INTRODUCTION

In this day and age, I think I can safely say that almost everyone has seen their fair share of homosexual characters on primetime TV. For example, we have had Will and Jack on Will & Grace, Oscar Martinez on The Office, Lloyd on Entourage, and Ellen on The Ellen Show. But what haven’t we seen a lot of? Solid homosexual couples represented on primetime TV. Though we might get to see or hear of a man or woman these characters might be in a relationship with, we have never seen what goes on within any of these characters’ romantic relationships. In the past, these gay characters seem to just be there to be the “sassy token gay”, they are not sexualized or put into relationship situations at all. However, this has changed within the past several years. With shows like Degrassi, Glee, and Modern Family who have primary homosexual characters in relationships with other primary homosexual characters, we now get to see a new and realistic insight of homosexual people.

DEGRASSI

Marco Del Rossi

In season 2 of Degrassi, we are introduced to Marco Del Rossi. He begins dating his friend, Ellie, in attempt to hide the fact that he is actually gay. When the relationship starts getting too serious for his comfort, he comes out to Ellie. Ellie promises to pretend to be his girlfriend until he feels comfortable to come out to everyone else. However, in season 3, Marco meets Dylan Michalchuk, Marco’s friend Paige’s older brother, who is also gay. After coming out to a few more of his friends and experiencing some serious and sometimes violent homophobia, Marco ends up getting together with Dylan. They date for a while until Dylan goes off to college, where he wants to be more independent and “fool around” with other people. Towards the end of Marco’s senior year, he and Dylan end up getting back together after confessing that they miss one another.

A jealous Marco and college-aged Dylan fighting

Their relationship becomes a lot more serious than before and they move in together. Dylan is very serious about his hockey career, therefor Marco spends a lot of his time alone in their house. He becomes lonely and even suspicious of Dylan’s late night hockey meetings. Marco accuses Dylan of cheating and even goes through his email to see exactly what he is doing. Marco soon finds out that Dylan had just been meeting with hockey scouts who want him to play for a team in Switzerland. Dylan accepts the offer and leaves Marco home alone in Canada. Marco is constantly worried of Dylan cheating and ends up developing a gambling problem. Marco’s father tells him that it might be a good idea “to start living on his own and not be so dependent on Dylan all the time”.

Personally, I think that Marco and Dylan’s relationship is very realistic. They go through some pretty common high-school-relationship ups and downs at first such as long distance relationship troubles and typical jealousy. They also go through common relationship ups and downs as adults when they move in with each other, such as jealousy (again), missing each other, and dependency.

GLEE

The original cast of Glee in 2009

When Glee premiered in September 2009, a lot of queer characters were introduced to primetime TV. We have a pregnant cheerleader, a nerd in a wheelchair, a goody-two-shoes broadway star wannabe, and a gothic asian to name a few. One of the most interesting and most stand out characters has to be Kurt Hummel, a closeted homosexual teenage boy who is a constant target to bullies. Just like Marco from Degrassi, Kurt begins dating Mercedes, a female friend, to cover up his sexuality. After Mercedes throws a rock through Kurt’s car window in a jealous rage, Kurt finally comes out to her and explains he does not want anyone else knowing the truth, especially his father. In hopes to fit in and to trick his dad into thinking he is heterosexual, Kurt joins the football team and soon finds out he is

Kurt comes out to his father, Burt, who turns out to be loving and accepting of his son

an amazing kicker. He ends up scoring the winning point of the teams’ first game. After the game, he finally comes out to his father. Fortunately, his father is open minded and supportive of his son, as a father should be. Now that Kurt is openly gay, he continues to face ridicule and homophobia from various bullies in the school, specifically a bully named Dave Karofsky. Dave pushes Kurt into lockers, throws slushies at him, and threatens to beat him up on a daily basis. Kurt becomes so upset and begins to feel alone as ever. When Mr. Schuester separates the boys and the girls for a Glee sing-off, Kurt asks to be on the girls team, but is forced to sing on the boys team. The boys refuse to listen to any of his suggestions and propose he go do something “useful” such as spy on their competition, an all boys private school. Upon arrival, Kurt meets Blaine Anderson and almost immediately falls head over heels for him– especially after watching him perform a spectacular rendition of Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream. Kurt and Blaine go out for coffee and discuss what it is like to be gay at this age. Kurt tells Blaine all bout his bully, Dave, and Blaine tells Kurt how he can relate– he too went through bullying at his old school. Blaine specifically encourages Kurt to act with “courage” and stand up for himself against Dave. So the next day at school when Dave shoves Kurt into his locker, Kurt comes chasing after him into the football locker room demanding to know why he picks on him. Dave fights back with some homophobic slurs including how he does not want Kurt, “peeking at [his] junk.” Kurt comes back with throwing some insults Dave’s way as well as explaining how Dave is not his ‘type’ anyways. I think I can speak for the whole Glee audience when I say I was completely and utterly SHOCKED at Dave’s next move. Dave leans in and kisses Kurt. Kurt is left in such shock and runs away. He explains the situation to Blaine and Blaine tries his best to help out which just ends up with Dave becoming even more angry and violent about his hidden homosexuality. Kurt and Blaine become even closer after this incident, as Blaine continues to help Kurt out with this bully.

