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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. It's just bad writing, regardless of the character's orientation.

    I mean, if he moonlighted as a carpenter, would he have a tool belt in at the hospital during the day?

    Maybe he likes to bake, so he always has a muffin in his pocket?

    It's tupid character shorthand. Period.

    Posted by: Gry | Dec 10, 2012 12:27:19 AM

  2. Some of the comments by the anti-gay bigots here who happen to be gay are amusing when it comes to writing.

    Take GRY comments. Its totally idiotic.

    Yes GRY, carrying around the supplies from selling makeup is exactly like carrying around a freankin' toolbox.

    I mean- are you even try to not see like a rationalizing bigot who is blaming it on the writing?

    Posted by: nonapologies | Dec 10, 2012 12:49:30 AM

  3. I'm pretty fem myself but I really don't appreciate TV writers pushing discredited stereotypes of gay people. Sure there are some of us who are more on the fem side, but it is just wrong to make this part and parcel of being gay. It really isn't. Ron Carlivati has done a disservice to the gay community. The issue isn't that being fem is wrong. The issue is that commercial TV is pushing the bigoted idea that to be gay is to be fem. I hope Ron gives this some more thought and portrays Felix as an ordinary man, not super masculine and not feminine.

    Posted by: Hector | Dec 10, 2012 1:04:34 AM

  4. It's one thing to be effeminate. It's another to carry lipstick IN YOUR SCRUBS and offer to do someone's makeup on the job. I can't even carry my phone in my pocket on the job...and I work at Subway! For one thing, being effeminate is not innately gay, because there are effeminate straight guys. So acting like not being femme is denying who you are as a gay man is hogwash. Secondly, that whole thing about selling lipstick is so inane I can bet a benjy it was added on after the backlash the writers received. I'm all in favor of writing realistic characters, but being gay and owning lipstick are as far removed as being black and owning a gun. I should know because I'm both and own neither. It is a stereotype, plain and simple, and probably done either to portray the "safe" representation of gay men (nothing too manly), or to placate the women who would resent the character if he were "the epitome of manly goodness" and gay as well. And now I'm done ranting. Night, folks, I have finals in the morning...

    Posted by: Deee! | Dec 10, 2012 1:06:13 AM

  5. So...should I be ashamed of myself because I am a gay man who works as a makeup artist?? Am I reinforcing a 'stereotype' by doing this type of work?? If l am a gay man and work as a hair stylist, or interior designer, or a florist, am l to be ashamed?? The 'Oy' goes to you Andy, for your internalized homophobia. It's bad enough that effeminate gay men carry the burden of anti-gay hate...but when it comes from people in our becomes even more shameful and pathetic.

    Posted by: Jarrett | Dec 10, 2012 1:22:22 AM

  6. @LUKE Your comments are spot-on. I saw this episode and all I thought was "oh, he happens to have some lipstick on him". I didn't think he was "femme" or not "butch" or stereotypical or anything. Maybe I'm slow and thick in the head, but the scene or the moment didn't register as something that would set off my rather sensitive "bigotometer".

    It is amazing how "knee-jerk" we all have become.

    Not to mention that knee-jerk reactions make it very difficult to apply lipstick correctly.

    Posted by: jamal49 | Dec 10, 2012 1:36:36 AM

  7. Oh yeah, all you guys supporting this as a positive depiction and forgetting that this was not made for a solely homosexual audience, NEVER complain when an ignorant straight person calls you a sissy or treats you like a society woman because you're gay. Homosexual attraction is the only prerequisite for homosexuality, everything else is an add-on. So whether you play on the football team or sing soprano in choir, you are no less of a homo than the next one. Masculine gay men are not betraying anyone or jonesing for straightness, and refusing to accept that as the truth is no different or better than homophobia. And I'll just say this: who has ever visited a hospital and bought makeup? And if you were in the hospital for what I can only assume was a health issue, would you be in the mood to have someone peddle you makeup? And nurses aren't even allowed to carry such trivialities on the job. Anyone defending this is just trying to justify being effeminate to themselves. Hell, I never said it was wrong. It just isn't the only way to be gay.

    Posted by: Deee! | Dec 10, 2012 1:37:09 AM

  8. Wait, "General Hospital" has writers? I was pretty sure the stories were hammered out by monkey typists Swedish, then translated into English before being put into a shredder and the random pieces became scripts.

    Posted by: Mark | Dec 10, 2012 2:11:41 AM

  9. I think characters like this lip-stick wielding nurse are necessary because they represent a type of gay person, and any humanistic representation is a good thing.

    But it is clear that there are quite a few gay men who feel like this type of gay is the only type of gay that gets represented consistently in the mainstream media. I feel like this is a legitimate concern, but I don't think the solution is to eliminate all representation of effeminate gay men on TV.

