Thursday, 16 April 2015

Owen Jones: Unreal

One-dimensional uber-camp clowns, storylines centred on “being gay”, potential sexual menaces who want to get into the pants of straight men, lesbians whose sexuality makes them a challenge for men to turn: here are how LGBT characters often appear on our screens. But that’s if they even appear at all. According to a new study by Glaad – which campaigns for LGBT representation in the media – there has been a small increase in films with LGBT characters, but from a low base. Out of 114 films they looked at, released in 2014, 17.5% featured non-straight characters, up from 16.7% the year before. Many of these depictions were problematic, with only just over half passing the “Vito Russo test”, which measures the quality of the representations. (A film only passes the Vito Russo test if it includes a LGBT character, where they are not entirely defined by their sexual orientation or gender, and they have a significant impact on the plot.) ...

LGBT people are as complex and varied as anybody else. They are still all too often invisible on our screens, and portrayed simplistically and problematically when they do appear. That will only change when we overcome the general prejudices in society that still exist. But that’s not an excuse. The films and TV shows of today will surely provoke bafflement in the future: “Where are all the realistic gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people?” they will ask. It will be a good question.

You can't help feeling that Owen here is expressing his own fears and loathing about gay men; of the scary bad gays, the camp queens and the sexually rapacious, 'toxic' self-caricatures he wants to disown and distance himself from.

[I think OJ's self-imposed exile from the merry old land of gay is why this highly perceptive and intelligent writer writes such pedestrian guff about The Gays].

Why does he put "being gay" in scare quotes? Does Owen think it doesn't exist? Why shouldn't a storyline centre on this?

'A character being gay is often a storyline in and of itself,' he comments, 'surely we need characters who simply happen to be gay, rather than being defined by it.'

A statement that is every bit as banal and silly as it is clichéd. 

Does anyone 'simply happen to be gay'? What would be the point of having such characters in popular culture?

Perhaps OJ does not really want 'realistic' portrayals of gay people? 

Rather he wants them - and us - to be normal and boring, joyless and sexless, indistinguishable from straights.

Just like...

PS On GLAAD's headcounting, box-ticking, stopwatch watching not very useful surveys.

PPS On Owen Jones and the demonisation of gay men.


  1. "Does anyone 'simply happen to be gay'? What would be the point of having such characters in popular culture?"

    Someone who asks that question is maybe is "expressing his own fears and loathing about gay men".