I love the phrase “I am not homophobic, but…”. Just like phrases like “I am not racist, but…” and “I am not sexist, but…”, this simple caveat says it all: “I am bigoted a**hole, but by saying this phrase, you cannot get mad at me.”
These days, it seems to get thrown around a lot. Republican politicians love to use it so they can justify homophobic legislation to their young constituency, which for the most part is accepting of homosexuals. However, political figureheads are hardly the only offenders of this caveat. Most notable and sly are big media producers.
That is not to say that media has remained completely static on the issue. In the past ten years, gay characters have gone from making 30 second stereotyped cameos to having full masculine roles in shows. With characters like Teddy from 90210, Max from Happy Endings, and even an entire show called The New Normal based around the gay couple Bryan and David, big media producers have painted themselves to be the gay-friendlyest organizations in the US. However, if you have ever seen a movie that looked amazing in the previews and was sh*t in theaters, you know that big media producers are masters at appearances.
Taking off the rose-colored glasses and you will see that in reality these companies are only gay-friendly enough to pander to the liberal side of the US, while still maintaining a decent level of homophobia to pander to conservatives. Disney and Nickelodeon, for example, famously have contracts, which forbid stars from revealing their sexuality until they leave the industry.
In addition, the majority of “gay men” in television tend to be played by white straight men with the intent of showing that gay men are just one of the bros. However, this comes with multiple complications: 1) Gay characters rarely reflect the actual struggles of gay relationships because the actors and directors are blissfully unaware of them. 2) The relationships are rarely anywhere near as sexual as their straight counterparts, with the exception of soap opera couples like Will and Sonny on The Days of Our Lives. 3) Gay men of color are almost completely skipped over, with the exception of the show Greek.
When it is all said and done, big media producers have used gay men as a prop to promote the agency of straight white men. Personalities, which in real life encompass a variety of traditional masculine and feminine traits for both gay and straight men and women, are reduced once again to the simple binaries they have always been in television. The only thing that has changed is we threw in a token gay guy.
Yet, homosexuals who are no longer satisfied with this mere toleration by mainstream media have decided to take matters into their own hands. Tired of waiting for this lethargic monolith to actually move its ass, we have taken to the streets – or rather, the modern equivalent known as the internet.
The power of social media—often underestimated by the Baby Boomer generation—has fueled extensive change, allowing for ideas that would previously been stopped in a board room to be spread in a matter of hours. For example, drag queens like Willam Belli, Detox and Vicky Vox, have become famous for songs like “This Boy is a Bottom” on Youtube and address actual issues in the gay community, such as Grindr, sex, and trouble finding a man; this likely would have been censored in the past by big producers or only available to those with access to channels such as Logo.
Model Colby Melvin may only have been known for his looks at Andrew Christian if it were not for this same social media. Instead, this model is able to promote gay social activism, using his looks to inform others about current events affecting the gay community. These have included gay bullying, hospital visitation rights for gay couples, and humorous videos calling out politicians on their hypocrisy towards gay rights.
Gay men of color like Todrick Hall and Miles Jai bring in both singing and comedy to a loyal crowd. In addition to providing realistic gay and gender queered perspectives to the table, their ethnicity brings more than just diversity to a slightly racist gay community – they are able to bring in their perspectives of being simultaneously a sexual and ethnic minority.
In videos like “CinderFella,” Todrick’s position as Cinderella not being able to go to the ball represents his alienation as a gay man just as much as his alienation in a subgroup in the gay community for being black. This becomes obvious when we see when the ball Todrick was forbidden to go to for being a gay man turns out to be mostly filled with gay white men. “In Beauty and the Beat,” Miles Jai looks down looks down on Belle for being another white “Bougie Girl” (pretentious/rich girl) who looks to the black and gay community for entertainment rather than a true friendship or relationship before returning to her well-kept house away from “this hood-rat life.”
Of course, baby boomers continue to laugh at these social media phenomenon, calling social media immature and claiming these new artists will never make it on a grand scale. Believe what they may, the proof that these videos are hitting on issues everyone wants to see is in the viewership. Colby Melvin’s video “Disclosure” has nearly 4 million views, “Boy is a Bottom” has 8 million, and “Beauty and the Beat” has nearly 11 million. And this unique gay voice is only getting more popular as time progresses. So let the big shot Hollywood producers continue to laugh about clandestinely screwing the gay community—it might just cost them money and/or their job one day.