Dave forces a kiss on Kurt

Unfortunately the bullying gets so bad that Kurt has to transfer schools. Lucky for him, he convinces his dad to let him transfer to Blaine’s all boys private school. As Kurt quickly falls deeper and deeper for Blaine, Blaine continues to remind Kurt that he is simply a friend, however it seems that

Blaine and Kurt sing a Christmas carol

Blaine keeps flirting with Kurt. They sing romantic duets together (such as Baby It’s Cold Outside) and spend all their time together. Things start to get a bit troublesome when Rachel Berry throws a house party and ends up drunkenly kissing Blaine during a game of ‘Spin the Bottle’. Kurt immediately gets uncomfortable especially when Blaine starts to question if he might be bisexual. However, when Rachel and Blaine kiss when they are both sober, Blaine immediately realizes that he is in fact “one hundred percent gay” and thanks Rachel for helping him realize that. After his realization of his sexuality, Blaine begins to notice Kurt a little more. He watches Kurt longingly as he sings Blackbird, after the passing of his pet bird he was supposed to keep alive as a tradition of joining the Warblers. After this song, Blaine confronts Kurt about the duet he wants to sing with him for Regionals, he wants to do something “emotional”. He goes onto explaining, “Kurt, there is a moment… When you say to yourself: ‘Oh, there you are. I’ve been looking for you forever.’ Watching you do Blackbird this week… that was the moment for me – about you. You move me, Kurt… and this duet would be just an excuse to spend more time with you.” He follows this with a passionate kiss. Their relationship immediately blossoms and almost everyone is accepting of it– at least until prom season. Prom rolls around and Kurt asks Blaine to be his date. Blaine hesitates because he was beat up at his old school for going with a guy to a Sadie-Hawkins dance together but ends up accepting the

Kurt and Blaine sharing a dance at prom

invitation. At the prom, Blaine and Kurt dance and jump around to all the fast songs that are sung, but as soon as the slow song, Jar of Hearts, begins to play they stop dancing so they do not attract the wrong attention. Finally it is time to announce Prom Queen. Kurt is completely heart broken when he wins the Prom Queen title because the students wrote his name in the votes as a sick joke. Blaine tries to comfort him, explains that it was just a stupid, immature joke and he should try not to worry about it. Once Kurt gains his composure, he re-enters the prom with bravery, receives his crown and exclaims, “Eat your heart out, Kate Middleton!” It is now time for Prom Queen and King (ironically Dave, Kurt’s bully, won Prom King) to share a dance. Kurt tries to talk Dave into coming out to the school at this time, but instead he storms off and refuses to dance with him. Blaine magically steps in and asks Kurt for a dance in front of the school. Blaine never fails to melt the audience’s hearts. Even a few episodes later, Blaine and Kurt are on a coffee date as Kurt explains his trip to New York for Glee Club Nationals and out of no where Blaine tells Kurt he loves him.

I think that Kurt and Blaine’s relationship is realistic in the sense of them dealing with issues that many openly gay teenagers will face: discrimination, troubles being accepted, homophobia, etc. However when it comes to their relationship, I think it is so much like your typical heterosexual fairy tale relationship on TV in the sense that it is almost overly perfect, everything they do is right and there has not been too much conflict between the two of them since they started dating.

