Prejudice Against Gay Characters on Television Still Prevalent

A Look Into Past and Present Characters in Television & How Society Has Yet to Accept the Gay Community


“Modern Family” dads Cam (Eric Stonestreet) and Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) try to redefine stereotypes. (Courtesy of ABC)

If you’re like me and have taken multiple history courses, you have heard at least once or twice the phrase “history repeats itself.” Now, surely some disagree, but in terms of confronting diversity, history is repetitive. In 2012, I would think most Americans have surpassed their own intolerances in order to be open to new things such as people of different backgrounds and  sexual orientation or preference. This certainly is not the case. In the 21st century, although Americans have made some great strides, we still oppress those who are different, specifically the LGBT community.

In the United States, some television programs or shows have been thrown against the wall for not depicting the “typical American family.” The first gay character on television was in the 1970s on a show called “All in the Family” and led to protests and backlash. If my math is correct, it’s been 42 years since then, but Americans are still often against television’s gay characters, gay couples and the LGBT community. But the question is why?

Perhaps it’s because we aren’t as modern as we think we are or that we can’t adapt to change. Yes, we have made many strides in the LGBT community concerning gay rights, but Americans have yet to completely accept this community on television.

Rick Perry, along with many other anti-gay activists and organizations, has protested against gay soldiers in the army and gay rights in general. His claim, amongst others, is that “to be gay is a choice and it is indecent.” I know in the words of Lady GaGa, “No matter gay, straight or bi, lesbian, transgendered life…you were born this way.” It’s not a matter of choice but a matter of equality and freedom. So maybe the problem is that those against this “choice” are outdated and closed-minded.

Bryan Fischer, the biggest closed-minded person, is the director of the American Family Association and is known to be a bigot on homosexuality for his unethical statements. Although educated, he targets homosexuals in the media and in general saying “[homosexuality is the] single greatest modern threat to freedom of religion and conscience.” He has created these radical statements to justify his own ignorance and to explain how homosexuality “increases sexual confusion in children.” Point being, we aren’t modern or tolerant.

On the show “Pretty Little Liars,” one of the main characters, Emily, is a lesbian.  She dates other girls and lives a normal life with her three best friends, but backlash has also risen against this character. The Florida Family Association asked advertisers to pull ads from the show, claiming the imagery was irresponsible.

Over the past decades, there have been many TV shows that have incited negative feedback from the public but have also shed light on the reality of the America that we all live in. “All in the Family” ran for eight years on the CBS television network and based one of its main issues on homosexuality. One of the groundbreaking episodes of this show focused on a character named Beverly who was beaten to death for being “different.” The fact that Beverly was beaten to death reflected the reality in which Americans were living at the time, and surprisingly, it still appeals to the reality of homosexuals in America now.

Despite the backlash, however, these shows do continue to do well. The characters on “The L Word” developed a more in depth look on the everyday-mundane lives of the LGBT community, and “Pretty Little Liars” has been a hit for ABC Family.

Perhaps, these real depictions of how the LGBT communities aren’t so different from heterosexuals are what cause Americans to shout out against TV gay couples. Perhaps anti-gay activists fear that there can’t be any judgments on homosexuals because they are just like heterosexuals. Fear of change and actually being the same is what could possibly give us an insight into the controversy TV gay couples cause even though many shows like “Modern Family” have been praised by many Americans. The cast has even won 11 Emmy Awards while depicting a gay family on the show.

Americans need to face reality in terms of today’s society and not the society of the past decades when homosexuality was considered obscene and “indecent.” We can’t continue to allow bigots like Bryan Fischer to tell us what is right when he makes incorrect statements all the time. TV gay couples aren’t a portrayal of “indecent [behavior]” but of the reality of couples in America.