Re: Mainstreaming Gay Culture

1

Shorter heebie: the far right was right all along: there really was an attempt by Hollywood to advance a radical gay rights agenda through normalization of deviant homosexual lifesytles. And it had exactly the effect they feared!


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 7:29 AM
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Well, I like to avoid those buzzwords. But yes.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 7:30 AM
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On Will and Grace, Will and Grace were both unbearable.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 7:31 AM
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I did like the drunk lady.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 7:33 AM
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Buffy the Vampire Slayer had a gay main character. I don't know if hacker-cum-witch really counts as "the life your parents want for you" though.


Posted by: L. | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 7:36 AM
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I noticed around the same time that Hollywood was promulgating the most ridiculously negative stereotypes of labor unions. Assumptions that they're corrupt, mob ties, get paid to sit around, take workman's comp at the drop of a hat, have to go home after exactly 7.5 hours when the job is half done, the whole 30-40 years out of date, Eugene McCarthy "those hard hats have gone too far and BTW a lot of them are racist" attitude.

Even though everyone in Hollywood is in a union, they don't think anyone else should be, because Teamsters are annoying. That couldn't have helped.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 7:38 AM
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I forgot about Willow. But right, she's vampy and witchy.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 7:38 AM
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The homosexual relationship on the show is the only one that's portrayed as reasonably healthy and stable, though, so it still seems like it should count for something.


Posted by: L. | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 7:44 AM
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There was an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in which Commander Riker almost becomes romantically involved with a gay alien who displays repressed heterosexual tenancies. That was.... something.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 7:45 AM
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8: Being played by Alyson Hannigan counts for so much more.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 7:50 AM
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(Looking it up...), Willow and Tara don't kiss until the 5th season, and it ran 1997-2002, so it would have been 2001. Still counts in some sense, but a few years later.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 7:51 AM
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Xena's the only show I ever watched* that I thought normalized gay life. Well, other than not so normal or so much on the Gap clothing, and maybe it was all in my head ...

*I did not watch much TV during the relevant time period.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 7:52 AM
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Also she's Jewish, so score one for the New World Order controlling Hollywood.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 7:52 AM
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Xena or Willow?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 7:53 AM
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Yes.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 7:54 AM
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I never watched Xena, and didn't realize the character was gay.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 7:58 AM
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For some reason, I recently read the history of Saturday Night Live and it reminded me how really quite bad the show was on things like gays. I guess they poked fun at the repressive parts of culture in general, but it tended to go for the mainstream on sexuality.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 7:58 AM
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12: and maybe it was all in my head -> 16


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 7:59 AM
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18: But Wikipedia seems to confirm it? Or at least to suggest that it was subtextual but nonetheless pretty clear.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:01 AM
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Hm, they gave it a shot with Matt on Melrose Place, who was (as I recall it lo these many years later) conspicuously above the fray and blandly cute and of course rather sexless. There was a to-do when they were going to have him kiss a disposable plot-device boyfriend and when it came to it, they punted and had a weird slow mo thing where you see them going in for it and then, I dunno, they cut to Jo screaming "GIVE ME BACK MY BABY" or some more ordinary piece of business.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:02 AM
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I think Xena was bi.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:02 AM
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Xena is just textbook coding, isn't it? The writers knew it and they audience that they wanted to reach knew it? I never watched it but this was my impression.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:04 AM
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16: I never actually watched it but kind of pay attention to lesbian media stuff and the story seems to clearly be that the characters were written as straight but especially since it was such a campy show, there was no way to mistake that Xena and her best friend/sidekick Gabrielle were in love. It's certainly a lesbian cult classic.

And I do think heebie's theory is a common and probably accurate one. I didn't have a tv as a teen but was very cued in to what was going on (and did at least get to see Rickie from My So-Called Life!) to the point where I had to see Heavenly Creatures with my mom (because I wasn't 17 yet and she wouldn't let me sneak into R movies) as well as my secret girlfriend and our other best friend who wasn't supposed to know we were dating. AWKWARD.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:06 AM
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19, 22: Yes, I think they purposefully left a lot of ambiguity in there. I found myself able to transcend it, however.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:07 AM
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I seem to recall that Xena dated Julius Caesar at one point.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:08 AM
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I don't know about gay vs. bi, but I believe in the last one or two seasons of Xena the subtext became text.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:09 AM
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23.2 steals my Awkie Award for movie-related awkwardness. (I saw Sex Lies & Videotape with my grandmother.)


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:11 AM
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My friend watched Spanking The Monkey with her parents. (Elliott from ET is all grown up and has sex with his mom, in all manner of slow indie excrutiatingness.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:13 AM
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23.2 is hilarious and sweet.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:15 AM
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26: But now looking at a compendious media-describing site that shall remain unlinked, it seems more like the subtext just became incredibly obvious.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:17 AM
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My brother watched Requiem for a Dream with our (New York-raised, Jewish) grandmother. I am glad I was not there for that.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:17 AM
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I think one of the big cultural changes (and I've said this before and it's just the way I personally went about figuring things out, but I think common in certain respects) was that there were mainstream ways to learn about being gay or gay culture. In my early teens, it would be that I'd read a book I knew had some gay content and then the characters would be reading another book and so I'd get that from the library or pick up a cd mentioned (which is how I spent a summer at 14 or so trying to train myself to sing as high as Jimmy Somerville) and it was all about finding the trail of breadcrumbs that took you further up and further in. Having Ellen and Will & Grace and The L Word changed that to some extent, and then the internet did it once and for all, I suppose.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:18 AM
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And 23.1/26 is my memory of what went on with Xena, too. Within a couple seasons the writers sussed out that they had an entirely lesbian-and-classicist fan base.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:18 AM
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28: Elliott from ET is all grown up and has sex with his mom

And that provides me the opening to quote from the canon:

Sonja: There are many different kinds of love, Boris. There's love between a man and a woman; between a mother and son...
Boris: Two women. Let's not forget my favorite.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:21 AM
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33: they had an entirely lesbian-and-classicist fan base.

