I found myself surprisingly moved when we watched the season three finale of, Schitt's Creek, the television series on POP. When David decides to use his Blouse Barn money to open the Rose Emporium, he goes to apply for a business license and meets Patrick, a straight-acting, but of questionable sexual orientation - man. There is a mysterious chemistry and attraction from Patrick, that David decides to ignore. I found myself routing for the young attractive Patrick, hoping that David would open his eyes and get a clue.
Patrick offers to invest in David's store, in exchange for a partnership. David reluctantly accepts his offer. For the entire season, we watched and hoped that they would connect - a side glance here and there, an awkward hug, etc. Everyone around them can see what's going on, but David refuses to believe and puts up a defensive wall.
The Roses entered the scene two years ago as spoiled, narcissistic, emotionally void, rich white people. Under unfortunate circumstances, they lose their fortune to the IRS. They decide to escape to a small town that they purchased back in the good old days, on a whim and as a joke, called Schitt's Creek. They settle into two dingy rooms in the local motel that hasn't been touched since the 1960's.
We watched David's character as he befriended the motel manager, Stevie, an odd but smart, attractive young woman. At one point they become lovers, break up, but remain friends. In an odd twist in season two, they end up hooking up with the same hot dude at a party - but separately. There are awkward moments when they try to decide who is actually dating the bi dude. Then in this season, David seems to have switched teams and has come out as gay. Yay for us!
Toward the end of the last episode, David and Patrick finally have an official date, which ends up with a kiss as Patrick drops David off at the motel. It turns out that this is the first time Patrick has kissed a man. For the moment, they are going to take it slow. End Scene. It was very touching and sweet. Over three seasons, the Rose family has evolved into three-dimensional characters who have been transformed by love.
This got me to thinking when I was a kid growing up in the 1970's, I would have never dreamed such a story would be shown on television. I wonder how differently I would have viewed the world if such a thing could have been possible. Maybe I would have made wiser decisions when it came to choosing boyfriends. Maybe I could have avoided that rough patch of self-destructive behavior I encountered in my mid 30's. Or maybe - I would have just made the same mistakes anyway. Who knows?
We live in a golden age of television where gay and lesbian characters are finally being portrayed in realistic ways, like the actual people we are and know. If you can't find them on regular TV, you can pull them up on demand, or find them on NetFlix, or Amazon Prime, and a variety of other network options. There is an astonishing array of gay-themed programs and windows into gay culture.
It has taken a long time to get to where we are now. But oddly enough, I had an "aha!" moment one afternoon when I came home from school. There was a program on TV, that was sort of like an afternoon special. It was about a gay boy trying to maneuver his way through high school. I don't remember any details, but I distinctly remember him talking to one of his male teachers, alone after class. In the scene, the teacher writes on the chalk board - I am gay, revealing that he too is a big homo. I remember thinking to my self - oh my god, that's me!
In those days there were no role models. There wasn't really positive language that described what a gay person was or what they could be. I just knew it was going to be bad and it scared the shit out of me. If you did see the portrayal of a homosexual on TV or in the movies, they were crazed, suicidal degenerates or they were fey, limp-wristed, girly men who were the butt of the joke. I thought Paul Lind and Charles Nelson Riley were funny flaming queens, but they weren't anything that I aspired to be.
One of the first gay male characters to make it on to a television series in the 1970's, was Jody Dallas, on Soap. I found him offensive. He was a cross-dressing homo who still dabbled with women. It was confusing and certainly not anything I wanted to be either. Being gay and cross-dressing are entirely different things. Don't get me wrong, I love drag and drag queens, but it's totally unrelated.
In the 1980's, we were bombarded by portrayals of gay men dying of AIDS, on made for TV movies and specials. All of us who lived through the AIDS crisis knows just how devastating it was, but really - did every gay character on TV or in the movies have to be dying of AIDS or losing someone to the disease? Couldn't someone just be living a normal life, going about doing amusing things?
The Golden Girls finally gave us a few gay characters in the 1980's, that didn't have to die immediately. For what ever reasons, we related to the Golden Girls on a very personal level. We saw ourselves in these wonderful senior women. The smart sarcastic one, the sassy slutty one, the innocent blond airhead, and the unfiltered wise-cracking matriarch.The Golden Girls will go down in history as one of the gayest shows ever made for television.
The true turning point came about with the series, Will and Grace, in the 1990's. During this time I was busy living life and didn't spend a lot of time watching television. I had men to catch and partying to do. I really didn't start watching it until it was several seasons in and on constant re-runs. I have to confess that Karen Walker is my favorite television character of all time. I laugh every time I think of Anastasia Beaverhousen - like where the beavers live. It really should have been called the Jack and Karen show.
This was the first time we had a show ABOUT gay men who lived their lives in the open and didn't apologize for it. They were funny, flawed, and made terrible life choices. They couldn't maintain a relationship outside their circle for more than a season or a couple of episodes.That was kind of unfortunate, but not too unlike the life some of us were leading at the time.
Although we began to see an array of gay characters on television, in my opinion, there have been some mishaps along the way. We endured the disappointing American version of Queer as Folk. A story about a group of humorless, unpleasant, gay men living in a mysterious blue-collar town. They even threw in a couple of even-more-humorless, narcissistic, angry lesbians- determined to have unfortunate babies.
The most offensive character in recent times is, Cam, from Modern Family. We all love a nelly queen, but I have never met an actual gay man that acts like the giggling, limp-wristed, prissy lady-bear, Cam. I can relate to Mitchell, but he seems to be trapped in a sexless marriage to a very annoying man. The only interesting thing about them is their daughter, Lilly.
We saw our first gay couple that actually slept in the same bed, and at times kissed, in the short-lived, The New Normal. A story about a successful gay couple in Los Angeles, who decides to hire a surrogate to carry their gay-by. I don't remember if the baby ever materialized, but I do remember the surrogate's daughter, Shania. The precocious, funny little girl, heading into a life of hag-dom.
After that, it seems like the horses were out of the barn, and television was inundated with numerous gay shows and characters. We even got our own network, LOGO. We were finally introduced to the African American gay life style on Noah's Ark. We watched Charlie David travel the world, and explored gay life in rural America, with the comedian, Ant.
But the greatest gift from LOGO was the gayest show of all time, Ru Paul's Drag Race. The show debuted nine years ago and elevated the art of drag to new heights. The queens from the show have been sky rocketed to international fame and success. The show is still going strong. You can't step into a pair of heels, slap on some makeup, put on a wig, and call yourself a drag queen anymore. It's a fierce competition with high expectations.
I could go on and on, but as I reflect on our last year or so's television viewing, I am pleased to see so many gay characters living out loud on the boob tube. The hilarious, self-sabotaging Titus, from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmitt. Robert and Sol, the not-too-late-in-coming-out, senior couple on Grace and Frankie. The clueless, but adorable high school student, Kenny, from The Real O'Neals. The hateful but loving couple, Freddie and Stuart, of the UK's Vicious.
For all their quirks, flaws, and bad life choices, we love them all and are proud to have them as members of our diverse queer family. I'm gay, just like on TV! You kids don't know just how good you have it.
Hello Sailor Creative Director, Interior Designer, TV Critic, Barkley's Dad, Danny's Husband, and sometimes bad life choice maker.