to the man he later marries: Mickey Milkovich. Mickey had a terrible childhood and experienced a lot more homophobia than Ian did, but his storylines also didn’t strictly talk about him being gay (except the ones with Ian). Pre-season four, most of their plots talked about the restrictions they had because of Mickey’s absolutely disgusting scumbag of a father. They were incredibly well-written. Certain scenes between them, especially in season three, show how fear can get in the way of love and happiness. Mickey is one of the best written characters and Noel Fisher deserves all the credit he gets for that role because his portrayal is real. The performance is raw and it’s beautiful seeing Mickey grow as a character and accept himself.
Another really great relationship, in my opinion, was