In High School, I first faced an identity crisis in regard to my sexuality. As most do during the time, I started to wonder about it and my place in what felt like a very large world. And around that time in the early 2000s there were only two examples for me to draw on to figure out what it was to be gay. The NBC sitcom Will & Grace and the Bravo reality show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. I was about as lost as you might think.
See, both shows prominently feature homosexual characters and people. Will & Grace featured two regular characters, Will Truman and Jack McFarland, both of whom are gay but are drastically different. Will is a character that features some stereotypical gay features, but is otherwise reserved and a homebody. Jack however, is the embodiment of every gay stereotype. A self-proclaimed diva, fashionista, and despite being unable to hold a job for very long, still has a holier-than-thou attitude. Combine the two characters with some of the antics and information displayed on Queer Eye and I was a very confused teenager.
Was there a requirement for me to be absolutely preened head to toe? Was my back hair unseemly and in need of removal? Was I supposed to worship Cher as a musical icon because she, too, is fabulous? Looking back, I certainly succumbed to some of these ideas (show me someone that can shave their own backside, and I’ll show you a gold medalist in gymnastics), largely because I still didn’t grasp my sexuality and what it meant. So, not really listening to the little voices in my head saying it was ridiculous I hammed myself up in school, doing my best to fit a new idea in my head that I was supposed to act in a manner some would call “femmy”.
But then something would happen sometime after High School and I had a realization. In the same manner that Will and Jack were different varieties of gay, but still with some similarities, I could be my own version of a gay male. In other words I could just be… me. I was able to figure it out but what if I had watched the shows at a younger age? Would I have been able to debunk my learned behaviors as easily? I certainly don’t know the answer, but I do know is that for most teens coming to terms with bisexuality, homosexuality, or a different gender identity, there aren’t very many places to look in the world of TV.
But, what I’ve figured out is that in the end it’s just meant to be entertainment. Sure, it can be argued that such shows will be under scrutiny simply for being a show that has something few others do. But in the case of Will & Grace, it’s a show about friends and relationships with what I see as a theme of being gay in reality. Or as close to reality as a sitcom with a laugh track is anyway. Queer Eye attempted something a little different and had gurus trying to help people be better versions of themselves. Not enough shows that aspire to that right?
So, in the end, let’s try to take entertainment for entertainment’s sake and not take everything that is tossed at us as some kind of a truth. Hm?