This week! A look at how gay Frasier was and how brilliant Modern Family is, a chat with United States of Tara‘s gay couple Michael Hitchcock and Sammy Sheik, and an exploration of bad performances in hit movies. Plus, truly unlikely gays!
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Q: When it comes to positive portrayals of gay characters on TV, I’ve seen coming out stories, displays of affection, and lots of sweaty workout scenes, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen the love and loyalty that is portrayed between Cam and Mitchell on Modern Family. Do you agree that the "gas station scene" – where Cam, as Fizbo the Clown, mightily defends Mitchell against a jerk – qualifies as one of the most natural, and therefore important, portrayals of gay (or straight) love we’ve seen on TV? – Art, Clovis, CA
A: Like you, the Flying Monkey is totally, completely in the tank for Cam and Mitchell, and for this entire show, which I find to be the freshest, funniest thing I’ve seen in ages.
One of the things I like best is its take on gay stereotypes, which is by turns affectionate, teasing, and subversive. Cam is, well, Cam. But who’s the “strong” one in this scene? It’s not Mitchell, and it’s not the bully. Clown suit or not, it’s Cam – even as he immediately reverts to ridiculous form by pulling a giant clown clock out of his pocket and saying, "We should hurry, we’re going to be late."
This is simply brilliant writing – and for the record, it strikes me very much like life.
That said, I’m starting to agree with those who say that Cam and Mitchell aren’t showing as much physical affection as the other couples on the show. I don’t know if it’s skittishness on the part of the producers or
network (who might not want to push too hard on a break-out show), the fact
that the actors themselves are uncomfortable, or just a complete coincidence. I’d dismissed this at first – for me, the show has built up a lot of goodwill – but it’s starting to be noticeable.
On a completely separate Modern Family topic, when did Jesse Tyler Ferguson get to be so hot? I remember him as the fussy, pasty one in The Class, and the caustic, bitter one in Do Not Disturb, but I don’t remember either of those characters being anything approaching “hot.”
It really speaks to the power of good casting (and good lighting!), doesn’t it?
Q: I was just catching an old episode of Frasier and was struck by the vast number of gay men (though perhaps not out at the time of original airing) in the cast. Other than soap operas, are there any other TV series with as high a proportion of gay cast? – Bryon, St. Pete, FL
A: Speaking of good casting…
Out participants on Frasier included David Hyde Pierce (Niles), Dan Butler (Bulldog), Edward Hibbert (Gil Chesterton), Patrick Kerr (Noel), writer (and later, showrunner) Joe Keennan, co-creator David Lee, as well as many, many guest gay characters and actors (plus, gay icons like Patti LuPone, Bebe Neuwirth, Jean Smart, etc.).
Other cast members are reportedly gay, but not out.
Much has been made of how much Frasier was like a theatrical play: each episode had a traditional three-act “arc” with lots of clever word-play, some sophisticated comedy alongside classic slamming-doors farce-type jokes, and lots of terrific acting and impeccable timing. The characters and subject matter, meanwhile, were cultured, sophisticated types – the kind you usually find on stage, not on television (except as extreme stereotypes).
Because of all this, the producers wisely chose their cast and creators from people who had theatrical experience – and there’s truth to the stereotype that we gay and bisexual men are overrepresented in that world. Because there were gay people in positions of power on Frasier, I’m also sure that gay storylines and sensibilities were openly supported and encouraged.
But was Fraser really any “gayer” than any other in TV show Hollywood? There may well have been more out gay participants on Frasier than on, say, 24. But I did an article on Saturday Night Live last year – a show that’s definitely not known for its clever word-play, sophisticated comedy, or gay sensibility – and I was surprised to learn that four of its staff of fifteen writers (and, reportedly, some of the cast) were gay, including the head writer.
Yes, I think part of Frasier’s gay sensibility was because there were gay people in positions of power. But I think another big part of it is that the subject matter of Frasier very much meets our stereotypes of what “gay” is.
Next Page! The gay May/December romance on United States of Tara!