Wait, which am I?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:22 AM
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There are a nontrivial number of gay kids at Heebie U who have never been closeted. (I'm sure there are plenty of closeted kids, too, but still. Red state and all that.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:23 AM
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31: I found Requiem For a Dream kind of weird: an ABC after school special with a bunch of squick thrown in.

On topic, I too had a vague idea that the Xena/Gabrielle relationship was made explicitly romantic at some point in the show. So that's wrong?

I somehow have managed to never see a single episode of Will & Grace. Did I miss anything?


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:25 AM
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38

The class of 2021 will never have known a time when everybody wasn't in the know about Xena and Willow.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:26 AM
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39

Actually, I think I meant Gabrielle but it came out Willow. But it all works.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:28 AM
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Shorter heebie: the far right was right all along

The whole gay rights thing, like a lot of liberal issues, is a real problem for the media, especially the "objective" media. How do you portray/report the actual people involved in gay marriage from a conservative point of view without being an overt asshole?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:31 AM
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Yes, how does one hold overtly asshole views without coming across as an asshole? It is the conservative conundrum.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:34 AM
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32 is right. If it hadn't been for the one out kid at my high school I would not have known what mediocre gay books to furtively check out at the public library, would not have known to get a copy of Christopher Street, a terrible gay literary magazine, at the tie-dye-and-poison-ring shop near the university.

A friend who also went to U of C in my department mentioned that one of our professors, a dear man and the truest kind of intellectual, would wax nostalgic for the days when you had to know where the unmarked bars were. I thought: oh god, how awful. Oppression as a source of nostalgia? And yet, I'm a little wistful thinking about having to put some effort into finding the gay world.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:34 AM
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Huh. I don't have any particular evidence for this, but I'd think of Ellen and Will and Grace as trailing indicators, rather than as much of a cause of anything: that both shows existed because the audience was ready for it to be no big deal. But of course, Pauline Kael here, so I could be wrong.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:36 AM
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39: I would google "Xena+Willow fanfic" but I'm at work.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:36 AM
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I somehow have managed to never see a single episode of Will & Grace. Did I miss anything?

It has its moments of being, as a friend of mine put it, a minstrel show, but it's also frequently very funny. I didn't watch later seasons. I heard it got pretty lame, as shows do. It was important but is not a thing that needs to be watched now.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:37 AM
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I found Requiem For a Dream kind of weird

But worth it for Ellen Burstyn's performance.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:38 AM
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If memory serves, L.A. Law had an out lesbian character and a pro-gay adoption story line at some point. So they were ahead of the curve.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:38 AM
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A minstrel show with Will as a the primary, sober, gay, foil, though. Jack was the secondary gay character.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:38 AM
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But yes, don't bother watching it now.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:39 AM
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43 is very definitely a Pauline Kael moment.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:39 AM
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What was the TV show where she rocked everyone's boat by bearing a child out of wedlock? The blonde lawyer?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:39 AM
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One problem with Will & Grace is that its minstrelsy attributes were amplified by the sitcom trend of having 3/4 of all jokes be one character viciously insulting another character.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:40 AM
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43: That can't apply to the newly aware set, though. They're just imprinting for the first time.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:40 AM
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51: You mean Murphy Brown?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:41 AM
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44: I just tried it and got 5,560,000 results. I am not going to read them all.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:42 AM
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43: Cause and effect in these situations are hard to tease out, since there's a feedback loop involved.

I'm personally on the LB/Kael side of this, since Will and Grace came to late for me to get anything culturally useful out of it. But I think that sort of thing made a big difference to a lot of people.



Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:42 AM
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51: Sounds like Murphy Brown but I thought she was a news anchor?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:42 AM
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Or I'm conflating shows.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:43 AM
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Murphy Brown was what I was thinking of.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:47 AM
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I'm not claiming Ellen and Will had any effect on people over 15. But the kids today are way more accepting on this issue than their elders, so I'm positing this mechanism.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:48 AM
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A friend who also went to U of C in my department mentioned that one of our professors, a dear man and the truest kind of intellectual, would wax nostalgic for the days when you had to know where the unmarked bars were. I thought: oh god, how awful. Oppression as a source of nostalgia?

My recollection is that Fun Home did a good job illustrating both sides of that tension -- I should re-read Fun Home. That is an example of a book that I stayed away from for a while because it was so highly praised and that made me slightly nervous, but which was really good.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:49 AM
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50, 56: One thing about the Pauline Kael moments, though, is that there's a lot of population in the bubble with me.

Maybe I'm right that W&G was a trailing indicator for the half of the country that lives in urban coastal areas (and that the networks felt safe putting it on because there was already a huge audience for which the gay main characters were edgy only in that it was literally new for a sitcom. but otherwise no big deal), while it still being a serious cultural moving force for the rest of the country.

I mean, I'm not sure how to measure the size of the Pauline Kael bubble on this, but it's not tiny, it's a significant percentage of the population.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:50 AM
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I reiterate 53.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:51 AM
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Not sure if you can really call http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love,_Sidney groundbreaking, but it was at least a feint in that direction.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:51 AM
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But the kids today are way more accepting on this issue than their elders, so I'm positing this mechanism.

I feel like AIDS lead to making sex, in general, seem a lot scarier for 10-15 years. At what point did that start to change? Are the "kids" you're talking about the people who were growing up with less sex-panic?


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:52 AM
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I'm talking about people who were under 15 when there were primary characters who were gay and suburban.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:55 AM
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Or suburban-esque in their aspirations, c/f Will.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:56 AM
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Don't forget Jodie Dallas (played by a young Billy Crystal) on Soap!


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:56 AM
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L.A. Law had an out lesbian character and a pro-gay adoption story line at some point. So they were ahead of the curve.

