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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. 1) I am huge fan of Carlivati's work on GH. I've started watching regularly again after almost 10 years. 2)I have not yet seen the episode introducing Felix. 3) I am a huge homogaysexual. All of that being said, from what I am hearing about the introduction with the lipstick blah blah blah the problem is not his behavior but the way in which he was introduced. Homegurl could have a sack of glitter and a bag of dicks on her for all I care but it's the helping the co worker with the lipstick that is the problem. Sounds to me like Felix is immediately introduced as a helper, a sidekick, a second fiddle to a straight woman. Too often gay men are portrayed on TV and in film geared towards straight people, (particularly women - Carlivati's beloved 'core audience') as the hair dresser, the wedding planner, the cosmetician. It does smack a bit of minstrelsy. Would it have been impossible to introduce the character who WORKS IN A HOSPITAL by having him SAVE A LIFE? Or heavens to betsy by flirting with another male co -worker? No he has to be introduced in a fairly neutered and non threatening manner to ease the legions of daytime viewers still pining away for the Queer Eye team. These images and roles are insidious. They creep into the mainstream and solidify as the idea of gay men as always the bride helper and never the bride. I would applaud Carlivati's efforts if this were 2000 but in 2012 I expect a bit more. I'm watching you Mz C!

    Posted by: Dan Horrigan | Dec 11, 2012 5:52:31 PM

  2. "No he has to be introduced in a fairly neutered and non threatening manner to ease the legions of daytime viewers still pining away for the Queer Eye team."

    What I find most interesting about that comment of yours is how it parallels the comments made by some (most? all?) of the angry-naysayers on here....

    ....they seem to feel it would be better if this, and probably ALL, gay characters were introduced or way that would be appealing to heterosexual anti-gay males.

    is that not a neutering as well? to portray gays in a way that...what, exactly? caters to how a woman feels about gay men? how an anti-gay misogynistic man feels about gay men?

    "make him gay, but not a f@g" seems to be what some folks want. which is odd.

    so, when gay characters are introduced to a target demographic, what's really the best way to please everyone?

    can everyone even be pleased?

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 11, 2012 6:07:18 PM

  3. Nope they can't. Again, for my money he can be a big 'ol, fag, queen, nelly, mary etc that is A OK. I take no issue with gay men being portrayed as effeminate or campy. It's a bigger issue of what his function is in terms of the action of the storyline. Is he there to serve the straight folks or is he there to be an equal with a story line that includes romance, danger and excitement like all of the other characters on a soap? If his sole function is to put lipstick on girls and be witty... I have no use for it.

    Posted by: Dan Horrigan | Dec 11, 2012 7:04:03 PM

  4. well, then it's too soon to say.

    a few days ago i was riding the subway and helped a woman by carrying her baby, in its big-ass stroller, down the subway stairs. she thanked me, and said "i bet your girlfriend just loves you."

    i replied " boyfriend, actually. and yes, he does."

    we both smiled.

    now, i'm not there just to serve straight single mothers as they make their way through the subway systems alone ;-)

    but i do know what you mean. it's like the film, GHOST - what did Whoopi's character do besides help two white people with their issues?

    no life of her own. we didn't get into her life. she existed to reunite two white souls.

    that said, from what i've seen of this so far - he's not particularly "effeminate" per se.... classically gay, one may conclude, but not actually specifically "feminine"....unless we're calling compassion and grace and kindness to be specifically feminine qualities...

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Dec 11, 2012 7:10:43 PM

  5. Save us all from the political correctnesss police. The character causing this uproar is brand new with all of about a half hour of screen time. We know very little about him. The plotline he is involved with concerns an AIDS fundraiser, which he has expressed a deep commitment to, something I think everyone here would agree is laudatory. The whole lipstick/cosmetic sales is a plot devide (soaps do work in short hand at time) to lead them to return one of the great over the top characters (female) who is a cosmetic mogul to the canvas. Yes, this time Ron created a slightly fey character -- on One Life to Live he created a macho policeman whose emerging from the closet was a great story (and played by an out actor yet). Funny, during that story I don't remember anyone here complaining about the stereotypical angry protesting homophobe (played by the wonderful Jackie Hoffman).

    Posted by: Bart | Dec 12, 2012 12:06:07 PM

  6. I don't like the gay characters ... so much so, I'm close to ending my days watching General Hospital, after watching it for 30 years. And all the other women I know who watch it faithfully agree. Take the homosex. off the show!

    Posted by: Bobbie | May 14, 2013 2:24:47 AM

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