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Hollywood's Overrepresentation of White, Gay Men

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Television shows and movies like Looking, and Dallas Buyers Club are increasingly bringing LGBT stories to the big and small screens, but their representations of diversity within the queer community are sorely lacking. White, gay, male characters are grossly overrepresented, according to a Vox analysis of a number of recent shows and films focusing on gay narratives. The issue, write Alex Abad-Santos, is not with the specific stories that are depicted, but rather with the meta-narrative created by an unchanging stream of stories solely about white guys:

“We don't and shouldn't expect anyone to change Harvey Milk's race or change who Larry Kramer's friends were. Kramer's and Milk's experiences aren't in our control. However, choosing which stories to tell is. And having a willingness to tell other kinds of stories, perhaps some that are just as worthy as Milk's or Kramer's, from places we're not necessarily looking, is something filmmakers and writers can do better.”

Gary Gates, an LGBT demographer at UCLA, says that statistically speaking the kinds of LGBT groups being portrayed in modern media simply don’t reflect reality. In addition to nearly half of the characters being non-white “if you had a show with a cast of 20 characters who were LGBT, two-thirds of the women would be bisexual, and one-third of the women would be lesbians, while two-thirds of the men would be gay, and one-third would be bi.”

Gates goes on to point out the disproportionate amount of screen-time given to characters that read as being affluent. The persistent idea that all LGBT individuals are more economically successful than their heterosexual counterparts is due in large part to to a conflation of statistical findings. College graduated, same-sex couples, with two partners actively participating in the workforce do, on average, make more than heterosexuals, Gates explained in 2013 to US News. These couples make statistical headlines because they are exceptional, however, and portraying them as The New Normal is disingenuous at best and problematic at worst.

The-new-normal-utah-new-home__oPtIn terms of movies and documentaries like The Normal Heart and How To Survive A Plague, filmmakers are presented with the task of parsing through the historical record in order to suss out compelling stories. Problems arise when the cinematic truth depicted on screen only reflect the limited perspectives of certain characters. In an interview with Vulture Sarah Schulman, co-creator of The ACT UP Oral History Project, recently voiced her misgivings about what she perceived as a whitewashing of early HIV/AIDS activism as depicted in How To Survive A Plague.

We call it “The Five White People Who Saved the World” — that’s our nickname for it. And those white people are very busy because apparently they’re always saving everything all the time. Everywhere you go, you see them.

Referring to a discussion following screenings of Jim Hubbard’s United in Anger: A History of ACT UP and David France’s How To Survive a Plague, Schulman recalls that same point blank critique.

At one point they open up for questions and the first question to David is: Why do you have no women or people of color in the film? And he says, well I wanted to focus on wealthy white men because they had the time to devote to activism. Now as a person who has interviewed 168 surviving members of ACT UP New York, I can tell you that’s not historically correct.

People in ACT UP gave their entire lives to ACT UP. All different kinds of people from every class and background would report in our interviews that they were at ACT UP five nights a week, that their entire life was ACT UP. And that had nothing to do with how much money you had. And the second thing he said was that these men went to good universities and so they were able to understand the science. That is absurd. The audience almost started laughing. One of the best experts on the science of AIDS in ACT UP was Garance Franke-Ruta who was 19. We all sat there and realized that this man knows nothing about ACT UP.

Watch a video of the exchange AFTER THE JUMP...

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Jonathan Groff Discusses Coming Out With Playbill

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In a new interview with Playbill, modern Broadway legend and Looking star Jonathan Groff has shared his views on the issue of coming out: how his HBO show Looking tackles the issue, and his own experiences.

Groff says one of the things that first drew him to Looking was the way the show felt like it was "definitely 2013-14." Groff remembers being in eighth grade seeing a poster for Will & Grace and being caught off guard, thinking the show was a "huge deal."

But he points out that for today's gays — the Patrick's and Dom's and (ugh) the Augustin's — the concerns go far beyond simply being out; the problems of the men of Looking are much closer to what the general public is facing. Said Groff:

[With] the show none of [the characters] are struggling with their sexuality...It's online dating, it's Grindr, it's all of that — and it's a group of men whose biggest problems in their life are not them grappling with the fact that they're gay, which is very specific to our generation.

