This video from the Hollywood reporter channel on YouTube is an interview between Dustin Lance Black (an American screenwriter & film director) and Chad Griffin (a political strategist), on gay rights within America. In it they discuss the importance of having gay characters within TV and Films, but also how to improve equality for the LGB community by challenging beliefs and stereotypes.
“The entertainment industry is at the forefront of reflecting our lives, our culture.” – (12 minutes, 30 seconds)
If we accept this quote to be true then we can see how TV has introduced LGB’s into society. Slowly this community have appeared on TV with reality shows such as ‘The Real World’, which supposedly featured ‘real’ gay people. There are also scripted shows such as ‘Will & Grace’, as well as gay TV personalities like Ellen Degeneres.
The examples listed here in this video are from American television but similar ones can be found in Britain. For example “Big Brother” has featured many gay people and the show has the same reality TV conventions of the “Real World”. We also have many gay TV presenters like Ellen Degeneres, such as Alan Carr and Graham Norton.
Through these shows gay people became recognisable and accepted more within society. “Hollywood was starting to turn a mirror on us and saying this is who we are.” – It can’t be overestimated the representation of gay people in TV and films, it’s how we look at ourselves.
If TV and films are so powerful in reflecting society then it needs to be careful with the characters they represent. To avoid any hurtful homophobic slurs/language Dustin Lance Black suggests a more diverse writing staff. If writing teams aren’t diverse then they are more likely to be ignorant to hurtful language, but having people in the room that understand and are more sensitive to this can help.
“If we want to have more diversity in film and TV, we need to have more diversity in who’s creating it.” – (17 minutes)
When people within the public’s awareness are honest they change lives and make it easier for others to be honest. It tells the younger generation that they aren’t second-class, they can grow up with the same aspirations. There are areas within America where there are no laws to protect gay people, they can still loose their jobs because of their sexuality. Dustin says that in these same areas they like sports and therefore by having people within the sport world come out this challenges peoples beliefs. It shows them that gay people can be anyone and that they aren’t the stereotypes they thought they were.
What this interview tells us is that TV and film can hold enormous power when it comes to integrating a minority into society. It can open peoples minds and challenge ideas, but what about the representatives that reinforce the stereotypes. There are times when the effeminate gay man appears on the TV, so what effect does that have? Surely it would only confirm to some people that a gay man can not be anything different, therefore it must come as a shock if someone with masculine attributes comes out. I believe what is said in this interview that gay people within sport would improve equality, because this would change peoples beliefs of gay men.