The nineties, especially the late nineties early 2000s, experienced somewhat of a “Gay explosion” in television and culture. Shows like “Will & Grace”, “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” “Queer as Folk,” and “The L Word,” (and “SpongeBob Squarepants” if you believe the homophobic neoconservative conspiracy theorists) seem to have brought Gay/Lesbian characters into the mainstream of television, and broke down old barriers that prevented people of the LGBTQ Community from being represented positively and realistically in the media. Slowly but surely, seeing characters who belong to the LGBTQ Community is becoming less taboo and contraversial. Sure we’re given characters who display some of the over exaggerated stereotypes of Gay men and Lesbian women; Gay men are hyper-effeminate and Lesbian women are “butch.” Still, television and Pop-Culture have made significant strides in portraying the people of the LGBTQ Community in a positive and non-homophobic fashion.
For the viewers, this could have positive affects as well. Simply seeing more and more Gay men and Lesbian women in television, certainly in shows that happen to be the audiences’ favorites, could possibly reduce and perhaps even squash any anti-LGBTQ prejudices they could harbor. According to this newsbyte from G.L.A.A.D., a study done by the University of Minnesota found this to be true…
New studies by University of Minnesota researchers have found that watching positive portrayals of gays on television can reduce anti-gay prejudice. In three separate studies, researchers measured the attitudes of a total of 475 college students toward gay men before and after watching episodes of Bravo’s “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” NBC’s “Will & Grace” and HBO’s “Six Feet Under.” In all three instances, exposure to portrayals of gays resulted in a significant reduction in prejudice, the university reported.
“The more they learned about gay men as a group, the more their attitudes toward gay men moved in a tolerant direction,” said lead researcher Edward Schiappa, a U of M professor of communications. The amount of change was greatest among those with little or no prior interpersonal contact with gay men.
From their studies, the researchers have created a theory called the Parasocial Contact Hypothesis, which contends that positive experiences with minority characters can reduce prejudice in a manner similar to direct contact with people. “Through the medium of television, viewers actually develop a relationship with the characters,” Schiappa said, “and this parasocial relationship leads to lessened prejudice.”
It could be argued that this is quite similar to when more African-Americans were featured in television and movies in the early seventies and how it affected White people’s view of that particular community. Or even women featured in more positive and progressive roles. The more one views a group of people in entertainment and Popular Culture with positive and progressive depictions, the more likely they are to develop an open-minded opinion of this group. It’s probably one of the best ways a society could rid itself of bigotry against those who have historically been at a disadvantage, especially when it came to culture and the entertainment world. With it becoming more and more common place to see people of the LGBTQ Community in television and movies, the possibility of ending cultural and hopefully legal discrimination against them seem to be greater. It’s about damn time.
Then of course, there is the homophobic backlash to all of this. Such as the neocons’ “SpongeBob Squarepants conspiracy” of an “extremist homosexual agenda even in cartoons, that’s trying to turn kids gay.” Yeah……sure there is. Maybe show children and people in general that people of the LGBTQ Community are not the “perverted, mentally ill deviants” as some belligerent homophobic politicians and organizations try to portray them as. We still have a ways to go.
Oh, one more thing. Amp and I decided not to change the blog’s name. So all of you can stop planning a coup d’etat against us. Thank you :-)