Monday, June 24, 2013

Bill's Media Watch: Recent "Gay" TV Characters

Well, I'm not certain I'd call the characters on the shows Revenge [ABC] and The Following [Fox] gay or sexually ambiguous -- rather they seem to be gay only when the script calls for it.

Revenge, which was created by Mike Kelley and just finished its second season, deals with a young woman, Emily, who ruthlessly gets even with anyone who had a hand in framing and killing her innocent father. He was accused of being a terrorist and of downing a plane with hundreds of people aboard [these people and their grieving relatives seem rarely if ever to be mentioned].

There are no actual out and proud gay characters on this supposedly hip program. There was a nutty, now-deceased fellow who told his girlfriend he slept with another character, Nolan, only as a power play -- he wasn't gay [sure]. As for Nolan, played by Gabriel Mann, it's hard to know what to make of him. I don't know anything of Mann's private life, but he plays the supposedly bisexual character as if he were channeling every soap opera diva he'd ever seen, including Joan Collins. He's not a bad actor, but you have to take his Nolan with a large grain of salt. He acts so swish at times that when they gave Nolan an alleged romance with a woman it was so unconvincing as to be laughable, and the two actors had little erotic chemistry. I don't recall Nolan going to bed with this gal, and the only man we ever have seen him with is the aforementioned psychopath [an ex-boyfriend briefly appeared], but both of them wound up dead, so maybe getting involved with Nolan is slightly dangerous to your health. In the first season the wimpy Nolan allowed himself to be bossed around shamefully by the often tyrannical Emily, whom he calls "Ems" -- isn't that precious [although even some of the straight male characters have followed suit]? During the second season he seemed to develop some balls as regards to Emily -- just as he was falling for a female  -- making you wonder what kind of message the show is supposed to be sending -- assuming a program like Revenge has enough on its mind to send any kind of message. In any case, Revenge  is getting too complicated and moving too far away from its central premise, and Nolan remains an irritating character. Revenge seems determined to avoid any real gay relationships, be they healthy or dysfunctional, and so far the only "queer" characters have been either mentally disturbed or blatantly stereotypical. [We won't even go into the nasty gal, almost an evil lesbian, who claimed she was having an affair with another female character, but supposedly wasn't.] Bad show, Kelley.

Things are even stranger on The Following, which was created by openly gay screenwriter Kevin Williamson. The premise of the show, which is intriguing, is that a certain charismatic serial killer named Joe Carroll has developed a cult of equally sociopathic sycophants, who have infiltrated society and the police force and will do anything he tells him, including murdering his enemies. It would have been nice had Williamson included a gay FBI agent [not a white bread character, necessarily, but at least someone heroic], but he probably thought he was being unpredictable by going another route. Two of "followers" are assigned to keep watch on Carroll's ex-wife by pretending to be a gay couple next door, only neither are gay. [Apparently playing gay will make them seem less threatening or something.] Only it turns out that at least one of the two guys is attracted to the other, and is becoming accepting of his homosexuality, while the other one, who also seems to be attracted to his "partner," is in denial [or could be another supposedly bisexual character]. Anyway, as the show wound up its first season earlier this year, the conflicted partner murdered the gay one [his first kill was of the man who loved him], supposedly to keep him out of the hands of the police, but is also on the outs with his former girlfriend. The trouble with The Following is that many members of the following seem much too intelligent and together to be members of a cult, as such groups mostly attract utter losers. Another problem is that the "queer" characters on the show are all seriously disturbed or full of old-fashioned self-hatred. Admittedly, their sexual orientation may not be responsible for their sick psychology, but even so. . .  Flawed human beings are one thing, psychos another. Williamson may be going somewhere with this, but I won't be around for the second season to find out. Plenty of drama could have been worked up by having a gay FBI agent; substituting a couple of murderous freaks is hardly the way to go. Bad show, Williamson.

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