Love, Sydney had a barely discernibly, but indisputably gay protagonist on network television in 1981. And he had a quasi-foster child (a female one, because let's not get too carried away here). So even further ahead of the curve.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:58 AM
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Damn it, politicalfootball!


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:59 AM
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Relatedly, I think, a lot of the "normalization" is reflecting life post AIDs cocktail. You watch How to Survive a Plague and one of the striking things at the end is how many of the activists who made it out alive had no idea how to face a world in which the possibility of something like a long, respectable, "normal" American life might be taken for granted.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:59 AM
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Rock Hudson. No bigger star at his peak, liked by everybody, suffered in the closet and died publicly. Took a while for it to sink in, but it flipped the generations preceding the W & G kids.

After Hudson, it just became impossible to deny, impossible to hate. At least for those at all open.

Yes, it was guessed by many, but after Hudson became known to be gay, it was like you had to take both a public and subjective decision. And Hudson just wasn't icky or wicked.

Why is this important? Because the old farts have the power. Marijuana is much more slowly becoming legal, and abortion is losing.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 8:59 AM
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71: I think it's difficult to convey to people whose formative years were post HAART just how scary the initial stages of the AIDS epidemic were.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 9:03 AM
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Because the old farts have the power

This has been previously observed.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 9:04 AM
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It is kind of astonishing that marijuana is having its heyday, forty years after its political momentum might have peaked. (Except I think Bob's right that the old old farts had to die out and the baby boomers had to become the new old farts.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 9:05 AM
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Meet the new farts, same as the old farts.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 9:06 AM
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After Hudson, it just became impossible to deny, impossible to hate.

You're nuts, bob. The public turned on Rock Hudson like the audience at the Colosseum. I can tell you a dozen contemporaneous Rock Hudson jokes from memory that would get you thrown out of polite company today.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 9:06 AM
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Dan Savage had a really smart opener a month or so ago. He was reflecting on a TAL show, featuring Colorado ranchers whose livelihoods are being destroyed by forest fires, yet go apeshit ballistic on anyone who dares utter "climate change". He said "They remind me of nothing more than the gay men at the gay bars, in 1981, who would murder you if you asserted that AIDS was sexually transmitted. They had theories that it was a government plot, or drugs, or anything, but it could not be related to their lifestyle because it was too scary and threatening to contemplate."


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 9:08 AM
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77: Right. Hudson marked a big backlash moment.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 9:10 AM
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I remember thinking Will and Grace was just a terrible show, being part of the lame follow-on to the silver age of Seinfeld/Friends Must See TV.

My recollection of Will and Grace era is that sitcoms, as an art form, basically cratered, and got replaced by reality shows that featured people eating bugs.

Things didn't get right again until Arrested Development and Modern Family.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 9:11 AM
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76 is awesome.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 9:12 AM
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77: Consensus among the talking heads of the day was that Elizabeth Taylor had destroyed here career when she starting publicly doing AIDS activism.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 9:13 AM
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This website might be helpful.

http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~wyatt/tv-characters.html


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 9:13 AM
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Nobody has mentioned The Real World yet, eh? Openly gay cast member starting with the very first season!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 9:14 AM
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Did Natalie Wood destroy her career with gay activism? I know she basically hired the guy who wrote "The Boys In The Band" as her assistant, so he wouldn't have any duties except writing "The Boys In The Band". And other helpful acts of backer-ship.

Or was that just completely secret, in the 60s?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 9:15 AM
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78. I don't see it that way. Gays and their lifestyle really were under attack in the most obvious way, and AIDS was being used as a bludgeon. Global warming doesn't threaten Colorado ranchers in any comparable way.

Now if we want to compare 1981 gay AIDS-denialists with oil companies, maybe that would kinda sorta work. Warming is a real threat to BP.

But of course that falls apart, too, because the oil companies aren't true believers in denialism, they just recognize their financial interests.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 9:15 AM
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80 is right. I think one big thing was getting rid of the fucking laughtrack and letting the timing evolve past that vaudeville "Punchline!....pause..." thing. Then comedians could actually deliver lines with an antecedent punchline or whatever. (Plus using great writers.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 9:17 AM
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Global warming doesn't threaten Colorado ranchers in any comparable way.

The framework that he was presenting was that the Colorado ranchers were about to see their ranches burn down quite immediately. I haven't actually heard the TAL episode.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 9:19 AM
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This article, on the complex roles the Village People played in the normalization of gay culture, was I thought pretty interesting.

The disco backlash, of course, being perhaps the most famous animal howl of homophobic resentment.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 9:19 AM
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||

Completely off-topic pop-culture moment. This photo is awesome, and I'm not quite sure what makes it as cool as it is.

|>


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 9:20 AM
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Nobody has mentioned The Real World yet, eh? Openly gay cast member starting with the very first season!

That's true. And he was exceptionally sedate and upright, and in hindsight I wonder if he was five years older from everyone else, and triggered the age-cut-off in subsequent seasons.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 9:20 AM
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77:Defensive reaction to shame. And of course there are always wingnuts and jerks. And I said it took a while.

Hudson was like John Wayne or Jimmy Stewart. My generation grew up with that guy, older generations aged with him. We loved and admired him.

I was checking pictures from 1983-85. He wasted quickly and publicly, and I think made a nation feel ashamed of themselves.

But the changes on aids and LGBT starts there around 1985 with Hudson, and becomes irrevocable.

Who's Larry Kramer? McMillan and Wife was pre-cable, and probably got 3-5 times the ratings off Ellen. And Hudson was dying on Dynasty. Dynasty.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 9:26 AM
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91: they had the age cutoff before the first season. I, uh, had looked into it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 9:26 AM
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85:Natalie Wood was an ok actress who could be good, but I think she just lacked the confidence to make the transition to character actress as she aged. She is visibly nervous in Meteor.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 9:36 AM
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The framework that he was presenting was that the Colorado ranchers were about to see their ranches burn down quite immediately.