MODERN FAMILY

Cameron and Mitchell on the cover of Entertainment Weekly

Cameron Tucker and Mitchell Pritchett of Modern Family are very different than Degrassi’s and Glee’s main homosexual characters. This is because they are adults rather than teenagers and we do not see how they met or how they fell in love, we simply see how they live their lives together, raising a child and interacting with their extended family. In the pilot episode of Modern Family, we are introduced to Cameron and Mitchell as they board a plane with their newly adopted baby, Lily, from Vietnam. Initially, Mitchell is on the plane alone with the baby and the other passengers compliment him and congratulate him on the adoption, “You and your wife must be thrilled,” one of the passengers says just as Cameron makes his way to his seat, “Sorry! Sorry! Daddy needed snacks!” he exclaims as the passengers give him shocked looks, even an older woman’s jaw immediately drops. Mitchell becomes uncomfortable and explains to Cam that the second he stepped on the plane and the passengers realized that they were gay, they began minding their own business and leafing through magazines. Mitchell exclaims, “I’m gonna give the speech,” Cam starts freaking out, begging him to stop, so Mitchell backs down. Another passenger walks by and says, “Look at that baby with those cream puffs!” Mitchell immediately explodes, “Excuse me, excuse me, but this baby would have grown up in a crowded orphanage without us ‘cream puffs’. And you know what? A note to all of you who judge: hear this. Love knows no race, creed, or gender. And shame on you, you small minded, ignorant few–” Cam finally gets his attention to show him that Lily was in fact holding two cream puffs that Cam had brought on the plane. The perfect introduction to a hilarious, unconventional couple.

Upon return, the couple discusses how to tell Mitchell’s parents that they adopted a baby girl. Mitchell wants to do it on his own terms but Cam, being Cam, goes in a completely different and extremely dramatic direction. The family is thrilled and completely accepting of their decision.

Cam revealing a rather flamboyant mural (of him and Mitchell as angels) that he had painted on Lily's wall

Mitchell of course is embarrassed by the flamboyant announcement and even asks him to “Just turn it off,” referring to the Lion King music playing to which Cam responds, “I can’t turn it off it’s who I am!”, but Mitchell loves Cam nonetheless. Mitchell is often embarrassed by Cam’s flamboyant ways especially in front of his father, Jay. Jay always pokes fun at Mitchell for never being athletic and for all the hints throughout his childhood that he might be gay. However, as flamboyant as Cam may seem, he was the starting center of the University of Illinois football team which Jay deeply respects. Cam often participates in athletic activities with the family as well as some atypical ones. Cam is very proud of his classic training as an Auguste clown named Fizbo. He breaks Fizbo out at a birthday party which leaves Mitchell

Cameron as Fizbo

completely mortified at first, but of course Mitchell loves him anyway. Like a typical ‘modern’ couple, the two pick fights constantly over silly things, they are emotional as Lily grows up before their eyes and accomplishes some of her ‘firsts’, and they are always there for each other to back one another up. A lot of controversy has surrounded Modern Family regarding Cam and Mitchell’s public display of affection, or lack there of. A Facebook group was created in hopes of getting Cam and Mitchell to finally kiss on the show. This idea was apparently already in the works, according to the creators of the show. However, many were disappointed when the episode was aired. The storyline was about how Jay had not kissed Mitchell since he was twelve years old, so everyone pressured them into a very awkward kiss. After their kiss, Cam and Mitchell subtly kissed in the background “in response to the sweetness of it all”. This blog explains it perfectly, “The kiss was both frustratingly and admirably understated. On

Phil and Claire share a passionate kiss while Cam and Mitchell opt for a hug

the one hand, seriously, that’s what you call a kiss?! On the other, Modern Family‘s creators didn’t bow to the pressure to make Cam and Mitchell’s kiss a huge deal, sacrificing character and story line in the process. … If short, and almost showily downplayed, the kiss did seem to be exactly how Cam and Mitchell, a couple in a long-term, committed relationship who have worked out, at least privately, their kissing lives, would lock lips.” Even Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who plays Mitchell, responded perfectly to the hype over their PDA, “I want the viewers to know Mitchell and Cameron’s sex and love life is just fine. They also have regular bowel movements, but that is something you don’t see either.”

Having two gay uncles who I am extremely close to, I personally think Cameron and Mitchell are the most realistic gay couple I have seen on TV. Yes, Cam is extremely flamboyant and yes, maybe they do not kiss in public or on camera every two seconds, but that is pretty realistic to me.

