Afterelton.comBest. Gay. Week. Ever. (buffy mention)
Friday 15 December 2006, by Webmaster
A weekly column highlighting news about gay and bisexual men in pop culture.
HELL HATH NO FURY LIKE A GAY HEROES FAN SCORNED
Thomas DekkerAs many of you no doubt know by now, on Monday we broke the story of how NBC straightened up the character of Zach (Thomas Dekker) on Heroes, apparently at the behest of Dekker’s management. So far they are refusing to comment, but Heroes creator Tim Kring sent us an email apologizing for what happened and explaining outside pressure had been brought to bear. I knew this was a big story, but I had no idea it was going to be like tossing a Molotov cocktail into the middle of an oil refinery. Let’s just say that most of Heroes’ many gay fans put the “P” in PO’d.
I spent a fair bit of time reading the comments on our blog, and checking out posts on others sites as well. I can’t repeat most of the names NBC and others were called, but “weasel”, “louse”, and “scumbucket” came up fairly frequently. All in all, it amounts to huge sense of betrayal on the part of gay and gay-friendly viewers. During my surfing, I also repeatedly encountered a number of issues and themes about the brouhaha, mostly from straight folks, that I’d like to address here.
1) ZACH WASN’T REALLY GAY
If all of the evidence presented in our article-Tim Kring’s comments before the show even aired, Zach’s Myspace page, NBC’s own transcription of the “Homecoming” episode-weren’t enough to convince folks, then Kring’s email to us presented irrefutable proof that Zach was conceived as gay, written as gay, and was gay up until last week. You might as well argue Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy are real instead. So enough of the “ Zach didn’t seem gay to me” comments.
2) SO WHAT IF THEY MADE HIM STRAIGHT? WHAT’S IT MATTER ANYWAY?
What happened to Zach matters a great deal for several reasons. For better or worse, television is a large part of our social currency. It is how we tell stories about ourselves. It’s where we go, not only to be entertained, but to see ourselves reflected and to be validated. There is a reason there are thousands of blogs devoted to hundreds of television shows that people chew over at the office the next day.
Television matters. People care about the characters they watch every week. Just ask any fan of Grey’s Anatomy who tunes in to see who McDreamy chooses or an ER fan who has watched characters grow and change for years. Imagine the outcry if the character Terry Hatcher plays on Desperate Housewives, lovable Susan, turned out to be a serial killer who hated men and abused her daughter. But just as much of America has invested time and energy in watching Susan’s ditzy antics, the gay community was coming to know and appreciate Zach being gay.
I still remember how pissed I was when Tara was murdered on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Heck, I still haven’t entirely forgiven Joss Whedon for ruining the single best same-sex love story on TV.
(As an aside, I learned myself just how much people can care about characters when I killed off a beloved character in Firelands, one of my books! Okay, Joss. I guess I have to forgive you.)
It also matters because by making Zach straight, NBC sent a terrible message, no matter the reason why they did it or at whose request. In straightening him out, they told viewers that there is something wrong with being gay, something risky and shameful. Nice message to send to all the gay kids who identified with Zach, eh? And while I hope it’s strictly a coincidence that Zach had just had his mind-wiped, it does reinforce the creepy idea that a person’s sexuality is something that can be changed.
3) TIM KRING DESERVES CREDIT FOR HIS APOLOGY
Some people put forward the idea that Mr. Kring was trying to “spin” the situation by sending his email to us. I certainly understand that suspicion, and pondered it myself. But the fact that Dekker’s management has refused comment, and that NBC has issued bland statements about valuing diversity only confirms that the party line was to either say nothing or something that said nothing. Kring’s apology not only validated everything we said, but served to raise the profile of the issue that much higher. Trust me, far more people heard about this story because of that apology than if Kring had stayed silent. Furthermore, I think it’s telling not one other person has had anything substantive to say on the issue.
I hope that Kring and others close to show yet choose to speak even more publicly, but let’s keep in mind those that have said nothing and those that are truly trying to spin the situation.
YOUR SWEETHEART’S SMILE? PRICELESS! CALLING ANOTHER PLAYER A FAG? TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS!