Right. Gays were threatened by the actuality of AIDS, and ranchers are threatened by the actuality of climate change.

Maybe I would have been clearer if I'd said the idea of global warming doesn't threaten ranchers the way the idea of AIDS threatened gays.

There was a powerful political movement that was extraordinarily threatening to gays in 1980. That movement was well-served by various narratives surrounding AIDS. There is no comparable political movement opposing Colorado ranchers that is assisted by the global warming narrative.

Especially early on, paranoia was a reasonable response to AIDS. People came on TV - Pat Buchanan comes to mind - to suggest that gay people maybe ought to be put in concentration camps. Paranoid ranchers are just assholes.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 9:38 AM
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WHAT ARE WE, CHOPPED LIVER?


Posted by: OPINIONATED BUFFY & HILDY | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 9:39 AM
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From IMDB, Natalie Woods:

[shortly before her death] "You know what I want? I want yesterday."


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 9:40 AM
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96: Straight men in drag?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 9:42 AM
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I think [Hudson] made a nation feel ashamed of themselves. But the changes on aids and LGBT starts there around 1985 with Hudson, and becomes irrevocable.

In 1985, "innocent" AIDS victim Ryan White (hemophiliac child) was being ostracized by his school and community, and a United States Senator could still profess that AIDS was God's punishment for the sin of homosexuality. When Rock Hudson came out as gay, his modal fan was embarrassed of having been a fan, not of being a homophobe.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 9:43 AM
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98: YOU CAN'T DISMISS US QUITE SO EASILY!


Posted by: OPINIONATED KATE & ALLIE | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 9:51 AM
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Look, I wasn't living in Idaho in the late 90s and I was probably somewhat attuned to the issue. Ellen was not a trailing indicator.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 10:02 AM
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102

I have a lot of thoughts on this, but perhaps won't say them too coherently.

Certainly, in the milieux in which they were created, both Will and Grace and Ellen were long-since-trailing indicators of tolerance, not leading indicators. They were greenlit because, by 1998, when Will and Grace first appeared, it had become absolutely unacceptable for leading business figures, at least in the entertainment industry but also elsewhere, to be openly homophobic, and there was a clear mainstream opportunity in not being homophobic.

As far as the impact of these kinds of programs on their audience, I'm not too sure. I guess the key question is when it became acceptable and normal to be out in high school.

Personally, I feel like there was a cascade of change around 1992-1995. I graduated high school in the very early 1990s. I believe that I am in about the last class in which it was still sort-of OK to make gay jokes, and where even the people whom everyone knew were gay weren't really "out" (I was a member of the gay-straight alliance, and was definitely one of the only actually straight people in it, but even there everyone kept their sexuality ambiguous and wasn't truly "out," and officially everyone was just theoretically interested in civil rights for hypothetical gay people that might or might not be there). By the time my sister had graduated from the same school (four years later, but still pre-Will and Grace) the situation had completely transformed, there were plenty of out high school students, and open homophobia, even in high school, was pretty much treated like open racism.

This was at an elite coastal school, and I have no idea what mainstream Texas high school looked like then, or looks like now.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 10:18 AM
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Personally, I feel like there was a cascade of change around 1992-1995. I graduated high school in the very early 1990s.

How many of us are arguing that the cascade began when we left for college? I suppose I have been.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 10:22 AM
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It might have been the backlash to the Rock Hudson backlash that moved the nation to pity. As in _As You Like It_ or _A Winter's Tale_, the sympathetic character has to be excoriated and (at least seem to) die before the cruel relent and regret.

There must be blood, and it must be innocent

Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 10:23 AM
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This was interesting too: Even though everyone in Hollywood is in a union, they don't think anyone else should be, because Teamsters are annoying. Or: craft unions vs. mass unions? Other fractures of the culture wars? It's a good point.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 10:26 AM
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The public turned on Rock Hudson like the audience at the Colosseum.

This is absolutely right.

Not many people dared to make Rock Hudson or any other AIDS jokes around me, but the ones I did hear were awful.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 10:28 AM
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102: That's definitely the left-coast version of the bubble I'm thinking of.

Although, huh, maybe I'm backdating things some. I don't know why I just thought of this, but when I was a summer associate at Schmebevoise and Shrimpton, I shared an office with an out gay summer associate, and I remember being slightly surprised or impressed that he was clearly out at work. I think I was still thinking that he was taking a significant risk that the firm would hold it against him. (I suppose I wasn't wrong that he was at risk, but what I mean is that I think I was thinking of it as an unconventional risk for someone in a job-application position to take, which I certainly wouldn't think now.) And that was 1998.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 10:28 AM
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Yes, 104 is a very good point. There was a struggle through the 1980s as to whether or not AIDS panic justified homophobia. But by about 1992, I think the (mainstream) sense had very justifiably switched, and switched hard, against those who were cheering on deaths.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 10:28 AM
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In my rich coastal public high school in 1986, I don't think anyone was officially out, although the theater/debate crowd played a little bit with expectations. As one does. I remember some unkind jokes toward the dumpy but talented guy in a pretty guy-pretty girl-third wheel troika; one couldn't tell if he wanted pretty guy, or pretty guy's looks, or pretty guy's in with the pretty girl.

I liked Xena and Gabrielle as a passionate friendship, which did not rule out a sexual dyad but also didn't need to be one. I think our stories post cod Freud don't do friendship very well. And Xena slept with *lots* of people as I recall: properly Conan/Eddison/demiurgish, with tremendous laughing appetites.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 10:31 AM
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104 and 108, etc, may be good points, but they don't apply in any way to someone who is 10 in 1996 and has no cultural memory. Who may not have heard about the AIDs crisis, various backlashes, or Knute Hudson. And that's the group which is leaps and bounds ahead of other age groups.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 10:31 AM
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Rock.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 10:32 AM
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99:I said starts there It wasn't a conversion experience, seeing the light overnight. Yeah, there was backlash and ugliness, but Hudson made the right questions inescapable.

his modal fan was embarrassed of having been a fan

I think you are just wrong. Dynasty was the #1 show in the spring of 1985 with a 25.0 share after Hudson revealed he had Aids.Those numbers are inconceivable today.

