Friday, December 29, 2006

Representing Gays in Narrative

OR REFLECTIONS ON FANS AND THE ADVOCATE THINKING CHARACTER ON HEROES IS/WAS GAY

I copy and paste the following entries I made to discussion at the Chicago Speculative Fiction Group:

12/26/2006 5:39 pm:

I got the following 'official news' from a Hollywood e-mailing I get regularly:

'NBC Counters Claims That 'Heroes' Character Is Gay
NBC has denied that Zach, the young superhero played by Thomas Dekker on Heroes is gay, despite the fact that on his MySpace webpage he describes his sexual orientation as "not sure." The issue had been raised by the gay-oriented blog afterelton.com. However, at least one other blog has noted that Dekkar has been signed to costar in The Sarah Connor Chronicles, based on the Terminator film franchise and that his character is likely to be written out of the story line. Meanwhile, Heroes creator Tim Kring is quoted in the gay magazine The Advocate as fending off the speculation about Zach's sexual orientation. Kring sent out an email message to websites where the claims appeared saying, "We apologize for misleading the audience and wish that we could have handled things better on our end. But making a TV show is often a very imprecise business. As you stated, Heroes is a big sprawling drama, and there is no reason to believe that a gay character will not be represented on our show in the future. It is my hope that if we do, we do it with honesty and dignity."'

12/27/2006 6:13 pm:

Kring's e-mail was clear?

Honestly, I think it could go either way. When I watched it, I never caught any gay subtext. I caught 'invincible cheerleader' not being interested in the guy and the 'popular' kids being Fing assholes, like 'popular' kids will be in high school.

And from what I've read from writers and producers when it comes to making TV shows, fans can totally misinterpret things happening in a show. On top of that, good writers and producers often don't like to reveal information that's more than needed about characters, settings, situations, etc. etc. so that they can have the flexibility to provide surprise or change something if it works better for the story. Half the time, that's where a conflict between fans and writers/producers can come from: fans think that a certain direction goes against continuity while writers/producers never created continuity about certain issues.

Heroes never outright said anything about the character. Except for 'outside the TV show' franchise outlets, the show never really made any clear references to the sexual orientation of the character, except to show one characters lack of sexual interest in him (when they had become quite close as friends) and high school antagonists acting like real jerks to him. Then again. . .I'm not saying the character isn't gay. . .I'm just saying it was never officially established, which I think is actually pretty cool.

As for Kring's e-mail, it sounds like they would want to present homosexuality in a different light, unless the letter's just smoke & mirrors. I just don't think there's enough established evidence to say either which way.

And why the hell am I so worked up about this matter. . .other than I think, inside the show which I take as canon compared to the franchise and media sources, that the writers and producers have left it open enough that they could make him gay, not gay or not even make it an issue.


12/27/2006 7:07 pm:

Quote [from Out.com]:
Heroes will feature a gay character, according to Kring and Fuller, who is now writing for the show. In the pilot a popular high school cheerleader with superhuman invulnerability selects a loner from her class to divulge her secret to—though he’s not revealed as gay in that episode. Kring admits, “I’m feeling a little odd about it, because I literally haven’t even discussed it with the actor yet.”


Remember the argument that Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda were working together. I'll admit that there's no clear cut evidence for or against it, but that whole premise was created in a similar manner as this. I don't see anything in quotes about the cheerleader's friend being gay. It's a conclusion that the article writer came to.

A musician friend of mine once told me how interviewers will write something in an article about her as if she had said it. In reality, though, the musician friend never said anything of the sort and doesn't even think that way.

Honestly, that's one of the main reasons I would rather ignore apochrophyllic sources other than fan discussion about the a piece of work, based on what the piece has released as information.

This whole topic, frankly, does make me see some merit to the Right wing accusation of a gay agenda. If
The Advocate makes loose connections about what a head writer/producer says and it has something to do with homosexuality, THEN IT HAS TO BE TRUE. . .kind of like if the United States President creates loose connections through rhetoric by bringing up Saddam Hussein the day after 9/11/2002 and mentioning Hussein and Al Qaeda close together, THEN IT HAS TO BE TRUE.

I'm not trying to make any kind of political statement. I'm just saying that people fall victim to a rhetorical device that creates loose connections, which they believe. And if enough people believe it, then it becomes a meme and a social truth. . .which is not rational.


12/27/2006 7:09 pm:

PS I don't mean fans necessarily make truth. I'm just saying that I enjoy discussing ideas and hypotheses that fans have about pieces of narrative and art.

12/27/2006 11:03 pm:

Gosh, I'm stuck on this for being a straight guy.

Nonetheless. . .the argument on the
http://popculturejunkies.com/2006/12/13/heroes-closeted/ Website pretty much perpetuates stereotypes of what a homosexual is, simply by their taste in movies.

And:

Quote [from show]:

"Are you flirting with me?" "Oh god no, really, no."


I totally read that as me in high school being majorly shy around a girl I like. I can count on three hands how many times I would have tried flirting with a girl then reject that I was doing it. I don't think I'm gay. . .you can ask my fiancee.

In other words, assuming a character on TV or in a movie is gay. . .hell, talking about your "gaydar" strikes me as something that perpetuates the stereotype of what it means to be "gay."

Now, I'll admit, stereotyping can sometimes be used for good use, especially when used not to offend anyone. In this case, however, I can see it expressed negatively, not necessarily by you, [name struck], but society, in general.

I see in a world that has people attracted to the same sex wanting to have equal treatment when it comes to romantically loving someone, the "this character is gay" really doesn't come off as responsible (unless you hate gays and want to perpetuate the stereotypes) when the conclusion is based on arguments of stereotype.

If
Heroes, in the end, decided to retract the storyline, then I think it's actually somewhat dumb to criticize them for it. If the argument is based simply on the representation of characters attracted to the same sex on a pure statistical level, they have half of a worthwhile argument. If the gay character thrown in simply for representation acts as a stereotypical gay person and is the only gay character on a show, then I think that could be very irresponsible. . .unless it's making a clever point.

Heroes might be able to make some kind of clever point about how society reacts to homosexuality, but that would involve a point about gay people being "mutants," which isn't necessarily reponsible, either.

I guess what I'm saying is that I agree with the supposed "smoke & mirrors" Kring e-mail. If you're going to have gay people on the show, it has to be done in a responsible manner that doesn't perpetuate stereotypes nor try to point out same-sex attraction as an aberration. After all, I would think with the whole same-sex marriage v. civil union controversy, gay people would rather be portrayed as a norm rather than a point about how different they are from the rest of the human race.

But then again, I'm sure there's a responsible and clever way to approach this one. After all, there's the controversy now about the people that argue American citizens should just consider themselves "Americans" and not have to parade their ethnicity around and be proud of it. If a gay person doesn't get portrayed stereotypically, then there's probably something to say about them conforming to the "keeping it in the bedroom" ideology when straight people are allowed to have PDA, marriage and other "normal" things.

So, in the end, I guess Tim Kring can't win. I wonder. . .in my novel, if I don't have any gay characters or describe the color of people's skin, have I caved into pressure. Especially since I wouldn't know how to approach it without possibly misrepresenting the experience of non-white people.

I'm even scared of having women in my novel. . .how am I supposed to represent the women's experience when I'm a man?

OK. I've rambled on too long.

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