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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. Andy, I'm with you on this one. As the old Head and Shoulders tag line used to say "You never get a second chance to make a first impession." Are we really supposed to think that this character is less of a silly stereotype because he is a nurse who sells makeup? While it is true that there are many effeminite gay men in the real world, it is also true that effeminite gay characters are way over-represented on televison.

    Posted by: PeteP | Dec 9, 2012 3:56:46 PM

  2. Are effeminate gay characters "over represented" or are many non-effeminate gay characters *accurately* represented by their refusal to identify as "gay" in the programs?

    we get people on here all the time insisting that they don't need to Come Out. that they don't need to let people know that they're gay.

    maybe *your type* is being represented in that very same way in the media. they're gay. they're just doing what you do - refusing to be visible about it. ;-)

    learn a lesson from the "stereotypical gays" you have such disdain for - live without fear and shame and hiding.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 9, 2012 4:13:40 PM

  3. This reminds me of a role I did as a gay man in a play directed by a gay man, written by a gay man, and produced at a gay theatre for a mostly gay audience in San Francisco. The director kept pushing me to be "more" gay. More like Mama Charleston, he would say (the character's mom). The critic from the B.A.R. (a local gay weekly) was invited to a preview. The director came to me opening night and said he had pushed my character too far into Mama and asked me to dial it back. The critic apparently didn't like it. Their review: mixed, and they panned my character as a "snap queen stereotype."

    The moral: being gay doesn't mean you don't harbor gay stereotypes. And two, drama is a collaboration. Even if you convince yourself as a writer that your gay nurse who carries lipstick and gives impropmtu makeovers is actually *post* stereotype, the producer and director and audience may not be there with you. They may not have been exposed to the spectrum of groundbreaking gay characters you've developed. No, they may simply like this character because he fits their tired old stereotype of the perfect pet gay.

    Now a _straight_ male nurse who carries lipstick and gives makeovers, that would be interesting.

    Posted by: JJ | Dec 9, 2012 4:16:03 PM

  4. Agree with Ron Calivarti here. Lipstick is not a harmful or negative stereotype.

    Posted by: JM | Dec 9, 2012 4:17:53 PM

  5. He doesn't take criticism very well does he? After all this time, I think they could have come up with something better than an Avon lady male nurse - like maybe a doctor?

    Posted by: niles | Dec 9, 2012 4:20:54 PM

  6. Jeff, you are VASTLY UNINFORMED about what you speak of. Please stop speaking about this and talking out of your bunghole.

    Posted by: Sparky | Dec 9, 2012 4:22:11 PM

  7. I just wish Mr.Carlivati would address the outcry of this "surrogacy" storyline with Dante / Lulu / Maxie with such passion. Funny how this post hit such a nerve with him, yet RC will not address the "concerns" of a surrogacy / infertility storyline that is being told in inaccurate fashion. A sensitive topic to the countless women and couples suffering from the inability to have a child or start a family. But yet RC is quoted in SOD this will bring "humor" to the canvas. A bit of a double standard if you ask me.

    Posted by: Karen McMahon | Dec 9, 2012 4:23:23 PM

  8. You were out of line, Andy.

    The right thing to do is apologize, not explain it away.

    Posted by: Randy | Dec 9, 2012 4:25:19 PM

  9. Yes and that is the problem about the stereotypical character is that straight woman love them... I have found myself more then once in the presence of straight woman that spect you to behave like one of the sex and the city gays ... An if you don't, they seem desapointed.

    Posted by: Art | Dec 9, 2012 4:33:48 PM

  10. I say it last time and i say it again, when you create a character who is an stereotype (no matter how type of stereotype) you need to give him (or her) a full development, and let him become a three dimensional character.
    In soaps that almost never happen. You can take Days storyline, yes they are average guys, but their storyline is cliche after cliche (you know if a gay guy has sex with a girl, it will be a pregnancy storyline for sure).
    So without that development the character is just that, and stereotype only made for jokes.

    And i don't think Andy has to apologize at all, i hope Ron (who is a decent writer sometimes, Kish has their good moments and they were great characters even when most of their storylines were awful) is right and there's something more, but the truth is the first scene of the character was like a bad joke

    Posted by: jjose712 | Dec 9, 2012 4:37:12 PM

  11. The interesting part of the story to me is the fact that there are gay men who are so vested in bigotry against other types of gay men. So, when one of them says, despite being factually wrong about a story line, there is no need to apologize because he or she has decided that they and they alone get to decide what images of gay should be on TV- I can't say I am surprised by the non-apology. As marriage equality happens, there are looming battles in the gay community that only this underscores.

    Posted by: nonapologies | Dec 9, 2012 5:18:20 PM

  12. Carlivati brings up something that most people don't really talk about much: Gay on Gay bashing.

    I never really got bullied by straight people for being gay, if i did, i knew how to handle it.
    The worst bullying i got in school were from my fellow queer classmates. They would say things about me just because i didn't join in their gay-ass games and groups.
    Things like, "There are three gay people in class today, but one has yet to come out."
    Fortunately, those guys were disgusting scums so i didn't care much about what they said.

