Let’s talk about problematic portrayals

6 mins read

Today is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. The theme is “Together: Resisting, Supporting, Healing!” which is a message we should all rally around.

Especially because it has not been previously honoured. Homophobia is still very much a real issue in today’s society. Now it might be a stretch to say that a lot of us learned from television. But it’s true, as children our attitudes were shaped by entertainment.

Often, entertainment is guilty of catering to mainstream audiences. This can typically mean stereotypes are very in your face. Stereotypes can shape your understanding of the LGBTQ+ community, especially if you’re young.

And honestly, it happened to me.

My understanding of the LGBTQ+ came from the perspective of heterosexuals. Which wasn’t beneficial for me. Especially because education systems like to shy away from important topics like gay sex.

Thank you to shows like ‘Pose’ for treating it normally, as it should be.

Credit: Out.com

Typically, same-sex action is catered to the male gaze. You’ll find as much in popular shows like Riverdale, in that episode Veronica and Betty locked lips. Not out of sexual attraction but for the shock factor.

Harmful stereotypes like these are too normalised. The gay community are often painted as promiscuous in film and television, but not in a liberating way. Actually, it’s usually in a manner that subsequently shames the gay community.

You see in television shows like ‘Grown-ish’, where bisexual character Naomi has a reputation. One that calls out her preference for sleeping with “straight” women. She’s painted as a player and preying on women’s uncertainties surrounding their sexuality.

It’s entirely judgemental and not okay. Not to mention this bisexual character is the same woman who had an issue when she found out a previous sexual partner was bisexual. And it was only made an issue because it was a man.

We need to go all the way with acceptance: for all people.

Entertainment platforms love playing with problematic gay stereotypes. Like painting the gay community as overly sexual and then making it a bad thing. People are allowed to enjoy sex, regardless of who they’re sleeping with.

If audiences think that it’s taboo then they need to grow up.

We need to push for more diversity and inclusivity. These are things we’re touching on, with progressive shows like ‘Sex Education’ but there are still some problematic stereotypes. Namely the whole closeted bully: Adam Groff. And we’ve seen it before in catastrophic shows like Glee, with Dave Karofsky.

How about we don’t go back there? Being closeted isn’t an excuse to be cruel.

Now is the time to demand more for the LGBTQ+ community. When we have diverse and inclusive shows like ‘Good Trouble’ and ‘Pose’ to help shape our views and understanding. No more problematic feminine and masculine gay stereotypes or shocking gender reveals, please.

The shows I’ve mentioned might be some of your favourites: and that’s okay. No one is saying you can’t watch them but be mindful when you do. We need to resist falling into accepting problematic portrayals and instead move towards supporting realistic representations of gay communities.

We’re not being progressive if we’re still laughing at the expense of gay people.

Credit: Gizmodo.com

In today’s entertainment, we are moving forward towards acceptance. Except we’re not doing it right. As long as straight-washing is still happening in film and television, we will always be held back. I’m talking about Hollywood just entirely erasing gay characters.

Such as DC prize Harley Quinn, who is bisexual. Only this was given a subtle confirmation in ‘Birds of Prey: Harley Quinn’ that anyone could have missed. The very same thing happened with Valkyrie in ‘Thor: Ragnarok’. But really, queer actors should be given queer roles and a platform.

And let’s not do it in a problematic manner: like in Teen Wolf. I know, we all loved Stiles. However, can we talk about the queerbaiting? Yes, we’re talking about Jackson Whittemore’s bisexuality. Again, that hot queer bully stereotyped was packed right in there.

Queerbaiting in television is almost insidious. The writers and creators of shows and films can appeal to the LBGTQ market flawlessly. Give us ‘vibes’ between characters like Stiles and Derek, or more famously Holmes and Wattson. Whilst also carefully avoiding backlash from homophobic audiences.

So, now that I’ve criticised and called out a few fan favourite shows, I end here. Here being where I state that to be progressive you have to fight for it. Should we have to? No. But we can make a start by looking towards more LGBTQ+ friendly shows and fighting for them.

Speak out against gay erasure, stereotypes and queerbaiting to get the representation deserved.

Students can find support and resources here

Featured image credit: Amino Apps

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Deputy Editor of Brig Newspaper. Fourth year journalism and English student at the University of Stirling. Lover of covering social issues and creator of 'The Talk' column for everyone who needs to hear it.

Deputy Editor of Brig Newspaper. Fourth year journalism and English student at the University of Stirling. Lover of covering social issues and creator of 'The Talk' column for everyone who needs to hear it.

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