[In May 2004, I was on a panel at the Museum of Television & Radio (now the Paley Center for Media) in NYC with creators, writers and cast members from the Showtime programs Queer as Folk and The L Word. Soon afterward, a review of the event appeared on the web site TheLWordOnline.com.]
Steven was a pleasant surprise. I heard “historian” and I prepared myself to be bored senseless. Instead he was enthusiastic, funny, and extremely personable (he even turned his body so he spoke to the audience). He was a treat!
He praised the producers on the work that they’re doing, and on “breaking ground” in a way that’s not only mind-boggling, but fulfilling for many gay men and women who grew up without images that they could identify with on television. He spoke about PBS which, though in the 80s made great strides, hasn’t evolved very much since then. You won’t see a station like that picking up QAF or the L-Word. Gay men and women are used in mainstream shows, he said, usually as either a complication in straight people’s lives, as comedic relief, or as the neighbour who sits and gives advice when needed.
QAF and the L-Word are the first shows, he said, where gay people actually know other gay people. You couldn’t hear the line that followed over the laughter and applause! It’s the first time, he said, that gay people are actually important enough to warrant their own show, their own story, and where straight people aren’t the core characters, but the complication.
The other thing that was funny (well not really) and Dan touched on this as well, was that the Network Television embrace gay characters as long as they are “non-threatening:” the flaming hairdresser, the homicidal lesbian….anyone that “entertained” or who the audience could look at and say “well of course she’s attracted to women, she’s a pychotic killer, CLEARLY she’s not normal.” But when you have same-sex couples, living and loving and having intellectual conversations it forces people to reassess their beliefs that something’s “wrong” with gays, so the networks shy away from that.