Film and Television Representations of Gay Men and Lesbians

Essay by beavb419University, Bachelor'sA+, February 2006

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Queerness might be the most pervasive sexual dynamic at work in mass culture and reception. As homosexuality was introduced into our culture, many negative stereotypes instantly arose and the gay and lesbian community was oppressed from the start. Early film and television attempted to create well-rounded homosexual characters, with considerable attention given to the way in which their stereotypes shaped the public's impression of the gay community. Since the evolution of new ideas and new ideologies, the depictions of gay men and lesbians in the media today have overcome much adversity that was presented in years previous. As homosexuality continues to filter into our society, film and television portrayals of it have transformed from ruthless mockeries to open messages and symbols about the realities of their culture.

The amount of media representation that gay men and lesbians receive has grown a significant amount, in both a quantitative and qualitative matter.

The media try to be consistent with the perceived consensus of moderate Americans when it comes to the descriptions of gay characters. The early depictions of gay characters focused solely on their practices and beliefs and did not show the characters connected to symbols, commodities, or trends, those of which heterosexuals are generalized by. The homosexual community pushed for representation because they wanted an identity in American society. This integration of the gay culture into the media shifted from many weaknesses to several strengths while following Clark's four stages of media representation: nonrecognition, ridicule, regulation, and respect. The nonrecognition stage marked the early beginnings of film and television when homosexuality was completely absent. This stage ended with the introduction of gay men in film in the 1930s. As these stages progressed, the media labeled homosexuality with a new identity and purpose every time, creating a more optimistic outlook on the...