Later in the interview, Groff is questioned about his own sexuality — the interviewer mention's Lea Michele's new book Brunette Ambition, where the actress says that during Spring Awakening she suspected Groff was gay but she wanted him to tell her on his own terms.

When Spring Awakening opened in New York, Groff was 21 and Michele was 19. Groff describes what it was like being closeted while working on the show, and it seems his personal experience is consistent with his interpretation of Looking; often, coming out is less of a big deal these days. Said Groff:

When I was in Spring Awakening, I wasn't out to anyone in my life...except for my roommate at the time, who was my 'roommate' in quotations — my boyfriend-roommate… when I was in Spring Awakening, I never, ever talked about it, and everybody was so sweet. All of my castmates were so respectful and must have just intuited that I didn't want to talk about it because no one ever grilled me or asked me. They just knew I wasn't ready, which was so generous, and I appreciate them for that.

He goes on to admit that he feels he missed out during this time — saying he "never realized how shut down [he] was until [he] came out."

Head on over to Playbill for the full interview!


Jonathan Groff Talks About Anal Covers and Shakespeare: VIDEO

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Jonathan Groff spoke with a group of men about the anal cover he had to wear while shooting Looking (no doubt you remember the [work-unfriendly] scene) because he was having his ass licked.

And, in completely unrelated news, Groff also lets you know how you can get free tickets to Shakespeare in the Park in Central Park in NYC.

Enjoy, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Archie's Gay Pal Kevin Keller Does Not Approve Of 'Looking' Star's Indecision

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If you’ve been watching gay director Andrew Haigh’s HBO series Looking, you know that the character Patrick is having a hard time choosing between his love interests Richie and Kevin.

Well, Archie’s openly gay pal Kevin Keller has had enough! And hunky, openly gay Looking actor Russell Tovey shared the image above — brilliantly illustrated by Archie artist Dan Parent — on his Instagram.

It’s like the Archie-Betty-Veronica love triangle all over again… but gayer!


What To Watch This Week on TV: Scott Bakula On 'NCIS,' Louis C.K. Hosts SNL- VIDEO

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Check out our weekly guide to make sure you're catching the big premieres, crucial episodes and the stuff you won't admit you watch when no one's looking.

— If you loved Scott Bakula on HBO's Looking, you get another taste of the former star of Quantum Leap when he guest stars on NCIS Tuesday at 8 p.m. on CBS. His two-episode guest arc could turn into a spin-off series based in New Orleans.

More picks and clips, including James Lipton's time with Neil Patrick Harris and company, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "What To Watch This Week on TV: Scott Bakula On 'NCIS,' Louis C.K. Hosts SNL- VIDEO" »


'Looking' Creator Michael Lannan Has No Plans to Kill Off Any Characters Yet

'Looking' writer and creator Michael Lannan talks about the show's finale with EW, and the feedback the show has received after the extreme amount of criticism it got early on.

LannanSays Lannan:

I think certainly the pace and the tone as you say is quite unique to our world and more kind of cinematic in some ways than some TV shows. I think we may have confounded some expectations as to what the show was early on because there was so much talk about what it was going to be. I think we made some bold choices and there were some strong opinions mostly positive, some negative in the beginning. It’s been really awesome and gratifying and exciting to see people sink into the show a little more and invest in the characters—around midseason I think we felt that kind of start to happen. The kind of noise around it calmed down in some ways and people started to accept the show on its own terms and the ratings has grown steadily and the audience has seemed to broaden out.

Lannan says that season two may not pick up immediately where season one left off, but doesn't offer details. He also says that Scott Bakula is going to be back, that he's not sure if Agustin will climb out of the loathsome depths he's in, and that the hanging chairs in Patrick and Kevin's office were supposed to be subconsciously evocative of other leather things one might have sex in.

Also, he doesn't plan to do any House of Cards-style killing next season:

[Laughs] We don’t have any plans for anyone to die but that’s a good suggestion—I’ll bring it up. The tone of the show and the pace of the show is something we’re really proud of beause it is really unique to our world. We always wanted it to have a kind of slice of life/everyday feeling to it and we wanted it to be distinctive. So we just plan on the show becoming more itself, by that I mean just having our characters continue to learn and go on these journeys. I think the tone of the show is going to feel the same even as the characters and the world grows bigger too.

Read the full interview here.

And read our rehash of last night's season finale HERE.


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