A GLAAD study released in July revealed the levels of representation of LGBT characters on US television. What they found wasn’t great.
We pondered the depictions of LGBT characters on television and in the movies and, instead of lauding the best, we are here to lambaste the worst LGBT characters.
1. Waylon Smithers – The Simpsons
Okay, so The Simpsons began in 1989 and the depictions of LGBT characters were few and far between, but that doesn’t make any excuse for the lack of development in the character of Smithers.
A man who has an unwarranted and unrequited love for his cruel, father-figure boss, Mr. Burns. Eventually, it is revealed that his father died when Waylon was a child, just influencing the audience’s assumptions that a man only grows up gay if he doesn’t have a father in his life. Smithers is the token ‘only gay in the village’ of Springfield who is used as a ‘love interest’ for whatever sparse gay characters come into the show for an episode (see the character of John from Homer’s Phobia). He is obsessed with musicals and Malibu Stacy, and has a naked animation of Mr. Burns on his computer. I can’t say for certain that Smithers hasn’t developed as a characters – I stopped watching around 2007 – but my assumptions are that nothing has really changed.
Repressed, filled with unrequited love, and overly bitchy? Check.
2. Catherine Trammel – Basic Instinct
I’ll admit, it’s hard to focus on the plot of a movie when the most famous scene has ben studied for years just to see if Sharon Stone really is wearing underwear.
Catherine Trammel (Stone) is the bisexual protagonist of Basic Instinct and is portrayed as violent, murderous, psychopathic and sex-crazed; you know, like all other bisexuals… The depiction shows bisexual women as obsessive and noncommittal, ready to jump the bones of any man or woman roaming the vicinity. Not only is she willing to have sex with everyone, but she is willing to perform sexual pleasure on another woman for the benefit of a male onlooker, and damn if she doesn’t use sex as a weapon.
For your own benefit, watch the campy trailer, it’s glorious.
Psychotic and performing lesbianism for the benefit of a man? Check.
3. Buffalo Bill/Jame Gumb – The Silence of the Lambs
It is understandable that there aren’t exactly going to be nice or accurate portrayals of characters in a Hannibal Lecter film, however, this just goes beyond expectation.
Buffalo Bill is the serial killer whom Lecter is asked to help find. Bill has been killing women and skinning them – so far, so creepy. Eventually, it is revealed that Bill, real name Jame Gumb, was denied a sex-change operation and, instead, decided to skin women and wear their fucking skin as a woman suit. Because, y’know, that is what trans* people do when they can’t get an op… Begin murdering people.
This film is a perfect example of ‘othering’ LGBT characters in film.
Murdering, dressing up as a woman, creepy? Check.
4. Ricki – Gigli
Right, so this film is absolutely awful, we all know that. The dumpster-diving moment of Bennifer’s relationship, Gigli is everything you would hope a film would not be.
Ricki, played by J.Lo, is a lesbian from the outset. She is in a relationship with another woman when she meets Affleck’s Gigli. Gigli begins to lust after Ricki (because, duh) and is frustrated by the little problem of her sexuality. Then, Robin – J.Lo’s girlfriend – turns up and accuses Ricki of cheating, before she slits her wrists and has to be rushed to hospital.
Soon thereafter, Gigli’s magic penis turns Ricki into a man-loving straight gal and they ride off into the sunset together.
Hysterical jealous lesbian lover and a magic lesbo-curing penis? Check.
5. Kurt Hummel – Glee
Otherwise known as the character through whom Ryan Murphy vicariously lives, Kurt is the effeminate, crying, fashion-obsessed, boy soprano that every straight girl wants as her ‘gay bff’.
Initially obsessed with his straight step-brother, and then eventually finding love with another gay stereotype, Kurt is the stereotype that has been pushed into shows and movies for years. I’m not saying he’s a particularly bad character – he has helped a new LGBT generation feel accepted and represented – he’s just a bad stereotype.
