To continue my thinking on diversity in the entertainment industry I’ve moved on to how sexuality is portrayed and represented. In my previous posts on Ethnicity and Gender I said that I didn’t feel revealing my own race or gender was necessary because I felt myself able to think objectively on the subject. And I was ready to write this post with the same outlook, but then one of my siblings came to visit (and still is here for while I’m writing this post) and has made a compelling case for me speaking about my own experience. This is because this particular sibling is a homosexual and as such has had a big impact on my life and feelings on sexuality.
K. Hansen is only four years older than me, so we grew up with a pretty close relationship (though we would fight a lot). To this day I am proud of my own reaction to K coming out because the conversation went like this…
‘Hey S, I’m gay.’
‘Okay, cool. Do you want me to come to pride with you?’
I was thirteen and I was so innocent and naive (in the best possible way) I didn’t realise that other people would think it was a bad thing. I didn’t realise how from that point on K would be ridiculed for being a homosexual (we lived in a very unaccepting place) or that it would be assumed I was homosexual as though it was genetic or contagious in some way… There was a kind of backlash to K’s openness and a backlash to my acceptance, we were verbally bullied. I’m not the kind of person that just accepts bullying (or at least I wasn’t before the depression) so I would stand up for myself and make some really well thought out logical arguments for why what they were saying was ridiculous, or so I thought. But unfortunately stupidity and ignorance doesn’t understand logic. It really affected how open and accepting I was of K, and I’m ashamed about it. Thankfully I have come full circle back to that openly accepting sibling who is happy and supportive of whoever K wants to be (or so they tell me). I also have another sibling A. Hansen who is homosexual, which has also impacted on my views. But without A’s permission and input I won’t write about it right now.
So I think it would be fair to say that I have an understanding of how sexuality affects people. And I think that understanding almost certainly affects my view of sexuality in the entertainment industry. For me there isn’t really a question of whether it is “right” to have sexuality so openly talked about in the industry (I know some religious people and closed minded people would object). I better actually get on to talking about sexuality in the entertainment industry.
The majority of romance on small and big screens is heterosexual. Is this because heterosexual people are made so uncomfortable by anything outside their view of normal that they can’t stomach watching anything else? If there is a spark of chemistry between the protagonists and the storyline is written well then does it really matter what gender they are played by and whether they are matching genders or not? Isn’t it still just a romance? I have actually watched (thanks to recommendations from K) a couple of films with a storyline of homosexual romance. It wasn’t really a big deal, I thought they were really well made and they were just as entertaining. So what’s everyone’s big problem? It’s not a porno, it’s not going to suddenly make you homosexual (it might open your eyes to it if you act that homophobic though…).
But it isn’t just the way in which LGBT sexuality in romance is used (or not) that is unfair. In the same way that Hollywood seems to have certain expectations and stereotypes ready for a black character they have a small set list of stereotypical personalities a member of the LGBT community can have. A lesbian is either a dungaree clad tool belt wearing lumberjack or she’s a bit of comedic relief (see Ellen Degeneres and Jane Lynch). A gay guy seems to have to be overly campy and the protagonists gay best friend most of the time. These are characters that are defined by their sexuality. I don’t stomp around introducing myself in the most hetero way possible and then announce it to everyone, because that’s not normal and it’s weird. So guess what K & A Hansen don’t do… that’s right, they don’t stomp around in the most homo way possible and loudly announce the homosexuality to anyone who’ll listen. They aren’t their sexuality, so why are LGBT people in the entertainment industry treated as though the most important thing about them is their sexuality?
I honestly think that Hollywood is making great strides with their acceptance of gay actors, there are quite a lot of popular actors and actresses that play a range of roles that aren’t just gay characters. But the problem still remains when it comes to creating gay characters, they are always defined by their sexuality in the same way that characters are defined by their race. If there is on thing Hollywood struggles with it seems to be moving past stereotypes and exploring humans rather than ethnicity, gender, sexuality etc. Just create real characters and the rest wont matter because it doesn’t define them.
I’m sure there’s more to say on this topic but I’m struggling to write well this evening, sorry. I’m wondering if I should perhaps have a sit down and think about what is was like going through my formative teenage years with two “out” siblings in a really ignorant town. Don’t worry I’m not saying oh pity me it was so hard for me that my siblings were gay (I hope I’m not that self centred). I just want to be able to express how peoples lack of acceptance spreads ripples of discontent and peer pressure makes us lesser people most of the time. Other people insulting me for loving my siblings anyway made it harder for me to do that. That’s not fair on my siblings is it?
Anyway next time I talk about diversity in the entertainment industry it’ll concern disability. Let me know if that’s something you’d like to inform me on because it’s one I’m going to have to research I think.