LGBT Portrayals in Media



The media we consume often shapes our view of things we aren't personally familiar with. From the chauvinistic stereotype common in the 18th century novel, of women being irrational, harmless, fragile creatures, to depictions of masculinity in late 20th century film. To view any one thing solely through media is to receive a distorted view, as if through a cracked lense. Below I'm going ot briefly demonstrate the evolution of how homosexuality has been portrayed in TV, film and print media, of course remembering that for many years any mention was censored by the BBFC.

In the early days it would often be referred to by euphemism or through actions that would be considered unusual for the time. Once homosexuality was legal to openly bring in to film, the first was Victim (1961), this film follows a trope that would run for a long time, the lead character is a respectable, sexually-conflicted man who's blackmailed after having an adulterous affair with a person of the same sex, it's tragic, unhappy and ends in the loss of almost everything he holds dear, the sad irony is that it could almost be an expression of Bogard's life in itself.

The US film 'The Boys in the Band' was a pioneering adaptation of an off-broadway show, but the lead gay character is portrayed as frenetic, effeminate, lascivious and mentally ill. Although pioneering it's unlikely to have left its audience with a positive impression - but for most of them being gay themselves.

The sitcom 'Are You Being Served' saw the introduction of Mr Humphreys as the stereotypical, but harmless homosexual - camp, effeminate and prone to double entente. His catchphrase 'I'm free' is still widely used both as a term of endearment and as a homophobic taunt.

Towards the end of the 20th century, we began to see film that took a fuller picture of gay and lesbian life, sitcoms of the 1990s often introduced believable and relatable gay characters (often facing criticism at the time), films like Philidephia (1993) and Beautiful Thing (1995), portrayed realistic and grounded gay characters, free of the stereotypes of the past - ultimately culminating in Queer as Folk (1999), which was probably the most transgressive controversial - and accurate portrayal of the gay scene.

With the advent of AIDS, a community that had been gaining acceptance was forced to deal with the threat of a deadly virus with no cure and a public backlash against their right to exist. The press reporting during this era, first isolating the virus as being a disease only homosexuals could catch, and then stigmatizing those with the disease likely cost many many lives.

It would be nice to say that this has ended, but certainly in the tabloid press we've had such wonderful stories as:

(on the death of Stephen Gately, a gay singer).

(it would be longer, but time waits for no man, and I'm running out of it).
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