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'General Hospital' Writer on Its New Gay Character: a Follow-Up

On Friday I wrote this:

SamuelGeneral Hospital debuted a new character this week, a gay nurse played by actor Marc Anthony Samuel. To establish his character as gay, his first scenes involved him pulling out a tube of lipstick and offering to touch up a heterosexual woman. Oy.

In fairness to Ron Carlivati, who created the character, I'm reposting a note he left in the comments of the post, which has sparked a very robust back-and-forth discussion.

To Andy Towle and the readers of this blog: My name is Ron Carlivati and I am the Head Writer of General Hospital. I am also an openly gay man. I created the character of Felix Dubois, the "lipstick-wielding gay male nurse," and I am frankly appalled by the intolerance and internalized homophobia expressed in this post and in the majority of its comments. During my career, I have brought no fewer than six gay characters to daytime television: male, female, Black, White, Hispanic...all shapes and sizes. I have written coming out stories, gay bashing stories, gay marriage stories, gay parenting stories and gay love stories. I wrote the first love scene between two gay men that ever aired on daytime TV. I won a GLADD award for these stories. What exactly is it about this character that is causing such righteous indignation? The fact that he carries a tube of lipstick in his scrubs? SPOILER ALERT: Felix sells cosmetics to put himself through nursing school. This will be revealed on Monday's show. Not because I think gay men love lipstick, and certainly not to "establish" himself as gay. But even if that were the reason, so what? Does this make him too queeny? Not straight-acting enough? Is that the only type of gay character allowed on TV now? As far as I'm concerned, to be offended by this character is what is offensive. And just FYI, the majority of women (our core audience) I have heard from thus far about Felix have expressed to me how much they like him. The only people who seem to have a problem with him are certain gay men who are apparently afraid of a gay character who might be portrayed as a little bit effeminate. Well, I say shame on you, and shame on Andy Towle, too. Oy, indeed.

Mr. Carlivati also includes a few follow-up responses as the comment thread develops, which you can read there.

There's no question in my mind that Mr. Carlivati should be allowed the chance to develop his character more fully before judgment is passed and I regret if my commentary suggested that it should. My expression of "oy" over what I perceived to be a stereotype may have been hasty, but was also informed by having written this site for 9 years and seeing more than a few damaging caricatures in television and movies along the way.

I've also reported very positively on other soap characters written by Mr. Carlivati. I'm looking forward to seeing how his Felix Dubois character develops and thank him for his remarks and reaction.

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  1. I wasn't aware that Andy Towle was the arbiter of taste of daytime tv.
    From my experience Andy's taste is really confined to his mouth.

    Posted by: Oliver | Dec 9, 2012 2:03:42 PM

  2. I think what we sometimes forget when we look at media portrayals of our community is that while many people don't conform to stereotypes, there are some who do, and they deserve representation just as much as everyone else in the community. We need to stop jumping down throats every time we see something even remotely stereotypical. As long as the characters are well-developed individuals and not one-trick ponies, they deserve their place on television.

    So kudos to Mr. Carlivati for giving us another character to follow, and kudos to Andy for recognizing his snap judgement for what it was, (however grounded in experience it may have been). So nice to see level-headed conversation for a change.

    Posted by: RAYMAN | Dec 9, 2012 2:07:38 PM

  3. It's just too bad that this "retraction" appears on Sunday morning (here in California) when only those of us who have nothing better to do will give it its due attention.

    This is Andy's blog, but so many of us rely on its objectivity and thoroughness that any editorializing is bound to raise hackles. And, of course, there is the problem of Andy being hard to replace - see, for example, the weekend deterioration in quality.

    Posted by: Fu'ad | Dec 9, 2012 2:08:13 PM

  4. I just watched the two hairdressers from Real Housewives of Atlanta commenting on the show. It was really the Wayans' brothers "Men on Film" come alive in 2012. Is that okay? Is that who they are or are they enacting who they think they should be? Is he selling lipstick because he likes lipstick or is he selling lipstick because that's what he believes gay male nurses do? And since he's a fictional character, is he selling lipstick because the character's creator believes that that is what the character would do? What will be the fictional character's motivation?

    Posted by: Steve | Dec 9, 2012 2:16:32 PM

  5. And how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

    Reserve judgment? Sigh...

    If THIS is all we have to worry about, we must be doing mighty fine.

    I think I'm going to start using the phrase: "Gay men sell lipstick and that's OK."

    Posted by: Frank Butterfield | Dec 9, 2012 2:28:51 PM

  6. The fact that a man (gay or straight) carrying lipstick causes such an uproar showcases how embedded our rigid gender norms and expectations are in society, and how quickly we denigrate anything even remotely "feminine." Masculinity is not better or more desirable than femininity. As long as we continue to act and react according to the assumption that masculinity (whatever that entails) is better than femininity (whatever that entails, but it apparently includes an attachment to lipstick), gay men will never be treated with dignity in society because, by sheer virtue of being attracted to a person of the same sex, you will be judged as not behaving as a man "should."