    It should also be noted, that i don't remember the character declaring himself gay in that episode. For all we know, he could be a straight person who carry's his girlfriends lipstick.
    We shouldn't simply imply things because they follow a sterotype.

    Posted by: alan | Dec 9, 2012 5:19:44 PM

  13. One other point. I think Andy should apologize, but I don't think he even understands what that may be the case.

    The fact is that there is a segment of the gay community that feels it has the right to speak for all other gay people and to dictate what is said about gay people.

    I find that deeply offensive. Like the writer of the show said, if there was a gay man out there who had lip stick in his pocket just because he wanted lip stick in his pocket- what would be wrong with that?

    Apparently the concept of a gay man wanting to do that offends a lot of gay men. I think that alone makes the writers decision to have that lipstick there a great idea.

    Whenever the status quo of any dominant group (in this gay a segment of gay men wanting to speak for all other members of the class) is disruptive, that's a very good thing.

    The fact that Andy was factually wrong is why he should apologize. The fact that people can be wrong,a nd don't fee they should apologize for being wrong is a sign of arrogance.

    Posted by: nonapologies | Dec 9, 2012 5:25:20 PM

  14. Yeah, but Alan, your confused mind votes Republican.

    you bully yourself, you dunce. :) stop being angry that those other gay guys had balls before yours dropped.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 9, 2012 5:43:26 PM

  15. Andy you are STILL being offensive, why can't effeminate gay characters be on TV anymore? Why must every effeminate character be labelled as a stereotype? Must every gay character be straight-acting? I 100% agree with the writer, every gay character CANNOT be a white straight-acting closeted character who is trying to come out of the closet.

    Posted by: johnosahon | Dec 9, 2012 6:00:14 PM

  16. I for one will not back down on this one. I'm beyond tired of seeing gay men depicted as some sort of "crossover" between a "tranny" and a drag queen.Or if all else fails,make him into this big ol' flaming queen who makes a catty remark whenever the impulse strikes all the while NOT being capable of holding down a monogamous relationship. I am an out and proud gay man who loves cars and takes enthusiasm in owning an Audi Q7 (I am consistently buying accessories for it and detailing it myself on nice days,even performing certain maintenance jobs to it myself.Atleast those I know I can do with the tools I have.Otherwise any little hiccup and I'll take my car back to the local Audi dealer for inspection).When people like Ron the dingbat Carlivati and other supposedly "non-self-loathing" gay men in the lamestream media can create a masculine gay male character who has typical male interests (ex: Sports or Cars) and make it so that he is in a relationship with a *man*,is out and proud with a supportive family and all,then maybe I'll give him a "pass". I find it hilarious when I see "those type of gays" using such terms like "internalized homophobia" while in actuality,they themselves suffer from IHS (Internalized Homophobia Syndrome). I'm done with this crap because frankly,I'd rather saw off my own foot with a rusty chainsaw than watch any of these daytime soaps. Ron's pathetic writing would be the perfect example of why I quit watching them years ago.

    Posted by: Audi-owner | Dec 9, 2012 6:06:56 PM

  17. @ Johnosahon:


    You're yet another one who doesn't want to accept that masculinity and being gay commonly co-exist with one another. By the way,I don't recall anyone saying the dude had to be white and in the closet.You moron! We are saying,why can't a gay man be masculine while being out at the same time,showing that we are not that pathetic goddamn stereotype that should have long died around 1995. Jesus christ! Some of you homos are pathetic.It's as if you have this chip on your shoulder with masculine gay men...maybe you do.Not my problem!

    Posted by: Audi-owner | Dec 9, 2012 6:12:04 PM

  18. of course masculinity and gayness co-exist.

    but if you think hating on "effeminacy" makes you masculine, you're utterly incorrect.

    gay men who denigrate perceived "effeminacy" are just wimpy boys, begging a bigoted daddy for tolerance.

    hey Audi-Owner, if you're such a strong masculine empowered Out gay male, surely you can provide the URL to your own page so we can see this amazing example you live as, and the amazing work you do representing Gay Male Diversity.

    Right? surely you're man enough to not make some cockamamie excuses and run away like an anonymous coward, right?

    I call your bluff.

    let's see who you are, and who your amazing supportive family are.

    click my name and you'll see me doing just that. care to try it, sugarpie? ten bucks says you can't. ;)

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 9, 2012 6:24:15 PM

  19. curious - how can one be against perceived-gay "stereotypes" while in the next tout their own perceived-male "stereotypes"?

    if stereotypes are bad, then shouldn't straight guys out there be sayig things like 'just because i'm staight doesn't mean i love cars! just because i'm a man doesn't mean i like sports!" ???

    oh, wait. no. because there's no negative stigma to those things.

    so let's see it, Audi_Owner: you and your amazing family.

    no WAY you're gonna puss out and give some flippant excuse to not make yourself visible...right?