The public turned on Rock Hudson like the audience at the Colosseum.

60 million people watched the "Moldavian Massacre."
That is some rejection.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 10:34 AM
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Also, gotta say that undergrads at Ber|


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 10:35 AM
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.... duh, clew. Undergrads have always-been-out peers and also use `gay' and stereotypes thereof as insults. It's not a crisp changeover.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 10:36 AM
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111: Knute Rockne?


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 10:36 AM
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104, 107: Yes, I'm struggling to try to come up with dates. The movie Philadelphia (1993) is a good marker both for being a sympathetic treatment of AIDs but as I recall also viewed as somewhat risky for Tom Hanks.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 10:36 AM
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My high school (class of '02, blue Texas) was not a place where gays were out.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 10:38 AM
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Hey, I've got a 101° fever. No wonder I feel awful.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 10:38 AM
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118: Alas, poor heebie! But how's your hair?


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 10:39 AM
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Knute Hudson, raging against the rising tide. Or merely trying to show everyone else that rage wouldn't affect the tide?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 10:41 AM
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There was a struggle through the 1980s as to whether or not AIDS panic justified homophobia. But by about 1992, I think the (mainstream) sense had very justifiably switched, and switched hard

In no small part thanks to Magic Johnson, who acknowledged his HIV-positive status in 1991 and went on play with the Dream Team in Barcelona '92.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 10:45 AM
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Ah, memory lane. This Media Matters page is disappointingly bereft of Buchanan's awful stuff from the '80s, but here he is in 1977:

Homosexuality, then, is not some civil right. In a healthy society, it will be contained, segregated, controlled, and stigmatized, carrying both a legal and social sanction.

Here's a scan of the actual column. It's hard to read in this format, but it's an interesting piece of Americana.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 10:49 AM
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The turning point was Matthew Shepard, Oct. 1998.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 10:51 AM
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Yes, I think early 90s nails it for the time when it truly began to become acceptable. And gay marriage approval rates by generation tend to back that up (the turning point is people born around 1975, who would have been teenagers in the early 90s).

The wikipedia article on public opinion of same-sex marriage is full of interesting nuggets. The not-so-surprising ones are that acceptance of gay marriage trends young, rich, and college-educated. The surprising ones are that approval rates among Latinos (60%) are higher than among whites, and approval rates among Catholics are just as high (61%).


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 10:52 AM
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I also recall a fair bit* of somewhat mixed but generally positive press about the twin gay Long Island schoolteachers who came out as part of their trying to get an experimental treatment for the one that had AIDs. That was about 1990. It was the subject of a 1995 TV film with John Lithgow.

*Or maybe it was not so well known; a member of my wife's family*** was involved in the legal case so I may be overestimating how well known it was.

**Who is gay, but whose part (admittedly somewhat of an aggregation) in the movie was played by a straight up ruggedly handsome jock type.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 10:52 AM
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I have to say, also, that:

(a) I do think that these conversations often over-value the impact of Hollywood and under-value the impact of the many-year struggle of gay and lesbians for recognition and equality. By the mid-1990s, you had about 25 years of gay political activism and, even more importantly, out gay people who were living happy and successful lives as part of their communities. Prejudices die hard, but long before the sitcoms showed up there were many people with experiences of gay people as an ordinary part of their lives, or, a gay friend, relative, or acquaintance who had died in the AIDS plague.

(b) It's always worth remembering that the 1980s were themselves a period of reaction. Anita Bryant was horrible, but her main target were anti-discrimination laws that municipalities had already passed in the early-mid 1970s. In California, the Briggs Amendment seemed like it had a good shot, but in fact, even in (what was then not a very liberal state) it went down overwhelmingly, due to the work of Harvey Milk and many others. AIDS was seized on by cultural conservatives as a means of reversing a tide of progress, and for a while it seemed like the right wingers could successfully use the issue in their favor.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 10:55 AM
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At Big Midwestern State U in the early 90s, public sentiment was probably 70:30 against acceptance of gay people and lifestyle. Even in the music and theater departments, gay people were mostly closeted, or at least cautious.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 10:56 AM
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I think it's possible that AIDS delayed, for a decade, a reconciliation between gay and straight America that was on its way in 1980. As AIDS became less fearful, it became less of an excuse for hatred.

There are a number of reasons that Magic Johnson can be said to mark the transition that bob claims arrived with Hudson - one of them is that Johnson didn't identify as gay - but I wonder if the fact that he continued to thrive had something to do with it.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 10:59 AM
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I think you are just wrong. Dynasty was the #1 show in the spring of 1985 with a 25.0 share after Hudson revealed he had Aids.Those numbers are inconceivable today. 60 million people watched the "Moldavian Massacre." That is some rejection.

I think you're just wrong, and your purported evidence is bullshit: Rock Hudson played a minor character in a handful of episodes, Dynasty was the #3 show before he ever appeared in it, and the "Moldavian Massacre" episode aired before Hudson's illness was even diagnosed.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 11:01 AM
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approval rates among Latinos (60%) are higher than among whites, and approval rates among Catholics are just as high (61%)

I assume this is because marriage is more salient to these groups than whatever the married do privately. Does anyone know? Certainly one of my crankety grandfathers seemed taken by my argument that gay people allowed to have kids and mortgages got just as consumed by them as anyone else. Which I could attest to because I was living in a historically-gay-friendly neighborhood that had just survived the AIDS crisis and was relaxing into yuppiedom.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 11:01 AM
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68: Billy Crystal's character in Soap really should be emphasized. That was in the late 70s and I don't know if there was a gay character with as prominent a role on a major TV show until Ellen in the late 90s.

