Wednesday, October 24, 2012

[Australia] - Gay News Network - Gay Dads and Stereotypes - Tim Hunter

House Husbands
Tim Hunter from GNN has a look at Gay Dads and Stereotypes in the Media and talks about one of my favorite shows of the moment, House Husbands!

While stereotypes still exist, there's now more light and shade in the way gays and lesbians are portrayed on primetime television, observes Tim Hunter.

A recent report in the US from GLAAD has highlighted the fact that we have more gay and lesbian characters on TV than ever before. Glee, returning to our screens this week, is singled out as the leader of the network pack, while True Blood dominates their cable channels. Yes, the gays are moving away from just being tokenistic ciphers. But what about here in Australia? How is gay representation on our commercial networks faring?

Starting with US shows broadcasting here, you can’t go past Modern Family. Four seasons in, and this lovable dysfunctional extended family, including gay couple Mitch (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cam (Eric Stonestreet) and their daughter Lily, is an important part of Ten’s early evening scheduling; new episodes are screening on Sunday nights while repeats screen weeknights. And as camp as Cam is, and regardless of Mitch’s endless list of issues, this very affectionately presented gay family is both progressive and helps ‘normalise’ their lives for a wider audience.

Also screening Sunday nights on Ten, immediately after Modern Family, is the sitcom The New Normal. David (Justin Bartha) and Bryan (Andrew Rannells) are your average white, middle class gay couple living in LA, but they’ve decided to have a baby using a surrogate, Goldie (Georgia King). While the premise of the show, from Glee creator Ryan Murphy, that non-traditional family units are the ‘new normal’ is laudable, Bryan is a walking – nay, mincing cliché, complete with an over-styled fashion sense and a scriptwriter feeding him witty one-liners.

That’s not to say these stereotypes don’t exist – that’s why they’re stereotypes – but aside from dealing with issues of prejudice and acceptance, it’s Ellen Barkin’s barb-tongued grandmother of Goldie that’s going to steal the show.

Back on home soil, and still on Sunday nights, is House Husbands on Nine. It’s about four hapless stay-at-home dads, played by Gary Sweet, Rhys Muldoon, Firass Dinari and Gyton Grantley, struggling with working mums, custody battles and gay parenting. Kane (Grantley) is the co-parent of six-year-old Stella, the orphaned niece of his partner Tom (Tim Campbell).

What’s refreshing here is the deliberate non-issue of their sexuality and circumstances. It’s not obvious they’re a couple until the second episode, and the word gay is not even used until episode four. Rather than an effort to downplay their sexuality, it’s more about showing that it really doesn’t matter. Kane and Tom are just regular guys who happen to be gay: Kane has his own pie business that he runs from home as he cares for Stella, and Tom is a fireman which is why he isn’t the primary care-giver.

There was however a lovely scene in hospital, where Tom asks Stella, on her way to surgery, to stop calling him Uncle Tom, and call him – and Kane – Dad instead. For a very mainstream local show on a notoriously conservative network, House Husbands presents a fuss-free and even-handed depiction of gay parenting.

A bit more fluffy is the gay character Jonathan (Damien Bodie) in Winners & Losers. He’s a likeable but stereotypical gay man, confidante to Frances (Virginia Gay), and as such is well groomed, fashionably dressed, always in party mode, and ready with advice or comfort. In the first season, he was fairly one-dimensional, more of a caricature or cipher than a real character, but this season, he’s been fleshed out a bit, with a new boyfriend, Rhys (Nick Simpson-Deeks), dealing with Public Displays of Affection, and both victims of a homophobic bashing from a nightclub bouncer, and Rhys’ coming out to, and off-screen rejection from his parents.

None of this is groundbreaking stuff, but it’s a step in the right direction. Oh, and for the girls, Frances enjoyed kissing a bisexual girl, which made her wonder if she was a lesbian. It was explained away fairly quickly as a ‘buddy crush’.

And just a quick word about I Will Survive, Ten’s less-than-successful talent show based on a road trip to Alice Springs to find a Triple Threat performer to take the lead in the musical version of The Adventures of Priscilla on Broadway. It’s a shame that it hasn’t rated better than it has, because there’s some good talent there, and it does a lot to deconstruct Australian masculinity. The good mix of straight men and gay men get on well together, and show emotion and affection for each other easily, regardless of sexuality. And two out of three of the finalists are gay. Go Tom.

So where does that leave us? Well, clearly, gay couples – and parents – are much more easily accepted and included on TV now; there have been no outraged protests about their inclusion in House Husbands. And while the stereotypes still persist, at least there’s more light and shade – and positive role models – than there was even ten years ago. Here’s to more in the next ten.

[Source: Original Article]

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