September 1, 2014 Leave a comment
“Modern Family” wins Emmys. I can’t figure out why. It’s a dumb show, a pathetically insipid show. I find the show’s portrayal of gay men offensive. In my life, I’ve known perhaps 500 gay men by name. Perhaps more. Perhaps fewer. But a lot. Not one of them resembles Mitchell or Cameron except when they’re pretending to be stereotypical gay men for a laugh.
Good comedy often relies on stereotypes. However, in great comedies such as the ‘50s TV show, “The Honeymooners,” the characters are both stereotypes and three dimensional. One could say Shakespeare’s Falstaff is a conglomeration of stereotypes—but they are much more than two-dimensional characters. Surely it’s possible to write and produce a TV show in which gay men play comedy without their being gay as the punchline of every joke.
Business Insider proposes a plausible reason for the success of “Modern Family.”
Emmy voters are members of The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. . . [including] actors, casting directors, producers, directors, and tons of behind-the-scenes people who . . . likely want to see network television prevail [over cable networks and Netflix]. Emmy voters quickly recognized “Modern Family” as a safe choice. (Acuna, Kirsten. “Why ‘Modern Family’ Keeps Winning Emmys Over Better Shows.” Business Insider. businessinsider.com. Aug. 27, 2014. Web.)
Stereotypes are safe.
It’s not sour grapes for me to say I have always lived in the shadow of mass societal disapproval of who I am, a stereotype. I was a “cocksucker” to my friends (and especially their older brothers) before I had a clue what that meant. Ask David West’s older brother Dennis who went along on with us on a Boy Scout camping trip (he was not a scout or gay) so he could sleep in my tent and seduce me in the middle of the night and spread the word.
I have never been in physical danger (that I know of) because I am a faggot. I can drive on any street or freeway in the country without being stopped by a straight cop for driving while gay. I can walk down any street in the country and (if I leave my Gucci bag at home and don’t wear my Vivienne Westood heels) feel safe. There are, of course, places I wouldn’t walk alone, but not because I’m afraid of gay bashing.
When I boarded the bus in Omaha, NE, for the trip to Redlands, CA, to begin college, I had several ulterior motives for leaving the Midwest. I was no dummy. I knew about the wild and permissive lifestyles of California, and I intended to find out how to be gay and live in the world instead of hiding. About two weeks after classes began, one of the defining events of the ‘60s shocked the academic world so thoroughly that even music majors paid attention to it.
I’ll save you the trouble of looking it up in Wikipedia.
The 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama was bombed on Sunday, September 15, 1963 as an act of white supremacist terrorism. The explosion at the African-American church, which killed four girls, marked a turning point in the United States 1960s Civil Rights Movement and contributed to support for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Why I remember that horror so clearly I am not sure. (That first semester had its fair share of horrendous events—the worst on November 22, of course.) Thomas Edwin Blanton, Jr., and Bobby Frank Cherry, two members of the Ku Klux Klan, were finally convicted of the bombing and murders in 2001 and 2002 respectively.
The TV sitcom “Designing Women” (1986-1993) was one of those “liberal” shows following in the footsteps of “Maude” (1972-1978). Meshach Taylor, the only male in the regular cast, won the Emmy for best supporting actor in 1989. His
inclusion in the story made everyone feel all warm and righteous. He played an African-American ex-con that the ladies of the interior design company took under their wings. They not only kept him out of jail, but they helped him get a college education and become an upstanding contributor to society.
He was an African-American ex-con. See what upstanding forward-thinking white Americans can accomplish? Give a black ex-con a job and a little guidance and see what can happen to him.
But he was an ex-con.
The show redeemed itself by clarifying that he had been convicted unjustly. It was never clear exactly what he had been convicted of.
Perhaps stealing a few cigars from a convenience store.
It took four wealthy, successful, white women to make a success out of this one black man. But they showed that such a transformation is possible.
The characters in “Modern Family” in addition to the gay couple include a hot Hispanic wife (and her teen-age son), a non-white adopted daughter, and a straight, white family. I’ve watched the show several times, and I do not recall seeing an African American even in a guest spot.
In my current privileged white male (albeit gay) retirement I have occasion to spend time regularly with several young African American men. I am honored that they have come to trust this old white gay man enough to be unguarded in conversation. When I say I am honored, that is precisely what I mean. I am not being flip or politically correct (thank you Anne Coulter for keeping that obnoxious phrase alive) or disingenuous.
It is an undeserved privilege to be invited into a social reality that I cannot know simply by reading about it or following it in the news. It is a reality in which the young men are not ex-cons. It may, however, be one in which they are left out of the “family,” even the family that includes gay men and beautiful Hispanic women.
But it’s just as well. The young men I talk with regularly don’t want to be part of a world of stereotypes.
Yet, why should even well-meaning whites view [racial] profiling differently? Since the end of segregation, there has been a political movement, reflected in the media, that feeds the public a steady diet of images and platitudes that perpetuate the idea that blacks pose a threat to whites, even if race is not directly mentioned. . . . A growing body of research is fleshing out the nature of the social psychology underlying racial profiling, and its impact on the American public and its institutions. . . . Harvard’s own Implicit Association Test on the Web has shown that every population group except blacks unconsciously associates blacks with crime, and that in simulation games, test takers are much more likely to shoot black “felons” in ambivalent settings or when they are holding objects other than guns. Police officers and judges perform the same way on these types of tests as the civilian population.
From: Staples, Robert. “White Power, Black Crime, and Racial Politics.” Black Scholar 41.4 (2011): 31-41.
Staples references, Tonry, Michael. Punishing Race. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011, p. 22.
Staples’ entire article is available at this website.