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.