REACTIONS

Along with analyzing these homosexual relationships on tv, I also asked a series of questions to both gay and straight friends of mine who watch the shows:

    1. Do you think Degrassi, Glee, and/or Modern Family can be considered groundbreaking when it comes to integrating homosexuals into primetime TV? Why/Why not?
    2. Do you think these shows provide an accurate representation of present day homosexual couples? Why/Why not?
    3. Do you think these relationships are realistic or stereotypical?
    4. What do you think the homosexual/straight audiences of these shows think about these characters, their relationships, and how they are represented?
    5. Have you noticed that the majority of homosexual couples on primetime TV are in fact male/male couples? Why do you think this is?
    6. Do you consider it to be “monumental” for the LGBT community when a homosexual couple kiss on primetime TV (Ex. Cam/Mitchell, Kurt/Blaine)? Why?

Here are some of the responses:

“1) I don’t think it’s necessarily groundbreaking perse because there have been shows in the past that have integrated homosexuals (Will and Grace), but celebratory, sure. 
2) Yes and no. I think it shows glimpses of humanity while resting on stereotypes for laughs sometimes (Kurt and his fashion stuff, Cameron and his over-the-top behavior).
3) Mostly realistic in Modern Family, I can’t say anything about the others because I don’t really watch them. 
4) All my friends love Modern Family and Cameron/Mitchell (friends being boys and girls), and my friends (girls) love Glee because I think they’re in the audience that it targets). I think because they love the shows so much they tend to think that they’re perfect representations, when in fact they’re good but flawed. 
5) I guess that’s the level of homosexuality TV execs think American audiences are comfortable with? I haven’t seen that many lesbians on prime time TV now that I think about it. 
6) Has there not been one before? Again I think it’s more celebratory than groundbreaking (think of Bridesmaids and how everyone was like “Women are funny!”…that’s not an idea that just happened, women have always been funny. But can we celebrate that idea? Sure.)” -Andrew, 21

“I personaly think that these prime time shows featuring homosexual individuals and couples has had a profound impact on my view of the LGBT community. It is from the characters on these shows and people I know from personal experience that I have had exposure to homosexuality and view it as something that simply contributes to the diversity of our culture. I recently had a LBGTA pannel discuss homosexual issues in one of my classes and one of the panelists said in regards to homosexual television appearences that he was thankful for the exposure, however he felt that the characters most commonly depicted were stereotypical white gay men (i.e. kurt/blane mitchell/cam). He seemed to feel that there was not enough diverse application of homosexuality regarding these primetime characters. In response to that, an argument could be made that exposing the public to stereotypical gay couples or individuals might serve as a a way to more comfortably introduce the subject to people who are unfamiliar or prejudice. I believe, however, that exposure to the members of the LBGT community who are typically given less attention is the best way to familiarize and teach ourselves about thier experiences. I will admit I am more comfortable seeing signs of affection from gay men than perhaps lesbians or transexuals but if we are to truly proclaim oursleves as accepting allies of the LBGT community then television may be a productive method to expose these other topics. And judging from the success of the gay characters we have already seen and grown to love, I think television is a way to revolutionize the perceptions of the homosexual experience.” -Katie, 18

“1. I think Modern Family is groundbreaking. First popular show i have watched that constantly has a gay couple.
2. It would seem like it but i really dont know any homosexual couples.
3. Seem realistic
4. I believe homosexual audiences agree it is represented well. The couple in Modern Family is not overly flamboyant and seems like normal modern day people. The show does not try to single out the gay couple as weird but fitting into society. I believe that is what the gay community wants.
5. I did not notice that and I do not know why. male/male just seems more controversial to me and when i hear the word gay i think more or male/male couples than lesbians.
6. I dont think I would call it monumental. It just adds to the portrayal of a gay living style. Gay kissing is just part of the role and solidifies that the couple is actually gay. I think the media makes it a big deal because they are just looking for publicity and want to start a scandal to sell magazines and papers.” -Nick, 18

