Subtle homophobia on TV

One time I mentioned that in pop culture gay people are presented as only existing in the punch lines of jokes. I’ve been wanting to get back to that but it’s a bit complicated because I’d have to find the right TV show clips and get them on YouTube, which is far beyond my technological skill level! But luckily I have a smart, wonderful, fantastic partner who does these sorts of things for me. (Thanks, honey!)

So here is a clip from Gilmore Girls in which a lesbian mom is the punch line of a joke.

Now, a small disclaimer about Gilmore Girls: I think this show is preposterous and stupid and annoying and I own the entire series on DVD. Why? Probably because there are so few shows that actually are about women, that I’ll take anything I can get. The show got better for me one day when I was watching it with my lovely partner who suddenly blurted out “Is this a parody of heterosexuality?” And I snorted with laughter and ever since then I’ve just understood that the reason this show is so dumb is because they’re making fun of heterosexuals. Ha! 😀

Okay disclaimer over. This is a clip from season 5 episode 15 where there is a play going on and Luke is helping two little boys with set design. One of the little boys keeps randomly and for no reason blurting out that his mom is a lesbian. It’s not natural or realistic that a child would just keep repeating “my mom’s a lesbian” over and over and this dialogue is so weird and awkward that it’s actually painful to watch.

Here’s the clip:

Even after this clip, there are more instances of him randomly saying “my mom’s a lesbian” later in the episode.

I want to point out a few things. First off, the entire point of this kid saying “my mom’s a lesbian” is that it makes everyone else uncomfortable and we’re supposed to find this funny, apparently. (I’m assuming this was an attempt to be comical? Although it definitely didn’t work.) The reason it makes people uncomfortable is because it’s uncomfortable talking about lesbians. The second thing I want to point out is that there are no lesbian characters in Gilmore Girls and at no point do we ever meet this kid’s mom.

This is what I mean by “gay people are only presented in the punch lines of jokes.” At no point is there ever a lesbian character in the show, but lesbians are mentioned in what is supposed to be a joke and characters react by feeling awkward and embarrassed. The implicit message is that lesbians are not regular people that you might know, they’re just something weird and uncomfortable that people joke about.

The writers probably don’t even realize they’re being homophobic. They didn’t say out loud that being gay is gross or wrong or weird. But that is the subtle message being portrayed.

The way to be lesbian-positive in a TV show is to have an actual lesbian character who is a fully-developed character on the show WHO DOESN’T GET KILLED OFF and where her lesbian orientation is treated as not a big deal but is just a part of who she is.

I think this is one of the main reasons people get internalized homophobia—it’s because they are constantly interacting with people who have heard of homosexuality but only discuss it in jokes in order to make people uncomfortable and don’t realize that what they’re saying is that being gay is gross, wrong, weird and embarrassing. We internalize that and when we realize we’re gay all of a sudden it feels like we’ve become the punch line of a joke.

It may not be as obvious as the Westboro Baptist Church, but this is homophobia.

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9 thoughts on “Subtle homophobia on TV

  1. Will and Grace, the supposedly groundbreaking sitcom about a straight woman and her fabulous gay best friend, was unbelievably lesbophobic. The only episode in which a lesbian character was portrayed somewhat sympathetically was the one in which Rosie O’Donnell had a cameo. She played an old school friend of Will’s (if I remember correctly) who had also come out as gay, and who had had a child by artificial insemination.

    More typical is the episode where Will pretends to be straight in order to seduce a predatory lesbian’s girlfriend. The idea is that the girlfriend’s not really a lesbian, she’s just “on the bandwagon.” So Will makes it his mission to get her “back on the man-wagon.” Of course, Karen (the bisexual narcissist character) chimes in with “we’re all lesbians until the right man comes along.”

    The writers had a lot of contempt for women in general, too: in one of the final episodes (in fact, it may have been the very last), Will and his boyfriend have had a child via a surrogate mother. One of them says to the other, “Sometimes, when I look at him, I see you, and sometimes I just see the sad-eyed girl who sold her eggs for rent money.”

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    • I view surrogacy as reproductive slavery and I don’t support it. It doesn’t matter if the couple paying for it is heterosexual or homosexual. Surrogacy and egg donation is really just the same as the idea that poor people should sell a kidney to get ahead. Yet another reason I don’t support “LGBT+” groups, since they promote this for their wealthier members who can afford it.

      I’m not too surprised this show is lesbian-hating. Many gay men openly despise lesbians and so do their het women friends.

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  2. One of the most irritating things about this is that – I would assume – a child raised by a lesbian (or two lesbians!) would have a much more normalized view of lesbianism than other kids. I only watched the first 30 seconds or so but the whole “Do you know any lesbians? I think lesbians are nice.” sounds much more like what a kid who DIDN’T know lesbians would say, like maybe his friend, having just had a nice lunch at the kid’s house or something. “I’ve discovered the wonder of lesbians! Have you heard of them?”

    To have it coming instead from the CHILD OF A LESBIAN is so grossly homophobic in such an insidious way. I wonder sometimes if straight writers ever ask what aspects of our experiences lesbians or LGBT people in general want audiences to understand. That we exist as “remarkable variations of the norm” is not really something to be further publicized – we kind of get enough of that message thrown around already.

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