    Posted by: Luke | Dec 9, 2012 2:28:55 PM

  7. Sounds to me like there's an Uncle Tom heading the writing staff of "General Hospital", hell-bent on peddling tired-ass Gay stereotypes to Straight soap viewers. When will f*gsploitationists like Ron Carlivati ever get a damn clue? Gay men, even highly effeminate ones like me, are not all refugees from a drag pageant and we don't want to be portrayed that way, especially not in a work situation.

    Posted by: Stuffed Animal | Dec 9, 2012 2:29:04 PM

  8. For God's sake, Andy, the character is a stereotype. You wouldn't backtrack if this kind of cartoonish trash appeared on a Christian TV show or as a character on Howard Stern. Carlivati doesn't get a pass for his homophobic stereotyping just because he is gay. On the contrary, it makes his actions all the more disturbing, since it cannot be attributed to ignorance.


    Stereotypes don't need further representation. They already have enjoyed an excess of representation in the culture. That is why they are stereotypes.

    It's funny that the apologists of this minstrel theater argue that "there are many different kinds" of gay people. Sure there are. There are also many kinds of straight people. So why don't we ever see the straight male character playing the effeminate, lipstick-wielding, makeover guru? Why doesn't Carlivati's commitment to showing "different kinds" of people extend to that? The answer is simple: he wouldn't write such a character because in his heart he believes that straight men are men, and it wouldn't make sense to write them this way. He knows that the audience wouldn't believe a straight male lipstick artist and wouldn't want to see such a character anyway. Only a gay man can be written as a "girlfriend." It is only appropriate to demasculinize a gay character, since they aren't real men anyway. That is the thinking in Carlivati's troubled, self-loathing mind. That is why you will never see a straight version of Felix from debased writers like Carlivati.

    Posted by: Jeff | Dec 9, 2012 2:29:09 PM

  9. the reality is that what is important is how the film or program IS ABOUT THE CHARACTER, and not merely the "type" represented.

    what's more damaging to gay males? a character like this, on a daytime television program targeted toward women who are at home during the day, or the anti-gay gay males who denigrate "effeminate men" and "stereotypical queens" when in the presence of heterosexual males, who (let's be real here) likely aren't watching General Hospital?

    just because something is a stereotype, or an archetype, does not mean that it is in any way negative or damaging.

    you don't get canadians saying "just because i'm canadian doesn't mean that i like hockey and say "Eh?"!

    why? because there's no negative stigma attached to either.

    it's not just "representing the diverse types of gay males" that is important, but how they are treated within the material.

    Alexis Arquette's character in The Wedding Singer - hilarious, broadly stereotypical yet rooted in an archetypal reality. What's important? how the character is accepted and loved by the other characters. the joke isn't on the character or type, it's with the character.

    Jeremy Piven's brief cameo as a gay salesperson in Rush Hour 2? awful. why? the joke is "look how gay is" - with no nuance, and no humour inherent to anything the character does or says. it's just "haha! GAYYY!" for the sake of laughing AT a gay character.

    alas, as we always find out, nuance is lost on most.

    from the tone of the furious (and, as always, anonymous) anti-femme commenters yesterday, it appears that what they want most are TV shows featuring characters that are Closeted, misogynistic, crippled by insecurity about being gay, who can't shut up about how they hate Those Other Gays.

    GOProud - The Animated Series, perhaps?

    but to be only mildly facetious - maybe there are indeed "gays like them" on TV every day. They just don't notice it, because (like them...) the characters refuse to identify as gay and stand up to be counted. think on it. you're seeing gay characters every few seconds on television - they're just choosing to not let people know that they're gay. like the Trolls do. ;-)

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 9, 2012 2:39:05 PM

  10. Bi#ch wants to keep his job! Good luck with your future Pulitzer, darling!!

    Posted by: iban4yesu | Dec 9, 2012 2:40:43 PM

  11. just ONCE i'd love one of these insecure knee-jerk "i hate femmes!" gay commenters to prove their weight in testes by showing, actually showing, who they are and what they're doing to Show Gay Diversity in their everyday lives.

    you plebes can't sit here and complain that you're not being "represented" when your grown-@ss selves utterly refuse to stand up, be counted, and represent yourselves.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 9, 2012 2:46:21 PM

  12. I live in Palm Springs. The stereotypes they are all true.

    Posted by: Ed | Dec 9, 2012 2:49:46 PM

  13. I think the character will be written well and he seems sweet. Would I rather have a gay gangster or DA? Yes. But that's just me!

