LGBT media is safe for good reason

Editor's Note

This issue, qnotes takes a look at gay and lesbian locals making an impact in the world of media and entertainment. Our QLiving feature profiles the work of Dalliance Films, a Charlotte-based production company headed by four principals: three gay men and a straight ally. We also profile Samantha Gellar, a Charlotte native once the center of controversy and now a screenwriter working on lesbian-themed films. In one of our online exclusives, qnotes interviews Chapel Hill graduate student Julian Wooten and explores his work on a film documenting the current state of North Carolina’s HIV/AIDS movement.

Our second online exclusive, written by qnotes editorial intern Tyler DeVere, takes a look at how TV cable and network programming are including — or, in some cases, excluding — LGBT characters, storylines and themes.

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DeVere writes:

There are many examples of gays and lesbians on TV, but it remains highly questionable whether these characters are accurate representations of reality. For most people, it might not matter how LGBT people are portrayed in the media; these media images can seem completely irrelevant to our lives. But for our community as a whole, how we’re represented to people who don’t personally know any openly LGBT individuals is of the utmost importance. These images are the only thing some people know and it is therefore concerning how this affects youth particularly, and even more so LGBT youth.

In the case of comedy programming, LGBT characters themselves often seem to be the punch line, rather than their scenes or their lines. Such representations leave open the question of whether audiences are intended to laugh with us because the stereotypes are ridiculous or if they are intended to laugh at us because the stereotypes are accurate.

During the previous season of “30 Rock”, Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) took in her teenaged gay nephew who was portrayed as highly promiscuous, having the word “slut” written across his forehead as part of his experience of Manhattan’s gay nightlife. “30 Rock” has included several gay male caricatures, usually very feminine, as well as the “gay hipster cop” played by Nate Corddry. One very notable exception to the typical gay guy spectacle rule is Oscar from “The Office” who is one of the show’s few sane and normal characters.

DeVere also explores recent rankings by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. Those rankings placed MTV at the top of those networks and cable channels most LGBT-inclusive, but also revealed programming across all networks and channels suffered from a severe lack of inclusion for transgender characters and stories.

Although media representations of LGBT people are getting better — through increased awareness in mainstream media and the efforts of independent filmmakers and artists like Gellar and Dalliance’s principals — a significant void of truly positive, LGBT-inclusive programming and coverage remains.

Even in news-media, positive portrayals of LGBT people remain rare — unless, of course, we’re talking about gay marriage. So often it seems marriage is the only issue mainstream media-ites think matter to LGBT people. For many of our brothers and sisters, basic survival needs — like housing and employment — remain at the top of their daily challenges. Marriage is often the last thing on their minds.

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These challenges, my friends, are the reason why newspapers and other publications like qnotes are so important, especially in smaller urban areas or rural landscapes. The existence of LGBT-targeted media is important and crucially needed. That’s why I don’t buy the argument — as posed by some LGBT journalists and bloggers — that LGBT print media is “on the wane.”

LGBT media is here to stay, at least until mainstream media catches up to the same level of in-depth reporting and analysis LGBT news organizations currently undertake — and, that’s something I don’t see happening for some time to come. : :

more: Read more of Tyler DeVere’s piece online only…

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Posted by Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.