Homosexuality is no longer an undisclosed idea amongst us, and their existence in our society is no longer a question to be raised. As we know, they enter the same shops we visit every now and then; they ride the same buses and subways we catch; they walk the same streets we tread everyday; they breathe the same air we do, all for one apparent reason: they are no less human than any of us in this society could possibly be.
Despite the common knowledge we all have about the existence of these people who suddenly came out from the box, it still raises different reactions from the crowd of the so called “normal people”—as the society itself may refer to it. While others have learned to accept the given fact that there is a possibility of alteration to the socially set standard of normality, such as this one on the area of gender, there are still some who just couldn’t practice the act of coexistence with these so called “new breeds. There are still people who religiously believe that the defiance of the “norm” such as crossing from one gender to another is absolutely unacceptable. Given this reality, a lot of attempts have been made to somehow sway these people out of their enclosed bubbles. Even media, one of the most influential elements in our society, took a step further by recognizing the existence of gays and lesbians in their projects themed after different slices of life—like the top notching series Will & Grace, and the award-winning movie Philadelphia.
With people’s warm embrace with the idea in moving pictures, it seemed no far from the possibility that they could, one way or another, welcome the idea in reality with open arms; the only question remaining is: how wide open could these people extend their arms based on what their televisions feed them? According to Marisa Conolly on her article entitled Homosexuality on Television: The Heterosexualization of Will & Grace in Print Media, despite the television show Will & Grace’s attempt to promote the “normality” of the existence of gay men in the society, the show wasn’t able to fully liberate the misunderstood bunch.
Intentionally or not, certain limitations have been set by the said show, leaving unnecessary provisions among viewers which they could refer to in terms of classifying homosexuality unacceptable and acceptable for the public’s eyes. Generally, Will, one of the main characters of the said show who happens to play a part of a supposed homosexual, was somehow portrayed in a heterosexual manner; his mere association with Grace, a straight female character, shades the scene to a different color.
Their supposed friendship was brought into a different heterosexual border of relationship, wherein platonic is brought into a twisted romantic angle—somehow portraying him caught in between the certainty of homosexuality and the tendency to lean on heterosexuality. Unfortunately, their possible interest to sell is totally negating the promotion of the other, thus making it more complicated for the viewers whether to absorb him as a subtle gay who simply seeks recognition, or as a male, in the middle of an identity crisis, still clinging on the idealism of heterosexuality through tricky dramatization of his relationship with a straight woman.
The same idea was raised in the film Philadelphia by Jonathan Demme. On the said movie, instead weighing through the inconsistency of the perceived representation of character, the viewers are simply being caught in the middle of a life and death situation. Instead of making their viewers understand the real score within the extent of reality that the film itself is providing, they are subconsciously redefining pity as a substitute for this understanding. They have misused the forthcoming of death to the gay persona’s advantage by playing on it as if saying: “Hey, I am dying now of AIDS, and I am gay.
Now that I will be leaving this mortal place soon, will you please have the compassion of accepting me for who I really am? ” Personally, I don’t think that this is the proper way of educating the people because it is basically misleading. Though the two groups are closely knitted by its constant reception of seclusion from the society, it is unfair to define being gay no different from having AIDS. Being gay is not a deadly viral disease like AIDS; it is simply a way of life that is, more often than not, being misunderstood.
Upon watching the film, I was left caught at the vagueness of Denzel Washington’s character. I thought at first that he will be the one responsible to set free Tom Hanks’ character, but by the end of the film, my hopes were dropped on the floor. His supposed homophobia, which I first thought will be the vital element he has as one of the lead character, somehow got lost in the latter part of the story. The issue tackled dealt mainly on Hanks’ viral illness and how most people generally react to it—giving the homosexuality issue, which is more widespread in reality, a weak standpoint.
The common ground between the two different portrayals of gay men stated above is its tendency to seek for conditions before actually opening the idea of acceptance. For television sitcom Will & Grace, they sought for a subtle way to conform with the “norms” by partially heterosexualizing the gay character, while for the movie Philadelphia, they played with emotions, most specifically guilt, by bringing into their attention that death is an uneventful future for the character.
Basically, in their own particular ways, they are always looking for certain loop holes to pull off gayness acceptable—meaning gayness itself defines no reason to stand on its own. In this case, their uncritical viewers tend to get accustomed in looking for such passages before they actually accept certain circumstances, which unfortunately not every gay man has. In the end, publication of ideas and slices of life such as these only implies that as time passed by the society is still keeping its doors closed to the recognition of homosexuality’s existence.
Again it only shows the greatest weakness that any society has: a fear of the “unordinary. ” They are not exactly liberation but rather a form of deception in order to switch the attention of the critical public regarding their claim for ample recognition to homosexuals. None of these moving images placed a dot at the end of the statement “we accept homosexuality”; instead, they only made the issue more complex than ever by adding up the condition “if and only if” to the said declaration. If the shows themselves couldn’t accept the fact that gay men exist, how could their viewers do?
I could give credit for the attempt pull out gays and lesbians from their malicious-satirical stereotype of simply being unpleasant, loud and mischievous, but still, that doesn’t make it enough for me. Compassion may be the best way to seek approval, but seeking proofs out of the ordinary and passing it off as the best solution is nothing but a substandard achievement. Homosexuality isn’t actually an issue seeking for a special treatment; that will be way too much for a goal now that it couldn’t even reach the approval of being lined up on the average level.
All gays and lesbians need is the chance to be treated in a normal way—no more and no less than how people accept heterosexuals—where in they are not shoved away as if they are infectious beasts. Since media started this crooked representation of homosexuality on screen in the first place, I believe that they will be the only one who could correct this. Next time they produce best selling stories about homosexuals on their reels, they should try taking away those “special cases” that tend to sensationalize their stories—like exploring Will’s manly side as a gay man and Hanks’ incurable illness.
If they want to represent gay men as part of the normal sector in our society, then they could probably represent them as simple as being another friendly neighbor from the block without a semi-romantic relationship with a straight female, but rather a nonchalant relationship with another man, or a successful lawyer who need not die at the end of the story just to gain recognition for his success as a lawyer; instead, he could just be another lawyer who saved the day—roles as simple as that, just like most heterosexuals portray.
In that way, it will seem to be more realistic and fair for these people who usually live under the shadow of our judgmental society.
Courtney from Study Moose
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