Soap didn't make as much money as its ratings would have earned, because conservative groups boycotted its advertisers.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 11:01 AM
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127 fits with my experience at what is I assume a different Big Midwestern State U. Not that I ran a poll or anything.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 11:02 AM
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128 - I think that's an awful stretch, since 1980 strikes me as just about peak Anita Bryant, and the various Satanic panic cases of the pre-AIDS '80s strike me as tapping into a very similar paranoia about sexuality, particularly children's sexuality.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 11:03 AM
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The not-so-surprising ones are that acceptance of gay marriage trends young, rich, and college-educated.

All such demographic breakdowns, say by age, need to be further delimited by geography. A median 60-yr-old in Mass does not group well with a 60-yr-old in Miss. Dixie must be factored out.

Spoken as a commie Texan who will always be invisible.

And 50% national approval of SS marriage among 50-yr-olds does not strike me as so bad. That can get it done.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 11:06 AM
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It is impossible to understate the contribution to the mainstreaming of gay culture made by Richard Lester's thoughtful 1976 psychodrama The Ritz.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 11:06 AM
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131: As I recall that show, it wasn't what I would call an entirely positive portrayal of homosexuality, even relative to portrayal of heterosexuality on a show that parodying the soaps.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 11:07 AM
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This may be partially because Billy Crystal has always annoyed me.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 11:13 AM
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121: In no small part thanks to Magic Johnson, who acknowledged his HIV-positive status in 1991

I happened to be home from work early and saw that press conference live and for some reason it remains one of the most memorable live moments I have ever witnessed on TV*. I think it was its unexpectedness.

*Although everything is a distant second to watching Ruby shoot Oswald.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 11:13 AM
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The impact of AIDS is complicated and deserves real thought, not just a blog comment. But I'd say (a) it mostly exacerbated, and was used as a tool in, right-wing cultural panic that long pre-dated it; (b) that right wing cultural panic was as much a reaction against sexual libertinism, experimentation, and empowerment generally as it was about gay people specifically; (c) the ultimate outcome of the AIDS crisis was, perhaps unexpectedly, to divorce the issue of gay rights from sexual libertinism in the popular imagination, in part because AIDS killed off (literally) the proud casual sex gay male culture of the 1970, but also in large part because so many gay men were bearing witness to the loss of loved ones in ways that made clear that gay sexuality is not just, or primarily, about being a libertine.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 11:13 AM
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138: I don't know what kind of a shot an Oswald is, but Ruby couldn't shoot half as well as Johnson regardless.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 11:17 AM
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139 is badly phrased.

To 138, I remember everything about that press conference in that "where were you on the date Kennedy was shot" kind of way, though it was kind of a perfect storm of things designed to maximally emotionally impact me personally at the time.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 11:18 AM
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136: The worst homosexual ever created doesn't really follow through on the title.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 11:19 AM
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Sorry bad link: http://theruedmorgue.blogspot.com/2006/03/worst-homosexual-ever-created.html


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 11:20 AM
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I don't think 139 is badly phrased, though I'm not really an unbiased observer. Halford's 126 also hits the mark, though I don't want to discount the importance of mass media for being mass in a way that makes a difference.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 11:22 AM
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142: "Worst" is really several bridges too far.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 11:27 AM
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I think "worst" would be the evil guy on Lost in Space.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 11:31 AM
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I think it's possible that AIDS Reaganism delayed, for a decade, a reconciliation between gay and straight America that was on its way in 1980.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 11:32 AM
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The impact of AIDS is complicated and deserves real thought, not just a blog comment

I'm certainly not qualified to judge this, but it seemed to me the rest of 139 showed evidence of real thought.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 11:36 AM
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Pointing out evidence of real thought is just going to make everybody else too nervous to comment because they'll think standards have gone up.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 11:49 AM
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Halford's 126 is good but I want to twist it a bit:

I do think that these conversations often over-value the impact of Hollywood and under-value the impact of the many-year struggle of gay and lesbians for recognition and equality. By the mid-1990s, you had about 25 years of gay political activism and, even more importantly, out gay people who were living happy and successful lives as part of their communities.

These aren't independent things. In part because of the nature of communities generally, in part because of more specific stuff, gay political activism + "out gay people who were living happy and successful lives" were very local phenomena, concentrated overwhelmingly in NYC, SF, LA, and coastal enclaves/big cities more generally. And happily, those were precisely (especially NYC & LA) the same enclaves that completely dominated the industrial production of American mass-media. So you could simultaneously have Ellen and W&G be decidedly trailing indicators in the communities where they were produced (LA or NYC or wherever, I don't how where TV gets made), and yet also decidedly leading indicators in (many of) the communities where they were seen (which is to say, everywhere).


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 11:58 AM
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I think it's possible that AIDS delayed, for a decade, a reconciliation between gay and straight America that was on its way in 1980. As AIDS became less fearful, it became less of an excuse for hatred.

I've seen the opposite of this being argued, and I'm somewhat sympathetic to the argument. Roughly, it goes that AIDS forced open the closet door for a lot of people who otherwise would have remained invisible to their straight friends and family. Once a critical mass of out people was achieved bigotry became that much harder since nearly everyone knew someone gay. IOW AIDS accelerated things rather than slowed them down.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 11:59 AM
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107: During my time, Shmebevoise had a number of out gay partners and associates, and was pretty vain of its reputation for tolerance and all that.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 12:42 PM
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I had a very awkward moment today serving an attractive older gay male couple. One was choosing a whisk; his partner said something about wrist action, and I assumed he was making a joke and laughed loudly and said something like, "Oh, there's so many jokes to be made with whisking." (Which, really, there's not, but you know, one says stupid things.) From their reaction (ie, blank stares), it became clear that he hadn't been making a joke. So, I'm pretty sure I looked like an asshole making a limp wrist joke that wasn't mine to make, but oh well. This fits with the OP somehow, I'm sure.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 12:52 PM
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151, 147 133, : I don't want to oversell my little theory, mostly because who knows why shit happens? But I'll offer this:

-Anita Bryant was a backlash figure. Her thing was a response to changes in the culture.
-Though Reagan has blood on his hands for a lot of unnecessary AIDS deaths, and his coalition was stocked with bigots, he didn't put any personal oomph behind anti-gay hatred. His anti-gay attitudes were much less obvious than, say, his anti-black attitudes.
-Purely subjectively, I think people were a lot more hostile to gays in 1985 than 1980.
-143 accurately characterizes the Billy Crystal role in Soap, but (as the author notes) all of the stupid stuff was overwhelmed by the fact that Crystal was a super-sympathetic, openly gay character. Then we had Tony Randall's Sidney, who (I theorize) would have increasingly come out of the closet had the show survived and were it not for AIDS. Was there a sympathetic gay TV character after Sidney in the 80s? When did gay characters start showing up in Roseanne?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 12:56 PM
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There was a struggle through the 1980s as to whether or not AIDS panic justified homophobia. But by about 1992, I think the (mainstream) sense had very justifiably switched, and switched hard, against those who were cheering on deaths.

I remember in 1991 watching a straight friend who had just read about Magic Johnson saying incredulously to another straight friend "oh my god...he got it from heterosexual intercourse." I observed her shock with some schadenfreude, I guess because really I was standing right there and she was effectively saying "now WE have to worry about this too!"


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 1:02 PM
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152: Yes, I should have said that the anecdote was intended to convey my state of mind in 1998 -- that being out at work while still in the process of applying for a job was risky -- rather than anything about Schmebevoise, which really is and was at the time about as progressive and decent on gay rights and really most issues as you could hope for any Biglaw firm. I was a little concerned, but there was absolutely no Schmebevoise-specific reason to be so.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 1:03 PM
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Dorthy's brother on the Golden Girls was gay. She found out about it in a Very Special Episode.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 1:04 PM
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his coalition was stocked with bigots

That's why I said "Reaganism" rather than "Reagan". He mainstreamed the Moral Majority freaks.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 1:10 PM
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Magic Johnson and anti-retrovirals made AIDS less scary. Then Clinton's political blunders on gay issues (military/DADT, DOMA) followed by a year or so of the nightly news discussing Clinton's blowjobs made homophobia look ridiculous and retrograde. Meanwhile, the young had been corrupted by MTV shows (Real World and My So Called Life). By 1997 or 1998, the shift seemed quite clear to me, even surrounded by conservative Utah Mormons. A friend who in the early '90s was closeted and moved to New York talks about how terrifying gay life seemed at the time. By the late '90s, it seemed fine.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 1:11 PM
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I think people were a lot more hostile to gays in 1985 than 1980.

I don't have an informed opinion on that question, but I remember how unremarkable this was in 1983, considering how much it shocks today.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 1:21 PM
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I checked this, because I wondered about some fo these timelines. DADT is 1993; Doma, 1996. HAART therapy came after that, and it seems to me it was well toward the end of the decade that the perception of certain death started to cede ground to long-term manageable illness.

This isn't to say that HIV/AIDS were still being used to justify the kind of "put them on an island" homophobia in 1997 that one encountered in 1986.

I don't know, maybe I'm setting the bar high for "when things got better." I came out in 1991 without a great deal of fear, but things were still bad. The idea of Ellen as a trailing indicator causes me great cognitive dissonance and maybe a little anger.

Marriage, whatever one thinks of its worth as a goal, strikes me as a pretty good barometer of what people were thinking about gay people. The first thing I google up says 27% of Americans favored gay marriage in 1996.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 1:28 PM
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I think trapnel has it in 150 that widespread acceptance lagged severely in the middle of the country. I have a friend who was outed anonymously to his family in 1998, after he'd been interviewed in a campus newspaper about being a member of some gay campus group. He was nearly disowned. I have a friend who is still closeted to his family, despite living with his partner ("roommate") of nearly 15 years (college sweethearts). His parents live in Iowa, and they basically preƫmpted his coming out by telling him he'd no longer be welcome; they didn't want to know. He's out everywhere else, but still. In the early 2000s, I spent time reassuring potential grad students that they didn't need to fear for their safety living in Austin. I eventually got the program coordinator to put brochures in the welcome folder, since it came up year after year. I think that says quite a bit that it was still a safety concern to them.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 1:39 PM
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Marriage, whatever one thinks of its worth as a goal, strikes me as a pretty good barometer of what people were thinking about gay people.

I agree with this, but it's also in many ways one of the last* dominoes to fall. One of the reasons that marriage equality makes sense now even to the Ted Olsons of the world is that, in American elite circles, civil equality for gay people had become absolutely mainstream, to the point where "if we're going to have legal and social equality in every other sphere, why not in marriage as well." The 1990s change from the 1980s was about an end to overt discrimination and mockery.

*I don't want to overstate this, of course. Trans people are still about where gay men were in 1980, or worse. And plenty of ongoing and invidious discrimination in individual communities.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 1:42 PM
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I don't want to burst anyone's bubble, but there are still a whole lot of places in this country where a gay couple can't get married.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 1:46 PM
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154, 160: I'm really the wrong person to speak to this -- you'd want someone who was living in a reasonably gay-friendly milieu as an adult in the '70s through the '90s to check my impression.

But I think a lot of what someone in the '70s up until AIDS hit might have thought of as not hostile to gays included an awful lot of what looks now like contemptuous mockery -- something like the director and his assistant in The Producers, which looks grotesque now, might not have come off as hostile at the time even to people of (reasonably ignorant) good will.