    Posted by: Ari R. | Dec 9, 2012 2:51:59 PM

  14. Where are the ebonic-speaking, welfare-receiving black characters on TV? Or the cheap Jew or the drunken Indian? Mr. Carlivati wouldn't dare write a black character as I described above. The network would shut him down before it even aired, even though black people like that exist and gay, effeminate lipstick-carrying nurses exist too. There are extremes and truths in all minorities but only the gay ones are allowed on TV.

    Posted by: Sean | Dec 9, 2012 2:55:39 PM

  15. care to articulate, intelligently, how this is an inherently harmful and negative stereotype, Sean?

    just because the straight men in your life pathetically choose to mock and belittle "effeminate gay men" doesn't mean that their chosen dislike is valid and should be given worth.

    you, in your comment, prove me right - you assume it's a negative. you compare it welfare dependence. alcoholism. cheapness.

    so, thanks for proving me right.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 9, 2012 2:58:41 PM

  16. I don't get it, all Andy said was Oy and Ron was jumping down his throat!! It was the start of Hanukkah after all...

    Posted by: tyler | Dec 9, 2012 2:59:45 PM

  17. and now they'll make his "life partner" one of the hot, gym crazed doctors because that would be so realistic too...geez, im sorry, OY!

    It might have been much less offensive had they established his side job first and not used it as a sight gag..that's what's sad.

    Posted by: John | Dec 9, 2012 3:00:49 PM

  18. I've been an "out", politically active gay man for 36 years and I can't remember a more clear example of such self-hatred and homophobia within the community as this topic has so painfully revealed.

    I'm sad that so many of the younger, urban gay men who seem to frequent Towleroad have such deep-seated misogyny, a total lack of awareness of their own privilege, and such a desperate need to prove that they are just like every other straight male except. . . . what?

    All of this sturm und drang over a tube of lipstick? The hatred and rejection of all things feminine and trans is revolting and shocking to me. I've overlooked the all-too visible racism, classism, ageism, and other shortcomings of Towleroad for a long time because there were things about this blog that I liked and that helped me feel connected to the next generation. My bad.

    There is so much wrongness brought out into the light by this episode that I realize that I was making excuses when I know better. My apologies to all those marginalized groups that receive such bitter bile here on a regular basis. Me, I'm staying out of the cesspit from now on, not that it matters to anyone but me. But I will feel cleaner and more whole. Good luck to the rest of you. You'll need it.

    Posted by: Brian | Dec 9, 2012 3:10:06 PM

  19. Brian, if it's any consolation (and it should be) there is an astonishing breed of new young queer people who are growing up empowered and unafraid of being exactly who they are, stereotyped or not.

    you'll know them by their refusal to cower in the darkness.

    and thanks, btw, for the work you've done to open the doors for my generation and the next. we do appreciate it. that's why we work to pay it forward.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 9, 2012 3:14:17 PM

  20. Thanks, Andy. Ron doesn't get a free pass just because he's gay, but on the other hand, it is way WAY premature for us to start condemning this storyline. Not least because, a) it has barely even begun to play out, and b) 90% of haven't seen it and -- frankly -- probably never will.

    Posted by: Lars | Dec 9, 2012 3:17:49 PM

  21. I just know that I don't appreciate being called a "plebe", simply because I am willing to add a comment on Towleroad.

    Also, I am reminded about the futility of arguing on the internet.

    Posted by: Fu'ad | Dec 9, 2012 3:21:09 PM

  22. 20 years ago i used to carry lipstick in my bomber-jacket. I was in the first throws of my 22 year partnership cum marriage. It was really fun to kiss with lipstick. Really - you should all try it.

    Posted by: Markt | Dec 9, 2012 3:32:48 PM

  23. @Ron just wanted to say thank you for making GH watchable again. :)

    Posted by: Raheem | Dec 9, 2012 3:37:28 PM

  24. He doesn't get a pass for being gay? He isn't asking for one. He doesn't need one. There's no pass needed for creating a character than every single one of you homos on here knows you know in real life and are friends with. We all have flamboyant gay friends. Some of us are the flamboyant gay friends. Why shouldn't they entertain us as much as the two hot white abercrombie gays we have started to see on daytime television?

    I love my flaming gay friends.

    Oh, and just to put this in perspective, it's a character on a soap opera. Hello. It's a genre where we learn town exists like Genoa Falls or Salem and are full of incredibly gorgeous rich people who have lots of problems. Let's not get crazy.

    Ron, you just keep doing what you're doing. The world is always brighter with a few more Felix Dubois type folks in it.

    Posted by: BD | Dec 9, 2012 3:50:25 PM

  25. Perhaps the writer should ask himself why he wants to perpetuate the stereotype that women NEED lipstick and makeup to begin with? Oh, right, the sponsors.

    Posted by: Eric | Dec 9, 2012 3:50:58 PM

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