Bitchy, jealous, emotional and effeminate? Check.
6. Cam/Mitchell – Modern Family
Now, before you get all up in arms, admittedly Modern Family is a hilarious show, but it has quite its share of stereotypes.
Cam and Mitchell are the sexless, brunch-eating queens who could have been one of the best depictions of a healthy gay relationship on mainstream television. Criticised for not showing the couple kiss for TWENTY FIVE episodes, their first kiss was in the background of the second episode of the second season. The storyline developed as a response to the criticism that Cam and Mitchell never kissed, and rightly so.
The episode dealt with Mitchell’s aversion to public displays of affection… So, they blame the gay character and his father’s closed off emotions for the men not kissing. When they did kiss, it was as platonic as possible, even with it being on the lips.
Then, progressively, the two characters got engaged in season five, without so much as a handshake, as the episode cut to black. How convenient.
Sexless, needy, emotionally stunted? Check.
7. ‘Gay Priest’ – Pain & Gain
Michael Bay couldn’t be considered a man who would write an accurate and/or sympathetic view of homosexuality. However, that doesn’t stop this film from depicting gay lifestyle even more offensively than you would expect.
Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson) is a religious body-builder who flips his shit when he is accosted by a pervy old man, who happens to be a priest.
Great, so not only is this old guy creepy and decrepit and basically seen as a sexual predator, it also seems to make little of the abuse people have received at the hands of the clergy. In retaliation, Doyle beats the figurative shit out of said priest.
Though the film is based on a true story, this was not any part of the real storyline so, basically, Michael Bay just thought it would be hilarious to include an old gay letch and watch him get beaten up by a huge body builder.
Pervy, religious, lusting after a younger man? Check.
8. Bryan/David – The New Normal
Another vicarious dive by Ryan Murphy into the lives of successful and loving gay men in a mainstream show. It’s also another show riddled with more stereotypes than you would hope from a gay writer.
Bryan, played by Andrew Rannells, is the effeminate, needy, fashion-conscious one; David is the sports-loving, butch one… Oh how hilarity will ensue with this original concept of an ‘Odd Couple’ who seem to just work.
Though it can be lauded for depicting surrogacy and gay parenthood, did they really have to go with such obvious depictions of the ‘man and woman’ relationship? There are millions of gay people and there are more types of relationships than the heteronormative trope of The New Normal.
9. Lindsay Peterson – Queer As Folk US
So Queer as Folk, as we know, was pretty groundbreaking. Sure, it had its issues and it was definitely not perfect, but it managed to show at least a few different depictions of gay people. That’s all fine and dandy, but their lesbian representation can only be described as sub-par.
Linsday Peterson and Melanie Marcus are the angry, selfish, jealous lesbians that you wouldn’t ever want to hang out with. Melanie hates almost everyone, she’s all pinched-angry face and selfish as hell. But Lindsay is even worse.
Lindsay is the best friend of the protagonist, Bryan, and has had some kind of crush on him for years. That’s fine, okay, it can happen. It’s pretty clear, however, that her crush is a slight obsession and Melanie blames Bryan for it. (Remember? Angry lesbian!) Melanie and Lindsay have a child, whose biological father is Bryan. Then Lindsay has sex with a man because that’s clearly what lesbians do, but eventually the women get back together and take their children to Canada… The land of the gays.
Angry, kinda-straight, man-hating? Check.
10. Ronnie “Z-Man” Barzell – Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls
The campy and, admittedly, terrible film is yet another one which depicts gay-for-pay lesbianism but the real issue is that of the trans* character, Z-Man. Z-Man is a famous rock producer who helps the musician protagonists of the film make it big. Z-Man eventually attempts to seduce a gigolo, Lance, and after a rebuttal, reveals he has breasts. Then Z-Man goes on a murderous rampage, because that’s what trans* people seem to do in film… Right?
Z-Man murders four people in the rampage before being killed.
Murderous, deceptive, terrifying? Check.
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