For the gay and lesbian community, portrayals of homosexuality in the media are a mixed bag. Television and film writers either accurately capture what members of the community feel, or they botch gay characters by oversimplifying their issues.
Negative portrayals of gay or lesbian characters in mainstream pop culture boil down to simple stereotypes of the community. But for many, the term “stereotype” is hard to define.
Julia Keleher, director of the LGBTQA office at the University of Idaho, said stereotypes are a generalization of a group of people and there are an abundance of negative stereotypes used to discriminate certain groups.
“At the LGBTQA community, we’ve had this stereotype for 60 years now, where gay men are pedophiles,” Keleher said. “There are positive ones, but mostly they’re just generalizations about a group that make you feel like you have to fit into that stereotype.”
Freshman Mars Cantrell said most gay characters on television are portrayed as villains or in a negative fashion, such as effeminate men or masculine women.
“There’s a lot of people in the queer community who identify with the villains,” Cantrell said. “Gay people can’t see themselves as heroes or in a positive light.”
Cantrell also defined what he sees as a positive portrayal of a gay character in fiction.
“(Gay characters) tend to be boiled down to just that one part of themselves,” Cantrell said. “So much of who they are is that they’re gay, when really our lives don’t just revolve around us being gay. Have them just be people, because we’re just people.”
Senior Clara Bowman discussed negative portrayals of LGBT characters in modern television.
“Sadly, a lot of lesbian characters end up dead,” Bowman said. “It follows the pattern of, we don’t know they’re out, they come out, get in a relationship and end up dead.”
Bowman cited the CW series “The 100” as a prime example of the “Bury Your Gays” trope, after the series killed off a major lesbian character in its third season.
“People were really disappointed because they killed off a long-standing character after starting to get a good representation,” Bowman said. “And then, bam! Dead.”
Keleher said the series “Happy Endings” is a positive portrayal of homosexuals, particularly the show’s gay male character, Max.
“Instead of making him very clean and more feminine, he was the bum of the group,” Keleher said. “He was very messy and not how we expect gay men to be.”
Keleher commented on recent changes to established characters to make them gay, such as in “Star Trek Beyond,” which revealed that the character Sulu was gay.
“I think it’s important to not make it forced for representation’s sake,” Keleher said. “Just because you make someone LGBTQA doesn’t make the character better. I like my characters to be well developed and to be gay for a reason, just part of their character and not tacked on like that.”
Bradley Burgess can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org