The Surprising Side of Media: Boosting Images Versus Damaging Them

“State marriage bans, such as the one we have here in North Carolina, are living on borrowed time, it’s a matter of when– not if– they are struck down,” said Chris Brooks, a legal director for the ACLU of North Carolina, after the news came down from the U.S. Appeals Court stating that the bans on same-sex marriage in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia were unconstitutional. For the avid supporters of marriage equality, they have found relief in this news, viewing it as years of arduous work pursuing the creation of equality and obtaining support for inclusive, positive media as a success.

For years the LGBT community and its advocates have tried to gain support for equality, and during that time most homosexual entertainers suffered through the frustration and personal agony of staying “in the closet.” Remember when Rupert Everett, a hugely popular British actor in films such as My Best Friend’s Wedding and the second and third installments of Shrek, told other rising gay actors to stay in the closet because the truth would ruin their careers? But as time and progressive media has passed through culture, the LGBT image has been made palatable for the appetite of mainstream society and has helped to instill a need and desire for equality.

Early television shows like The Corner Bar and Hot I Baltimore produced some of the first gay characters shown in actual situations and relationships. This paved a path for shows like Friends, The O.C.,and Sex and The City to display gay and lesbian characters and storylines onscreen for millions of fans to see. However, the trend did not stop with small appearances on primetime shows; this trend has progressed to have entire story arc and shows centered on same-sex relationships.

For example, Ryan Murphy’s Glee was a big hit with audiences, and his character Kurt – who in the beginning was struggling with coming out – resonated with more than just LGBT youth. This is an excellent case of how media can be used to boost a worthy cause; by showing youth that a young gay man can deal with issues that parallel those of straight kids, Murphy helps teach tolerance and acceptance. Other shows that integrated same-sex relationships into modern society are HBO’s Girls and ABC’s Modern Family.

Our culture has also come very far in accepting gay and lesbian actors. As said earlier by Rupert Everett, there was a time when coming out meant absolute career suicide, but today there are many actors and actresses who have come out and maintained a successful career. A few examples are Neil Patrick Harris, Zachary Quinto, Sarah Paulson, and Ellen DeGeneres.

Although some say that not enough has been done to incorporate the LGBT image into the mainstream, we should all still be optimistic about this acceptance of everyone; we’ve come a long way. Yes, there have been, and still are, shows that stereotyped gay men – remember Queer Eye For the Straight Guy? – and there has been a persecution of the careers of gays who came out in the past, but to know that we are progressing out of this situation, that we are moving towards a state of equilibrium among acceptance of sexual orientation, should show that there is a lot to be hopeful for when looking towards the future.

Image: phillymag