Becker, "Gay-Themed Television and the Slumpy Class: The Affordable, Multicultural Politics of the Gay Nineties"

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Please post your discussion questions on Becker, "Gay-Themed Television and the Slumpy Class: The Affordable, Multicultural Politics of the Gay Nineties" below, using the following questions to guide your reading:

1. What does Becker mean by "an affordable politics of liberalism"? "Affordable" in what way and to whom? What kind of "liberalism" is he talking about?
2. How did 1990s gay-themed television fit into this "affordable politics"?
3. Why is this a problem, for Becker?
4. What are some examples of 90s television that offered this form of politics and how did they do so?
5. Do you think today's gay-themed television operates in the same way as that of the 90s? If so, how so? If not, what are some differences?

8 Comments

Becker, throughout his article, mention the idea of the slumpy class: a group of people, generation X, like a lot of us, who are fiscally conservative and socially liberal. This is exactly how is see my political views, and I feel that gay-themed television really appeals to people who are apart of the slumpy class. Gay-themed television, however isn't exactly what it used to be in the 90s. There was more humor that made gay jokes and focused on other areas of sensitivity around homosexuality. The idea of YUPIE, youn, urban professional (feel free to toss in gay and rich) like Will from Will and Grace, was a central basis for gay characters of the 90s. Nowadays, television shows that feature gay characters often focus more on the family, eg. gay parents, adopting/raising a child. Why? Is it because now in the 2010's we have moved towards redefining what it means to be a family--breaking away from the traditional definition? Look at Cam and Mitch from Modern family versus Will from Will and Grace. How has development of gay characters changed?

In the 90’s, network executives focused on so-called quality audiences who were assumed as sophisticated cosmopolitans who wanted edgy, risqué programming with an ironic sensibility. Therefore, the executives believed that including gay characters and gay-themed episodes was just such an effective strategy. Right now, Gay theme is really common for people, but it is not popular topic as 90s. If that is so, why executives keep including gay-themed programming today?

I found a few points in Becker's article to be a bit misleading. The author makes various points about multiculturalism and homosexuality. Is the author trying to link the two together? On page 193 he talks about how Clinton ran the slogan, "If you vote for me, I will give you an administration that looks like America. He then goes on to link Clinton to the producers of the Real World. Do you feel that the author is making a little rash speculations ? Personally, I feel that multiculturalism and homosexuality are not the same. Yes, you can be a homosexual person of a different race, but that doesn't necessarily mean that all homosexuals are not white. Are his claims wrong or am I just confused?

I found that difference between 1980's and 1990's about gay-themed material through the media. Meanwhile, most gay-themed episodes in the 1980s featured coming-out narratives in which the drama or comedy centered on the moment of revealed homosexuality and the shocked responses of straight family and friends, whereas gay-themed narratives often focused on situations in which straight characters confronted and negotiated their heterosexuality in the 1990s. According to the Becker its due to multiculturalism emerged in the early 1990s.. Media producers in 1990s used gay characters as a joke, was it really reduced barrier? and changed the viewers' perspective of homosexuality positively, or negatively?

Becker opens up his article on gay-themed television with a situation from an episode of 'seinfeld' in which Jerry and George are pinned as homosexual by Elaine and then everyone is subjected to a McCarthy era-esque series of questioning of their sexuality where the response is always "I'm not gay- not that there's anything wrong with that". Do you think this attitude of being incredibly defensive about one's sexual identity persists today? We are clearly moving towards being accepting of queer lifestyles, but attitudes can potentially change when the spotlight is on one's own identity.

With shows like Jersey Shore and Honey Boo (reality) tv shows are leaning down a ridiculous path. I watched an episode of Jersey Shore in India and couldn't help but think that this is the way Indians view Americans. Americans love to watch these shows because of the abnormalities. We talked about this week how queer literally means not normal. But what is normal? Who ever set the bar on what truly is ...normal. Becker talks about the Gay-themed TV and towards the end specifically how shows tap into the viewer's unresolved prejudices. Becker questions the differences between celebrating Gayness vs Gay stereotypes "fo example, much of the episodes humor centers on an ironic acknowledgement of cultural assumptions about gay men and gay male culture." Are television producers too focused on what is normal, by showing the abnormal as entertainment? Are producers using homosexuality the wrong way?

I think it is very interesting to see the transitions of gay people being used in television. In the 80's and 90's and it was usually portrayed in a single episode of someone coming out or having difficulty dealing with it. I think at some point in the nineties there was a transition where they became a little more prominent. Now today it has separated itself even a little more with gay characters being more featured in their roles. I still believe there is a long way to go though before we can watch tv and not be able to completely highlight a gay or lesbian or transgender character. How long do you think it will be before LGBT people can be represented as just another character? And when will we start seeing LGBT characters become lead roles that aren't highlighted by their differences? As in a gay man or lesbian woman being a lead character where their sexuality isn't the catch to the show, just a part of their make-up.

It seems that television in the nineties was going for more shock humor and I think they may have felt that having LGBT characters might provide some shock comedy to people who were not used to the idea yet. In using this comical character, were producers in the 1990s helping or hurting the LGBT community?

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This page contains a single entry by zimme313 published on November 5, 2012 11:35 PM.

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