    The solution is to get more representation of masculine gay men in the mainstream media. The key word here is MAINSTREAM media. Little Kiwi is correct when he says there are a lot of portrayals of regular masculine gay men out there, but most of these are made by and for a gay audience.

    I think the reason why this lip-stick wielding nurse has caused so much discontent is because this character is yet another in a long line of effeminate gay characters being sold to a mainstream (or straight) audience.

    It used to be that gays in the mainstream media were both effeminate and villains. Thankfully, we have gotten to the point where we can say we have eliminated the villain part. Things are getting better, and while I would not say that masculine representations of gay men in the mainstream media are at the same level as effeminate gay representation, I think we will eventually get there.

    Posted by: Matthew | Dec 10, 2012 2:26:05 AM

  10. My biggest problem is most effeminate gay characters are always the joke on a show. Played for laughs and one dimensional. With the exception of Emmet in QAF who was a beautiful character played by a very beautiful man, Peter Paige. If this character can have some depth like Emmet and not be played for laughs then I have no issue with him.

    For whatever reason Carlivati's other masculine gay characters where a lot more serious and were never really played for laughs.

    The other issue I have with GH is most of the heterosexual male characters are often violent and Misogynistic. Not a great representation of heterosexual men.

    Posted by: BWR | Dec 10, 2012 4:10:28 AM

  11. If this character was white I would have no problem with it.The fact is the only image of black gay men you ever get to see they are drag queens and fem.

    Posted by: James | Dec 10, 2012 9:22:37 AM

  12. the hilarious thing is the idiots complaining about this suffer from the same selective amnesia as the anti-gay bible-thumping Christians.

    yes, not all gay people are like this character. but this character is like this character.

    this one portrayal does not mean "all gay men carry lipstick" just as the gay characters from, say, Six Feet Under, don't mean that all gay characters are just like those fellas.

    understand me, sugarpies?

    it's worth noting that all the commenters freakin' the heck out on here are making the stupidest non-arguments ever.

    "omigod! this character is carrying lipstick! that means that this character is saying that ALL GAY MEN DO THIS!"

    No, it's not. So kindly chill the f**k out.

    and while you're at it, Come Out.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 10, 2012 9:33:21 AM

  13. Although I do love this blog, and check it quite frequently. I agree with the writer. I'm sick of queeny guys or dandy's getting the shaft (no pun here although its tempting) by other gay men. It seems to me that you are trying to protect mainstream America from this image of feminine men. I suppose in the 80s this character may have seemed stereotypical in some sense, but I for one and glad to see it. Guess what, not every homosexual is super styled, buffed, and masculine. Kudos to General Hospital... Though, I stopped watching that, years ago.

    Posted by: Christian Q | Dec 10, 2012 9:34:38 AM

  14. does anyone else find it rather deliciously ironic that the naysayers on here are complaining about ...uh....."gay stereotypes" and are demanding, as their solution, to have gay characters that embody prototypically ...uh.."man" stereotypes?

    "stereotypes are bad! they make us look bad! i wish there was a gay character that did manly-man things like drink beer and play football!"

    honeybuns, you're still dealing in stereotypes.....

    but i get it. one set of stereotypes makes you feel comfortable and one set makes you uncomfortable. but you can't sit here decrying "stereotypes" in a non-discerning manner whilst then demanding that other stereotypes be featured instead.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 10, 2012 9:40:50 AM

  15. when was the last time you heard some straight dude say "just because i'm straight doesn't mean that i have to like sports and ted nugent and guns, ok??!! you know, some of us straight guys also like theatre, and the arts and are cultured, and I'm so sick of the media always telling me that i'm supposed to be interested in cars and deep fried foods!"


    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 10, 2012 9:54:55 AM

  16. Carlivati put his finger on the problem himself, in his comment about how many women like the character: This is still one more gay character designed to fit straight preconceptions about gay men.

    We've had more than enough such characters, Mr. Carlivati, and if you don't understand why it's problematic, you're not fit to be pontificating on the issue. The fact that some of those characters were created by gay men, and in some cases even played by gay men, doesn't make the situation better, it makes it worse. Remember: Stepin Fechit was really black.

    Posted by: jomicur | Dec 10, 2012 10:01:34 AM

  17. Mr. Carlivati, I LOVE what you're doing with GH! And I'm excited to see where this new character goes. Thank you, thank you, thank you for keeping the ABC soaps alive and giving them a fighting chance at surviving!