The fact that gay rights was so focused on AIDS activism through the '80s I think probably did a lot to break through acceptance of that kind of sniggering mockery; it was obvious to anyone who cared at all that gay rights really weren't funny, people were dying. So there might have been a backlash/upswing in intense homophobic hostility in the '80s, but I think the middle-of-the-road position moved from gay as a punchline to gay as a civil-rights movement at the same time.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 1:46 PM
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There are also a whole lot of places where it's perfectly acceptable to discriminate against gay people. And I don't just mean there are no legal prohibitions against it, I mean people can and do publicly discriminate, make disparaging remarks, etc.

What I guess I mean is: Will & Grace should have stayed on the air a few years longer. Its work was not yet done.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 1:51 PM
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Part of the point I was trying to make in 71 in bringing up the possible contribution of the changing realities surrounding AIDs is that most of the sympathetic representations of gays in the early-to-mid 90s were in a context of their "suffering humanity" (Pedro Zamora, Philadelphia, Rent, Angels in America, etc.). A lot of that was to fight off prejudice, but a lot of that is that a Will-like character in the early-to-mid-90s wouldn't have worked.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 1:51 PM
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Interesting to see how basically sympathetic satire evolved over the course of 10 years.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 2:02 PM
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160: holy christ. Wow. If you haven't clicked through, you really should (though, uh, NSFW-audio)--the past really is another country. A horrible country.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 2:09 PM
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I mean people can and do publicly discriminate, make disparaging remarks, etc.

Such as when people who otherwise have always seemed open-minded and accepting reveal that they wouldn't want *their* kid to turn out gay. "Not that there's anything wrong with that." Though I'm not sure a few more years of Will and Grace would have done anything about that.

The more time the kids spend watching shows like Degrassi, on the other hand...


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 2:09 PM
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169: A horrible country, but with really cheap cigarettes.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 2:13 PM
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163 One of the reasons that marriage equality makes sense now even to the Ted Olsons of the world is that it doesn't interfere one bit with the project of maximizing the rents extracted by the elites (some of whom will be gay) from the rest of society.

FTFY.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 2:14 PM
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Looking at backlash in isolation is a species of the ecological fallacy. I suspect the 80s backlash was as big as it was because the anti-gay norm was already breaking down. If AIDS had happened 10 or 20 years earlier, the government probably really would have put people in concentration camps.

It's like now -- we're in the middle of an intense anti-African-American backlash, but the backlash is so intense because a minority discovered that a majority was willing to elect a black man President.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 3:04 PM
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I feel a little better after sleeping all afternoon, but I still have a monstrous headache. Mastitis is my working assumption, and I think the duct is unclogged now. Carry on.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 3:31 PM
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I'm going to assume that absolutely nothing in this thread has been about the 18-30 year old set because everyone overwhelmingly agrees with my well-crafted argument.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 3:33 PM
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160: now there's somebody who will probably never come out.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 4:49 PM
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123 is compelling. Do not overlook 123!

I noticed around the same time that Hollywood was promulgating the most ridiculously negative stereotypes of labor unions.

The suggestion that it's unionized creatives shitting on blue collar union workers is worth unpacking. I think I've told this story before. When I was still a union organizer, a friend got a job writing on a family drama set in East L.A.. She pitched an episode where one of the daughters starts seeing an organizer who gets her to get arrested in a civil disobedience protest for workers at a New Otani stand-in. The showrunner loved it. The network (owned by Viacom) sent back notes to the effect of there is no way in hell this character is going to get involved with a union fight. They ended up making it a protest for arts in the schools.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 4:53 PM
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177 is interesting, even if you've told the story before.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 5:27 PM
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173: I suspect the 80s backlash was as big as it was because the anti-gay norm was already breaking down.

Yes, as I once related here, when I lived in Houston in the early 80s there was a vote on an ordinance to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in city jobs. It was smashed something like 84-16*, but in retrospect amazing it got on the ballot at all. Also, Houston had a fairly thriving gay community at the time (centered in the Montrose district). And then 25 years later Houston elected an openly gay mayor.

*The wingnuts + white churches + black churches all went to war against it.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 5:39 PM
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Oh this is interesting! I'm sorry I missed this thread. I'm reading backward, so starting from LB's 165.3 (which is right on) and working forward in the thread: yes, Matthew Shepard made a difference.

I've recently seen Milk, with Sean Penn, and was astonished at the activism in play at such an early time. I was a kid at the time.

173: It's like now -- we're in the middle of an intense anti-African-American backlash, but the backlash is so intense because a minority discovered that a majority was willing to elect a black man President.

I'm not sure I understand 173. We're also in the midst of an anti-abortion backlash, and that's because it's bankrolled (by the Republican party and the folks behind ALEC). Shouldn't one always follow the money, at least as a start? The felt antipathy toward black people among some in the country has been deliberately fostered. I think I might simply be agreeing with Walt that looking at a backlash in isolation is an error.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 7:05 PM
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177, 178: The film and TV industry's role in these matters is frustrating in the extreme: one assumes that it's about the bottom line, but every once in a while you get an outlier. For TV, the advent of cable has eventually become a boon.

k-sky, I recently read a fascinating account of the development of the Lou Grant show. Inside Prime Time, Todd Gitlin. (The development of Hill Street Blues is interesting - though that's neither here nor there for this thread.) But Lou Grant - Ed Asner - was politically active. The account of the wrestling that went on was interesting: Ed Asner broke ground. As did Hill Street Blues.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 7:29 PM
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Love, Sydney had a barely discernibly, but indisputably gay protagonist on network television in 1981. And he had a quasi-foster child (a female one, because let's not get too carried away here). So even further ahead of the curve.

That was 4-year-old Blume's favorite show. I named my dog after the little girl.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 7:32 PM
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I can't believe I missed that show! I feel it is extremely likely that tiny me would have loved it too.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 07-19-13 7:38 PM
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177 is interesting -- a Maxwell's demon trimming the distribution of public discourse. It seems like sort of a `follow the money' case, but Money's delicate vanity, not literal profit.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 07-20-13 10:11 AM
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