Why TV Must Move Away From Stereotypical Depictions Of LGBT People

by Truman Ports

In the last couple years of television, a gay character, or couple, has become increasingly present.

Extra points if the character is ethnic, dating or interested in someone of a different race for bigger minority credibility.

These plot lines are often put on the back burner as well; gay characters are hardly fleshed out and get noticeably less screen time and emotional arcs in opposition of their heterosexual counterparts.

As a 19-year-old gay male constantly looking for new shows to watch, it's becoming harder to tune in each fall and spring for new programs that only set back the LGBT community and reduce us to flamboyant, sassy sidekicks to the more interesting characters who receive development.

It's rough to sit at home and watch these shows, as producers off somewhere in Los Angeles pat themselves on the back because they're helping "normalize" gay relationships and people.

Television and movie representation is important. We watch shows to escape reality and to see similarities in our own lives play out in front of us as a form of entertainment.

And, for as long as film and media have been around (the first photograph was taken in 1826), straight men and women have been able to see themselves represented in dozens of forms.

And they should be as well, considering every person and every relationship is unlike another.

But why is it the LGBT community doesn't get that same representation? Why does every single LGBT plot line in television feel so stereotypical?

We're represented as tragic figures, brought in for comedic relief, or shown to be sexual deviants.

And, somehow, underneath all of that, television writers and producers seem to be blind to the fact that homosexuals are human beings as well, not props to be filmed for over-drafted clichés we've all seen time and time again.

ABC's "Modern Family" is a huge offender in my book. In the show, Cam and Mitchell are married gay men who have an adopted daughter, Lily, from Vietnam.

I don't think there is a single episode of the show where the two men don't talk about being gay, or explain to the naive audience the gay stereotype the next half hour will portray.

Cam is probably making a high-pitched squeal, which only enables Americans into thinking it's a pansy characteristic of every gay man.

"Modern Family" has received Emmy after Emmy, and many people go to bat to defend the show and its "progressive" nature.

If the show is so progressive, why did it wait until the second season to show Cam and Mitchell kissing each other like a regular couple would?

All I know is, with Cam being overly effeminate (which there is nothing wrong with, by the way) and Mitchell having the more "masculine" traits, "Modern Family" continues to lead people to believe there is "the man" and there is "the woman" in gay relationships.

It's a myth I'm waiting to be debunked in the mass media as a way to reflect the different types of relationships more colorfully.

HBO is known for having shows with gay characters, notably "Sex and the City" and "Girls."

When the channel began airing "Looking," a program that depicts the lives of gay men struggling to find love in San Francisco, I was excited to watch a show that centered on a gay social circle for a change.

After a few episodes, I had to tune out. Not only was the show slow-paced and not all that interesting, but was ridiculously sexually-charged and focused, and in that regard not all that different from Showtime's "Queer as Folk."

So yes, I am still waiting for my show.

"Modern Family," "Looking," "The New Normal," "Queer as Folk" and "Glee" are all shows that haven't felt authentic to my experience.

I look at E4 in the UK and the hit teen drama, "Skins," and can't fathom why American television is unable to replicate how tasteful the show is in its representation of LGBT youth.

It's honest, it's well-rounded and most importantly, it feels real. The gay and lesbian characters are people before anything else and are not defined by their "gayness" to satisfy the masses.

At the end of the day, I do appreciate the attempts to bring nontraditional lifestyles to light in television. It is a huge victory for the LGBT community, and only emphasizes how far we've come in a matter of a few years.

I don't think we should be complacent and settle, however.

Take in every accomplishment and always strive for more, because I know we can push the social norm even further and become less and less of caricatures in the eyes of the average viewer.

Representation is important to everyone, and I anxiously await the day I can turn to an American television station, or go to a blockbuster movie, and see myself on the screen.

I'm a human being, a dude, a guy who is just living life like anyone else and just so happens to be gay.

I'm waiting for boundaries to be pushed, and I'll be the first to take the step in the right direction of representation, as we all should be doing to begin with.