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Gay "characters"


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marycielo's thread Favorite GAY character on TV of all Time! has set me thinking.

 

Black "characters" used to be a comedy staple in Britain, because they were "black" - but you won't find them now. Gay "characters" are still a comedy staple on British radio and TV, because they are "gay" (going back to the 1960s, maybe earlier).

 

Is this wrong? Is it appropriate? Are gay "characters" even funny in 2012 just because they are "gay"?

 

*crosses fingers and hopes this will be a tolerant exchange of views and not have to be kicked into Soapbox Posted Image *

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I think the portrayal of any group, be it black, oriental, the mentally ill or gay, can be done in way that would be considered inappropriate, but it can also be done in ways that are humorous, without being demeaning. I think this relys not only on how the character is presented, but also on how it is received and interpreted. As with beauty, it can sometimes be in the eye of the beholder and if you're looking to find fault, then I'm sure you can, but we all should be able to laugh at ourselves (our our subgroup) as well.

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Good point Bill. Let's just run with that using an example: "Jewish" and "joke" almost belong together. And there are countless rib-burstingly funny Jewish jokes. But here's the thing - they're all (in Britain anyway) told by Jewish comedians. You won't find a mainstream non-Jewish comedian telling Jewish jokes. It seems to be "accepted" that this would be in "bad taste". And it's the same with "black" jokes - now Bernard Manning is dead *praise be!* you won't find mainstream white comedians telling "black" jokes (I'm sure this does still go on in fringe / private / racist venues).

 

So, yes, different groups enjoy laughing at themselves - and it's important that they can do this - but maybe they only laugh when it is one of their "own" who is poking fun?

 

But what does everyone else think?

 

Edit to add: just on the "mentally ill" I, personally, can't think of any joke that would be funny or appropriate.

Edited by Zombie
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. And it's the same with "black" jokes - now Bernard Manning is dead *praise be!* you won't find mainstream white comedians telling "black" jokes

 

 

Wait, so telling "racist" jokes is worse than saying you're happy that someone's dead? That's kind of ridiculous, isn't it?

 

But on topic, it doesn't bother me as long as it's in context. Like, Jack on Will and Grace is way more flamboyant and "gay" than any gay person I know, but it works on a comedy show. If that character suddenly showed up in a serious drama it wouldn't fit and it could be seen as at least ignorant even if it's not offensive. I think stereotypes can be hilarious if they're supposed to be. Except Tracy Morgan, he's just annoying :P

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Wait, so telling "racist" jokes is worse than saying you're happy that someone's dead? That's kind of ridiculous, isn't it?

 

Fair point, but Bernard Manning was a notoriously offensive and racist "comedian" in Britain. He exemplified attitudes that were pretty common in 1950s and 1960s Britain but, fortunately, British attitudes have changed over the years. I can provide examples if you want, but he was a pretty nasty piece of work and many people, if they're honest, can name a few people that they will be happy about when they shuffle off their mortal coils ... Posted Image

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If a gay character is played to the stereotype (whichever one you want to pick), then "gay character for gay character's sake" is a bit questionable.

 

If a gay character is played to advance the story and the character being gay is just a characteristic, I'm good with that.

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Personally, i think it's contextual and cultural. Different people see attributes and characteristics, while others see comedy or drama. For American black comedies the movie trilogy "Friday" comes to mind, which is hilarious in a satirical way about subculture and race, but not everyone gets it.

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*tries to remember the old 1980's or so tv series about the guy who roommated with two girls, and pretended he was gay so the landlord would let him...*

 

Which would you rather have, it being a comedic thing, or it being in the shadows and forgotten that is the question...

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Hmmmmmmmmm

Interesting question.

 

Personally if I'm honest it largely depends on how the character is portrayed. I've seen stereotypical gay characters that have rubbed me up the wrong way and irritated me, yet in another program a similar character is funny.

 

I think its good to be able to laugh at yourself, and think it's good to allow others to poke fun as well, as long as that's how it is intended. When it gets personal and vindictive it's time to call a halt to proceedings.

 

It's good to laugh, even if at times we are laughing at ourselves.

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If a gay character is played to the stereotype (whichever one you want to pick), then "gay character for gay character's sake" is a bit questionable.

 

If a gay character is played to advance the story and the character being gay is just a characteristic, I'm good with that.

 

Taking the analogue of the non-white character (I'm saying non-white, rather than black, because my Australian example has an Italian aka a "wog"), sometimes the character is there to point out and poke fun at bigotry.

 

The classic example in American comedy is "All in the Family", where the black neighbours are there to show how stupid Archie Bunker's bigotry really was. As a bonus, there was equal bigotry by some of the black neighbours, too, showing that bigotry can go both ways (an important lesson).

 

The Australian example, which I dearly loved, was "Kingswood Country" where the bigotted white male lead character had a great deal of trouble with the fact that his daighter was married to an Italian.

 

So a lot depends on why the characters are gay. If it's because it's just part of their character, or if it's because it brings out something in the people around them, then I think it's good. If it's just there to poke fun at that aspect of the character, then generally that's not okay in my opinion.

 

Taking a modern example, I find the gay characters in "Modern Family" to be very stereotyped BUT the situation they're in is something that's exceptional on TV at the moment, and they're not portrayed as gay to poke fun at them, but to explore the humour in a situation most people would know nothing about (gay parenting). It also becomes quickly obvious that a lot of their problems are because they're new parents, not because they're gay. Some of the humour is at the over-the-top flamboyant reactions... but even there, any parent would recognise that the reactions are reasonable (I'm thinking of the scene with the baby accidentally locked in the car in particular - panic can produce some strange reactions at times).

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