“1. With Glee and Modern Family – absolutely. Glee, a widely popular show on PRIMETIME TELEVISION put the plight of a gay teenager in a traditional town at the forefront of their plot. and Modern Family shows a gay couple kissing and raising a family as if its nothing different – WHICH IT SHOULDNT’ BE! – this show is helping to normalize that idea.
2. I think yes and no can be said about that – I think its incredibly accurate at times but all couples and all people are different so these characters can’t represent every gay individual or gay couple out there.
3. I feel like they are realistic – with Kurt his life was very hard, and after going to a boy’s school where CHOIR is the extracurricular of choice, i don’t think its unrealistic that he finds other gay boys there….Cam and Mitchell are quirky and lovable but they have REAL problems and kinks between them – its definitely a WORKING relationship and thats what makes it realistic.
4. Kurt is a very stereotypical gay guy who is obsessed with fashion so I could see that being a little offensive to some, but Cam and Mitchell add some balance I think – you do have Cam the flamboyant gay, but Mitchell is reserved and without any prior knowledge of his family, the viewer might not even know he’s gay
5. I had never thought of that before and honestly it surprises me because the general public seems to be much more comfortable with homosexual women rather than homosexual men – I think this is the work of directors and writers trying to make a statement, trying to change how we view those couples – create more acceptance by creating gay couples we learn to love and identify with
6. Absolutely. It helps to normalize pda between homosexual couples which is obviously important for equality considering people’s reactions are so VASTLY different for pda between heterosexual couples vs. gay couples.” -Karli, 18

“1) Out of these three shows I only watch Modern Family. I think Modern Family could be considered groundbreaking when integrating homosexual couples into primetime TV, because it is one of the first popular primetime TV shows I know of that has a gay couple as two of its central characters.
2) I think Modern Family provides a relatively accurate representation of present day homosexual couples. I feel as though in reality present day homosexual couples are not any different than straight couples, as far as living arrangements or choosing to have or adopt children.
2) I think Modern Family provides a relatively accurate representation of present day homosexual couples. I feel as though in reality present day homosexual couples are not differ much from straight couples, in that both are equally varied in their living situations and their decisions to have children. I feel that this is well portrayed on Modern Family through Cam and Mitchell’s relationship.
3) I think Cam and Mitchell’s relationship is portrayed realistically. Some aspects of the relationship are exaggerated or dumbed down in keeping with the comedic tone of the show, but the same can be said of the relationships of the straight couples on the show.
4) I haven’t spoken with any of my gay friends or family members about the show, and while I am unsure of their specific feelings on the show’s portrayal of homosexuals. However, I can say that based on their senses of humor, I think they would find the show funny.
5) I have noticed that the majority of homosexual couples on TV are male couples. I don’t know why this is a trend on primetime TV. I wish there would be more lesbian couples on TV, because that would be awesome.
6) I would consider it “monumental” for the LGBT community when a homosexual couple kisses on primetime TV, simply because some shows shy away from showing displays of affection between their gay characters in order to avoid controversy. By showing homosexual couples kissing, the shows are helping establish a new precedence of equality for the LGBT community in the media. I feel as though the media considers it a big deal when homosexual couples kiss on primetime TV, because it is still something that is not regularly seen and, in some cases, still makes some viewers uncomfortable.” -Joe, 21

CONCLUSION

I believe that Degrassi, Glee, and Modern Family has been somewhat groundbreaking when it comes to introducing realistic homosexuals and realistic homosexual couples into Primetime television because before these shows, we had Will & Grace and The Ellen Show which only displayed homosexual characters who were not in serious and visible relationships with people of the same sex. I also believe that these shows do a good job of accurately representing today’s homosexual community by putting them in realistic situations with their boyfriends/partners such as arguments, homophobia, and jealousy. Though at times these characters can be pretty stereotypical, for example Cameron being overly flamboyant and Kurt and Marco being very into fashion, I think overall they do a good job at balancing the flamboyancy with reality. I also believe that the majority of homosexuals who watch these shows are not offended by the representation, they are mostly proud to be represented on TV, especially given a normative sense in Modern Family. Personally, I find it extremely bizarre that lesbian couples are not being represented on Primetime television as much as gay couples. Yes, Glee has Santana and Brittany (two best friends, one- a closeted lesbian, the other- questioning/confused) but there are not too many other examples I can think of off the top of my head. Finally, I do not think it should be monumental for two gay men or two lesbian women to kiss on TV because it should be a NORMAL thing. A man and a woman can kiss on TV without it being all over the blogs the next day, but the second Kurt and Blaine kiss or Cam and Mitchell don’t kiss, it becomes a huge deal. However after saying that, I am extremely happy that there has been gay couples kissing on Primetime TV. Hopefully this will become more of a normality in the future.