Joey PorterThe National Football League finally stepped to the plate this week and slapped Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker Joey Porter with a $10,000 fine for calling Kellen Winslow of the Cleveland Browns a fag during a post game interview. Actually, Porter did it twice as he attempted so eloquently to convey that Winslow was weak and soft. Sigh. Actually, that’s only a small sigh as I think we are making progress on this topic. Every time we get ticked when a baseball manager (Ozzie Guillen), an actor (Isaiah Washington) or a lunk-headed football player uses the word fag, a few more people get the message that it isn’t an okay thing to do.
Of course, Porter still doesn’t get it. His apology was as lame as the Steelers’ on-the-field play this year. Porter defended himself by saying he only meant to offend Winslow and he is sorry if he offended anyone else. And Steeler coach Bill Cowher really stepped up to the plate when he said Porter’s comment was “inappropriate.” Whew! Tough words there, coach. Check out the video of Porter here via Towleroad.com to see it for yourself. Notice how the reporters so quickly challenge Porter on his use of the word. And oh, look! A pig just flew by overhead. Too bad Greg Couch wasn’t in the locker room. He would’ve said something.
FOR YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE
Dreamgirls premieres in New York and Los Angeles. For all of you gay boys with nieces, nephews, and children of your own, you could also check out Charlotte’s Web.
DVD wise, we’ve only got Little Miss Sunshine with Steve Carrell. Too bad Carrell’s wonderful performance was snubbed in The Golden Globe nominations announced yesterday. You can read about all of the gay nominations of interest over at the BESTGAYDAYEVER blog.
Of the new television shows with gay content, only Ugly Betty scored any Golden Globe nominations. Trust me, I’m not complaining that The Class, Help Me Help You, and Big Day got overlooked, but I wouldn’t have complained if Sally Field had received an acting nod for Brothers and Sisters.
BTW, I completely failed to mention the new episodes of Big Day, The Class, and Help Me Help You over on the blog this week. And by failed, I mean ignored.
A gay-friendly episode of The O.C. slipped by me this week. Apparently, Ryan (one of the leads) inadvertently walked in on two guys in bed together. Both actors immediately called their agents and demanded they issue statements that their characters are absolutely straight and that their being found having sex together was simply a miscommunication by the publicity department. Or am I confusing that with another show? Actually, Ryan was very cool about the whole thing and viewers presumably didn’t keel over dead from the scene.
The holidays are upon us so there won’t be new episodes of most shows. No new eps of Brothers & Sisters, Help Me Help You, The Class, Ugly Betty, or Desperate Housewives. There will, however, be a new episode of Big Day. You aren’t really expecting me to watch it, are you? You people are cold. The Real World is new on Wednesday night. As always, we’ve got our recaps of the shenanigans those crazy kids get up to. The theme of this week’s recap is "Trash." And if you missed Sunday’s episode of Brothers & Sisters the recap is up here.
I only started watching Survivor because of Brad, but wouldn’t you know it, I went and got hooked. I mention this only because the finale is on Sunday followed by the Reunion episode where it’s possible Brad might have an interesting reveal. If he does, we’ll be on it.
Casper Van DienMyNetworkTV’s new show Watch Over Me revealed Casper Van Dien’s character was gay. Apparently, he even got some same-sex macking. And Sleeper Cell also revealed that Salim (Omid Abtahi) was gay as well. I think that makes him the third gay Middle Eastern character to ever have graced American TV. But he’s a whole lot less likeable than Kenny on The War at Home or Vince on Commander in Chief, unless they were also known for chopping off people’s hands and I just never heard about it.
And Here! announced they bought the rights to the three completed episodes of the DL Chronicles, a half-hour drama about African American guys on the down low, with nine more to be shot. All the eps will air sometime early next year.
I’M GONNA BE ON THE RADIO!
My AfterEllen colleague Malinda Lo and I are going to be on QC (KQKE 960 AM) America’s national radio talk show discussing the year in queer entertainment. No doubt Isaiah Washington is quaking in his boots. Hopefully, I won’t pull a Danny Devito and show up drunk! The show airs this Sunday, 7 PM PST.
I’m sure it’s no surprise that our Heroes story was the hot topic over on the BESTGAYDAYEVER, but folks also chimed into talk about the most groundbreaking gay relationships in television history, Battlestar Galactica and the fact that Brent has the hots for Tony Goldwyn.
Now I’ll shut up so you can have the BEST.GAY.WEEK.EVER!