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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...

Continue reading "Hollywood's Overrepresentation of White, Gay Men" »


10 LGBT TV Moments From 2013

  Downtonjimmytom

When it comes to LGBT characters on television, 2013 was the best of times and the worst of times. The first half of the year was part of the record-setting 2012-2013 television season in terms of LGBT representation on television. However, it also saw the end of many shows featuring LGBT characters, including The New NormalSmashSouthland, and Happy Endings

Despite these losses, LGBT characters on television continued to become more multi-dimensional and better reflect the lives of LGBT people in 2013. For example, in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision to strike down DOMA and rule that Prop. 8 proponents have no standing, there were many television weddings and proposals. There was also a small uptick in transgender representation, including characters on the critically lauded Orange Is the New Black and Glee.

Relive 10 of our favorite LGBT moments on television this year and share yours in the comments, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "10 LGBT TV Moments From 2013" »


NBC Cancels 'The New Normal' After One Season

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NBC has canceled the gay parenting/surrogacy comedy The New Normal after one season, according to The Hollywood Reporter:

Boosted by The Voice, the Justin Bartha-Andrew Rannells starrer about a gay couple starting a family earned a full-season order in October despite early protests from conservative watchdog groups. The series, like the rest of its Tuesday block, suffered without The Voice, notching a string of lows before the singing competition returned to revitalize the lineup. While its April season finale was penned to serve as a potential series finale, producers said that a second se  ason would have featured the newly married couple raising their newborn son.

The 20th Television entry marks Murphy's first show to not move beyond its freshman run.

Murphy's other shows have been re-upped. Glee for two more seasons, and American Horror Story for a third season.


Matt Bomer to Play a 'Sexy Ex-Boyfriend' on 'The New Normal'

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Matt Bomer, who played Blaine's brother Cooper Anderson, in a recent Glee episode, is making his way to another Ryan Murphy show. He'll play Andrew Rannells' (Bryan's) "sexy ex-boyfriend" according to a tweet from Murphy.

I doubt he'll be showing up in his Magic Mike gear but one can always dream.


'The New Normal' Fires Back at One Million Moms with Ridiculous Wingnut Ellen Barkin: VIDEO

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Many of you will recall the mission launched over the summer by One Million Moms to boycott NBC's The New Normal for "subjecting families to the decay of morals and values" for portraying a gay couple having a child through a surrogate.

In last night's episode, Ellen Barkin, who plays a wingnut mother in the show, schooled a group of future One Million Moms on marriage:

"Marriage is a sacred vow taken between a heterosexual man and a woman preferably over the age of 18 to stay together until death do us part. And you know why? So you can have somebody to find your body when you die. You don't want to be that weird smell coming out of an apartment of cats do you?"

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "'The New Normal' Fires Back at One Million Moms with Ridiculous Wingnut Ellen Barkin: VIDEO" »


Another Look at ‘The New Normal’ and the Road to Becoming a Parent through Surrogacy

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BY JOHN WELTMAN

A surrogacy expert's continuing look at issues in NBC's 'The New Normal'.

“So… this baby is going to be the greatest thing that ever happened to us, right?” Bryan asks David in this week's episode of The New Normal. “It’s our little miracle. So when can we start enjoying it?”

Having a baby means embracing some uncertainty. It’s one of the most important events in a parent’s life, and yet, it is impossible to predict exactly how it will play out. This goes for straight couples, who conceive with or without the use of assisted reproductive technology, as well as for gay couples. And it holds especially true for those who have children through surrogacy.

David and Bryan show two different approaches to handling this uncertainty. Excited and eager to move forward and get ready for their future child, Bryan buys baby clothes before the first ultrasound. David—unsurprisingly, the measured doctor—is more cautious, reminding Bryan of all the remaining pregnancy tests and of their agreement not to buy any clothes before all they have received the results.

Here are two different responses, both reasonable. David is right to exercise caution. Pregnancy is unpredictable. For those who pursue surrogacy or utilize in vitro fertilization, there is no guarantee that a given embryo transfer will be successful. There is no guarantee that an egg retrieval will yield a sufficient number of quality eggs. Sometimes, there is a need to make adjustments along the way. Communication with an IVF physician can help couples who choose surrogacy understand the big picture.

At the same time, too much caution can stifle the joy of the surrogacy experience. Taking time to enjoy the process is important, as David comes to realize as the episode draws to a close. “So, even though it’s not going to be easy, I need to try to celebrate the wins,” he tells Bryan. “Like when we heard that heartbeat yesterday, I don’t think I’ve ever loved you more, because that—that was the sound of our family.” The depiction of love between the intended fathers in this moment is perhaps the most poignant and genuine we have seen in the show thus far.

KissAt the opposite extreme of the emotional spectrum is the scene in the store. While they are shopping with Goldie and Shania, Bryan and Davis share a kiss. A man walking by with his family asks them to stop, and calls them “disgusting.” David wants to ignore him, but Bryan responds, “Thanks for your intolerance and your bigotry and for fostering this ignorance in another generation.” The message was clear enough that the collective social conscience of much of the world hasn’t advanced as quickly as the scientific and medical achievement that has made surrogacy possible.

The scene brings up the issue of how gay couples should respond to ignorance and how, as parents, we need to address intolerance when our children are faced with it just because they have two dads or two moms. Bryan is concerned about how he and David will respond when their child faces the same bigotry they experienced in the store.

My husband and I shared these concerns. These are good conversations to have. We were worried that our children would be bullied for having gay fathers. Surprisingly, in the eighteen years since we had our first child through surrogacy, we have rarely found the prejudice we anticipated. We’ve been fortunate. We have supportive families, friends, and some of the best neighbors in the world. My hope is that every LGBT family should be so fortunate, but this is sadly not the case.

Gay couples considering having children should anticipate all of these issues. The surrogacy process has highs and lows. And these highs and lows continue after the birth. Gay couples in the process of becoming parents through surrogacy should talk about how they will address bullying and prejudice, and intolerance should they come up.

Before Cliff and I had children, we went to a lecture given by April Martin, who wrote the Lesbian and Gay Parenting Handbook. She said her kids had learned the “stupid” lesson: some people (the bigoted ones, of course) are just plain stupid. Try it. It helps and it works when it comes to keeping kids confident on themselves and on their families. 

 

John Weltman is the president and founder of Circle Surrogacy and an expert in assisted reproductive technology law. He and his husband are the fathers of two sons, 18 and 17, through surrogacy.  They were the first in America to have two children through surrogacy, one from each dad, through the same surrogate mom. 

Have your children experienced bigotry because of their gay parents? What are your strategies for addressing it? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Earlier in this series...
Surrogacy Expert Weighs in on 'The New Normal' [tlrd]


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