Pity the Hollywood writer who sets his or her movie or television series in the world of hair salons. If the show doesn’t include any gay or bisexual characters, gay viewers are likely to cry foul and accuse him/her of not being gay-inclusive. But if a gay character is included and is nothing but the typical cliched hair stylist we’ve seen so many times before, the writers are just as likely to be criticized. And rightly so.
That’s the dilemma faced by out writer Michael Patrick King of Sex and the City fame in his new NBC pilot A Mann’s World. Starring Don Johnson as Allan Mann and Taylor Kinney as the young, hotshot sylist France, A Mann’s World is about the “complicated life of Allan Mann, a celebrity hair stylist in glamorous Los Angeles.”
Don Johnson, Taylor Kinney, Mario Cantone
In the pilot script read by AfterElton.com, A Mann’s World does include gay characters, most notably Nicky, a fairly important secondary character to be played by Mario Cantone. While it can be difficult to judge secondary characters based on pilots, which are setting up the entire show, Nicky nonetheless looks to be yet another in a long line of gay characters that exist mostly to support the straight characters in their storylines, while getting no personal life of their own.
In the case of Nicky, described as single and “40s, compact, capable, dynamo,” he is there to support Allan Mann (Johnson), the focus of the show, in his capacity as the manager of Allan’s hair salon. While a great deal is learned about the personal life of Allan (he’s been divorced, remarried and has kids), in the pilot, Nicky exists solely in terms of Allan’s hair salon.
Contrast that to France (Kinney), the hotshot hair stylist who appears to have wandered in from the set of Warren Beatty‘s Shampoo as he beds women left and right, and when he’s not doing that, is eying his next conquest.
What would’ve been truly innovative would be to have had the character of France be gay. However, since it is doubtful that any network drama would actually air without including a heterosexual romantic lead, King could have written Nicky as the gay equivalent to France with their being either best friends or rivals. Plenty of drama in that.
The show does include three more minor gay characters, hairstylists named Snip, Snap, and Snur. How cliche are they? Well, there is their names for starters, and when France arrives at work on his motorcycle, he finds the threesome smoking by the backdoor of the salon. After France enters the backdoor, we get the following dialogue:
He likes him some “backdoor”.
Fine by me.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, we also see the three have a conflict with Nicky over smoking in front of the salon. When they complain they had been allowed to smoke where they wanted in New York, Nicky says, “In New York you could pee where you want, but this is L.A. Am I clear?” which prompts Snur to say “Yes, you want us to pee on you.” Snap then sings the disco song “Instant Replay” while Snip and Snur start to “vogue.”
In other words, the gay characters in this “World” either get no personal life, make inappropriate sex jokes, and act like total cliches in ways that are apparently meant to serve as some sort of comic relief. How novel is that?
It is important to keep in mind that this is only the pilot, and the entire script could be rewritten with characters added and/or dropped. And while it’s possible that Nicky could eventually end up a more fleshed out character, it is disappointing that there is no indication of that in the pilot, and even more so, that these characters were written by King, a gay man who not without some influence in Hollywood. Frankly, as written, Nicky, and especially Snip, Snap and Snur come across as characters from 2001, not 2011. In an era of Brothers & Sisters, Glee, and Modern Family, it’s hard not to be annoyed.
It’s even more disappointing in light of the fact that King’s Sex and the City pretty much treated that show’s gay characters the same way, either serving as sounding boards for the lead characters, or frequently, as comic relief.
While SATC might have gone off the air in 2004, for King it appears that time has stood still.