    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 9, 2012 6:26:11 PM


    You are a bigger fool, i will just replay a word from what you wrote because i am to tired to reply to a fool.

    "Some of you homos are pathetic.It's as if you have this chip on your shoulder with effeminate gay men...maybe you do.Not my problem!"

    Posted by: johnosahon | Dec 9, 2012 6:26:38 PM

  21. I agree with Little Kiwi that we NEED representations of every type of gay person on TV. I admire the empathy he has for all types of gay people, including the lip-stick wielding ones. :-)

    It does seem, however, that his empathy towards all gay types does not include the "straight-acting" gay. It seems as if he does not consider the "straight acting" gay as a legitimate type of gay, but as a type that deserves pity and scorn for their cowardice in not fully embracing their true identity.

    As a black man, this reminds me of an argument I had with some family members where I was accused of being an "oreo". Basically, I was "acting white". Because I was "white acting", in their eyes I deserved scorn and contempt for not being black enough.

    But what does it mean to "act white"? What does it mean to "act straight"? Do straight people own a set of qualities and behaviors that define them as straight other than their sexual preference? Is the "straight acting" gay man a fallacy?

    If the "straight acting" gay man is a legitimate type of gay, then it seems he is also deserving of our empathy and also deserving of representation. It's not just Little Kiwi, but the world in general that seems to have trouble with the concept of the "straight acting" gay as legitimate, which is probably why they are under-represented on TV.

    I want to make it clear that I disagree with Ron. While I feel like there needs to be more representation for the "straight acting" gay, I don't feel it should come at the expense of the stereotypical gay. We need those representations too. They are not mutually exclusive. There is room enough for all of us.

    Posted by: Matthew | Dec 9, 2012 6:27:28 PM

  22. Andy's original point is well taken. I don't doubt the writer's talent at creating a variety of different characters; I question his motivations. Ron Carlivati certainly may have created varied and believable characters in the past. The gay nurse on General Hospital, nevertheless, is the gay equivalent of blackface minstrel shows depicting African-Americans in the early 20th century. So in summary, Ron Carlivati has developed some characters that are fair and one character that he should be ashamed of, unless he takes the character of the gay nurse in a completely different direction, which I doubt. I'm not commenting on Mr. Carlivati's entire career; I'm commenting on one really stupid, self-loathing move on his part.

    Posted by: Artie_in_Lauderdale | Dec 9, 2012 6:27:32 PM

  23. It's unfair and disingenuous to try to reduce hostility to stereotype to hostility to effeminacy or gender-nonconformity. The people who rush to harangue you about how effeminacy is OK (usually effeminate gay men) often fail to respond to the real problem of equating male homosexuality with non-masculinity. Gender and sexuality are independent of one another. This is a fundamental tenet of queer theory, so it's bizarre to accuse opponents of gay gendered stereotypes (which conflate gender and sexuality) as somehow anti-queer. There's no defense for a statement like, "Gay guys know all about women's shoes fashions." (Something like that was said in the movie Legally Blonde.) These types of generalizations are promoted constantly by certain gay men who fit stereotypes--and by straight people.

    By conforming to heterosexist expectations, effeminate gay men are the least affected by gendered stereotypes and the least incentivized to dismantle them. So they're in the privileged position here, which I wish they could be aware of before they lecture masculine gay men for being offended by stereotypes.

    That said, the lipstick-wielding General Hospital character is not necessarily an example of a stereotype. A lot of media targeted towards women have grotesque travesties of gay men though (like the gay guy in Legally Blonde). And another thing: A lot of offensive stereotypes of gay men are also offensive stereotypes of women (as frivolous, campy, inept, etc.). Realizing that, it becomes even harder to defend these stereotypical portrayals.

    Posted by: Kyle | Dec 9, 2012 6:28:01 PM

  24. a "straight-acting gay" is a gay man who resents being gay and tries to find validation in "not being gay"

    a masculine gay man who is comfortable with himself as a gay man would never, EVER, describe himself as straight-acting.

    and if ever had an issue with "masculinity" it certainly would come as a shock to a great many of my friends and lovers.

    newsflash - confident, empowered, "masculine" gay men dont' denigrate those who may be perceived as "effeminate"

    that's the domain of the insecure resentful-homosexual coward.

    attempt to understand that, Matthew. You can look real real hard - you'll never find a single thing i've said "against Masculinity" - because i've never said it.

    if you're a confident masculine gay man you'd never describe yourself as "Straight-Acting"

    feel free to read this, MAtthew - it should make things clearer for you.


    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 9, 2012 6:33:25 PM

  25. You are condemning this character and writer after one scene -- a scene I would bet 90% of the posters here did not even see. (Just as I assume most have not seen Ron Calivati's other "masculine" gay characters such as the gay cop he created. Maybe this nurse character has an Audi, too. I can't wait to see the scene of him detailing it wearing his jungle red lipstick.

    Posted by: JM | Dec 9, 2012 6:33:52 PM

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