Friday, April 2, 2010

Homosexuality in the Media

     Society as a whole relies heavy on the media to teach them about groups of people with whom they have little contact. Stereotypes portrayed cement prejudices that people already have. The British Journal of Guidance and Counseling published an article by Lindsay Cooper that raises some great points about the portrayal of homosexuality in the media and its effects on sexual minorities. According to Cooper, “a significant majority (83%) of people believe that the media relies heavily on clichéd stereotypes of gay people.” She states, “Hollywood is the principle manufacturer of Anglo-American cultural norms that has provided us with these images…Popular images of gay men that are available, largely on film, are very negative: ‘the child molester, the self-hating, effeminate hairdresser, or the friendless, isolated, older gay man whom everyone pitied or tolerated until he ended it all.’” Those are not the only stereotypes that homosexuals have to deal with. The dominant discourse about homosexuals is that they are promiscuous, disease-ridden, over-the-top and super “fabulous”. With images like that running rampant through the media that we are constantly bombarded with, it is no wonder why some parents react so horribly to finding out their son or daughter is gay.

     Negative stereotypes in the media have a huge impact on the lives of homosexuals in a family environment. Some parents are accepting and understanding. Others however, react with anger or even violence. This can cause people to “stay in the closet” and deny their sexuality. Cooper wrote, “Factors that keep people in the closet include verbal intimidation and fear. All interviewees experienced some homophobia and were subjected to negative images and stereotypes of gay people.” One of the interviewees said, “…there was a time when I was 13/14 when people realized and I started being called gay. I realized I probably was. Of course, I denied it. That was quite a hard time.” (Cooper 425-440) Staying in the closet can push people into feelings extreme loneliness and states of depression.

     Stereotypes that aren’t necessarily negative also have a huge impact on family communication and the lives of homosexuals. Trevor Nutley once wrote, “There was a time when I could not speak to a family member without someone telling me. ‘Oh, Jack reminds me of you so much’ or ‘You and Jack are the same person.’” (Nutley 22) He was speaking of the flamboyant, outlandish, hilarious character from the TV show “Will and Grace”. Because of portrayals of homosexuals in the media, it is almost as if all gay men have to be performing all of the time and all lesbians have to be drama sponges. Sitcoms are meant to be for entertainment, but shows like “Will and Grace” and “The L Word” are being treated like educational television to get insight on what the lives of “real homosexuals” are like and it is simply a fallacy.


Cooper, Lindsay. "On the other side: supporting sexual minority students." British Journal of Guidance & Counseling. 36.4 (2008): 425-440. Print.

Nutley, Trevor. "Gay and cliche." Xtra! West 24 APR 2006: 22. Print.

Written by: Mollie Foley

1 comment:

  1. I agree fully with your perspectives and the Cooper article on the portrayals of LGBT individuals in the media. Both the negative and positive stereotypes presented in American media focused on homosexual lifestyle are extremely narrow and often elicit a negative reaction.
    One area of modern media that has caught my interest recently. Has been the focus of "Thinkb4youspeak" ads, which focus around using "gay" as a negatively connotated slang term, on mainstream channels featuring celebrities like these two with Hilary Duff and Wanda Sykes..

    Thanks for a great week of topics!