Throughout our lifetime, we listen to music, watch the latest in movies and television shows, search the internet for information, and generally satisfy our curiosity in so many ways. What we see and hear influences us in various ways, and that is what makes us react in a positive or negative manner.
In the entertainment industry, the influences vary, and Hollywood’s idea in portraying certain characters may not be at all the best influence. LGBTQ characters, historically, have been portrayed as outcasts, placed in a comedic vein and many died in movie endings. Hollywood had been influenced by the right and could potentially lose millions of dollars. The Roman Catholic Church and evangelical Christians carried much weight in Hollywood and so, at the expense of gay characters, the industry paid attention and was game to minimize gays in films.
Discrimination was rampant and the general public sided with the studios, causing the onset of real portrayals to be delayed for decades. In a world where equality for all is but a dream, our entertainment people have slowly evolved into a more “daring” inclusion of LGBTQ folks into story lines.
We are by no means at the end of this fiasco. Some movies have received some sort acceptance by the general public, as was the case with the release of Brokeback Mountain in 2005. The story told of two cowboys who fell in love against an intolerant society in the “Wild West.” As one watches the ongoing love story, it becomes quite clear that perhaps this tale may after all end in a positive way. No, it does not, as Jack suddenly dies because of a severe beating. The ending has Ennis searching for a sort of “closure” to the relationship.
Many cried at the negative ending that could have been positive with the two men living their lives as a happy couple. Even with Oscar wins, this story of forbidden love left a decided negative.
Countless LGBTQ characters have been part of story lines, but most with negative endings. Television has been a little more inclusive, but had a rough start. Many may recall the program “Soap” where a gay Billy Crystal character attempts to be accepted by family and peers. Again, this story is in a comedic setting, and did very little to convince LGBTQ audiences that this was an earnest attempt to “normalize” gay characters as part of our society.
We must, however, dwell on the present, and with that we have some real progress with entertainment. “Will and Grace,” the TV show that has been running for years, has the wonderful concept of two gay friends, not lovers, who share their friendship with two wonderful female characters. Even as this is a comedy, the characters seem real.
The other TV presentation is a rather new addition to prime time and that is “Transparent,” a moving, a potential real-life story that tells the traumatic journey of a middle-aged woman dealing with family and friends. This outstanding drama is a terrific, positive story of this woman determined to live her life as it is supposed to be lived. Outstanding performances, especially by Jeffrey Tambor in a role that transcends all previous performances by this wonderful actor, is a joy to watch. These are the stories of real people in real life situations. The positive trumps the negative.
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Gerard Veldhoven is a longtime activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His column appears Wednesdays in The News.