As a self-confessed pop culture fanatic with an eye towards television, I’ve been encouraged in recent years by the growth of gay representation in TV programming. I wish I could say the same for other parts of our community, but the increased presence of gay characters on TV is at least a step forward.
I’m even encouraged by the range of gay characters now present on TV. A decade ago, we had Will and Jack on Will & Grace. So…the sexless non-stereotype, or the flaming stereotype. Not that wide a range. Now, just look at the range of characters present. Just in terms of gay teens, at one end of the spectrum is Glee’s Kurt Hummel, while at the other end, we have Ian Gallagher on Shameless. Modern Family, of course, has Mitchell and Cameron as one of the couples on the show.
If there’s one gay character that makes me ecstatic, though, it’s Max on Happy Endings. I love that Max is pretty much the opposite of what’s been presented on network television as a gay character. He’s unapologetically lazy, for starters. He’s snarky.
And even then, he’s probably one of the best representations of gay men on television today. He’s just…so different from other gay characters on TV. Hell, the number of bear and cub references alone make Happy Endings stand out.
Even more importantly, the show doesn’t really make a point of treating Max as special among the rest of the cast. His relationships are treated the same way they are for any other character. When the show (spoiler alert!) put Max into a more serious relationship, it wasn’t treated with “Very Special Episode” fanfare. Hell, the kiss that capped the episode wasn’t hyped as a major moment. It just…happened. And, for me at least, it felt like one of the most authentic kisses between two men I’ve seen on TV.
This is, by no means, an attempt to slam the way gay characters are treated on other shows these days. I think there’s an absolute need for characters and programs that take the Glee approach. While gay people are increasingly accepted by our larger society, we’re still not at the place of total acceptance. Not yet, at least. I’m glad that Glee has taken its particular approach to LGBT representation. Quite frankly, it’s one of the few things the show still gets right.
But as more people come to accept gay people, it’s important to show just how varied we are. Some gay people are more comfortable with their sexual orientation than others. The way we express our gender isn’t tied in with our sexual orientation, either. The way I see it, we need more characters like Max – not exactly like Max, necessarily, but different than what we’re used to seeing.