    Posted by: Trent Clegg | Dec 10, 2012 10:07:18 AM

  18. Jomicur, you need to man the f**k up and stop living each day worrying about what The Straight People are thinking. seriously.

    your comparison to stepin fetchit proves me right - attempt to articulate how this portrayal is in any way inherently negative.

    helpful hint - just because you have straight idiots in your life who mock and belittle gay men like this character doesn't mean their prejudices are justified ;-)

    and yet again, still waiting for one of "this is a bad stereotype!!!" commenters to put a face to their comments.

    it's always those who refuse to stand up to be counted who complain the most about "representation" of gays.....

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 10, 2012 10:15:32 AM

  19. At best, this is lazy character writing and Carlivati knows it.

    His defensiveness in his reply to Andy reveals that quite clearly.

    Instead of taking in the criticism offered, Carlivati chooses to blame the gay people who had a bad reaction to his character, rather than LOOK at that reaction and ask himself why.

    Carlivati's response on this web site reveals a man whose ego was hurt and who decided to scold those who hurt his ego rather than listen to what they were criticizing.

    Daytime TV is just FULL of drama queens, huh, Carlivati?

    Posted by: Bill | Dec 10, 2012 10:46:20 AM

  20. @LittleKiwi Which commenter asked for a portrayal of a gay man as a masculine stereotype? You noticed this, huh? (Masculinity is not itself a stereotype any more than homosexuality is itself a stereotype. They're both real, identifiable phenomena.)

    Why don't you respond to self-avowed effeminate guys (specifically, Hector and Stuffed Animal) who object to the General Hospital character and to gay stereotyping? Stuffed Animal objects to the stereotyping of specifically effeminate gay men as "refugees from a drag pageant"; and Hector apparently objects to the misrepresentation of his effeminacy as intrinsic to his sexuality.

    You're assuming critics identify as masculine, and you're assuming they're motivated by animosity towards effeminate men. It seems like you still have a bone to pick in some erstwhile argument.

    I highly recommend a study titled "Reported Effects of Masculine Ideals on Gay Men" freely available in full on PubMed (link in my name). It does a better job explaining what motivates masculinity-idealizing gay men. (Ten percent of the sample believe "being gay negates one's masculinity", to corroborate my more-than-incidental run-ins with effeminate gay men who believe that no gay men are masculine.)

    Posted by: Kyle | Dec 10, 2012 12:19:57 PM

  21. it's interesting that this is coming up on a Scottish soap also - River City. exact same discussion about Robby, one of the long running main characters, who people, mostly gays, are having the same response to. what's more interesting is that Robbie is married to Will who is a very masculine police detective!

    the discussion is clouded as to what people are thinking about how Will could love and marry Robbie! that part is being avoided.

    for my part i say, 'get over it!' once you do, you will realize that there really was nothing to get over. it's all your own fear...

    Posted by: mike/ | Dec 10, 2012 1:26:32 PM

  22. "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?"

    But Mr. Carlivati, you are being disingenuous here. Of course it was to establish that the character was gay. I see nothing wrong with that, myself, but let's at least be completely honest here.

    I actually started watching General Hospital several days ago after a 20 year absence, and I had the tv on in the background while I was working last week and hadn't been watching the episode closely when I first turned and saw the new character. Not having heard any dialogue...I looked at him and said to myself, "oh, he's gay". I am now quite surprised that my gaydar can actually detect the homosexuality of a fictional character in just five seconds of only looking at him on tv. Good work.

    Posted by: Patrick | Dec 10, 2012 2:22:35 PM

  23. I call your bluff, Kyle.

    totally call your bluff.

    why on earth would an, uh, "effeminate gay male" say that "no gay men are masculine"? effeminate gay men tend not to be Closeted, and thus live and interact with other gay men on an almost-daily basis. Thus, they'd be around them. All the time.

    But nice try, strawman jones :D

    Stuffed Animal is an insecure ninny who believes non-Christians go to hell and gets angry at self-identifying Queer people who use the word Queer. longstoryshort - he's about as empowered as a gay man as Marcus Bachmann.

    how about you link us to your own page so we can see who you are? :D

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 10, 2012 3:57:05 PM

  24. What's bad is he made the character black. The black gay community has a hard time coming out because all the stereotypes in mainstream media are that black gay = black femme stereotype. It would have been groundbreaking to make the character a masculine gay black man instead. Name the mainstream masculine gay black men on network (not cable) tv. Where are they? The black community needs to be shown that being gay doesn't mean you can't be masculine.

    Posted by: Dan | Dec 10, 2012 4:47:37 PM

  25. Felix is fun. So what if he is a bit eccentric. If you were a GH fan you would have known the min he said "co-co" that it was a plot point. Shame on you for jumping to stereotype.
    Even if it hadn'd been a plot point: I wish more men carried lipstick in their scrubs and weren't afraid to use it.

    Out, proud, and glad to see a man who knows how to wield a liptsick on daytime.

    Posted by: Karen | Dec 10, 2012 9:10:42 PM

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