Are Gay Men the New “Mammies” of Reality Television?

June 27, 2012  |  

Source: blogs.cofu.edu

Heck, I’ll even go as far as to say that the gay black man has become the new housemaid “Mammy” to these women’s Scarlett O’Haras. Think about it for a second: most of these gay characters harken back to a time in cinematic history where the white rich women in the antebellum South needed their “sexually non-threatening ” black female maids to nurture and basically make them feel good about themselves. If the black maids weren’t “fussin’ after the mistress of the house, making sure her dress fitted properly and her hair was tight, she was in the kitchen, dancing, smiling and singing Go Down Moses as she whipped up for her mistress a big ole’ mess of her famous fried chicken and sweet potato puddin’. The gay male characters of today act very much in the same vain. But instead of shucking and jiving for the approval, and favor of rich white women, these gay best friend characters trade on their non-sexual “companionship” for heterosexual legitimacy.

In real life, it is not uncommon for homosexual men and women to make friends. If two people, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, share the same personality trait than there is no reason why they shouldn’t form a bond.  The issue I have with these characters is that more often than not, it is assumed that since the men are gay, he is there for the sole purpose to entertain or serve these women in some way. I have watched on several of occasions, characters from these shows not only proudly proclaim their affinity for “The Gays” but then go on to declare the gay character as “one of my girls.” Well they are not girls. They are men, albeit gay, but still very much intact with their men parts.

Moreover, on these shows, ALL gay men are into the same thing (i.e., fashion, hair, makeup, electronic music and listening to the women banter about their heterosexual sex life).  And because all of these gay male characters are the same, it gives an unfair expectation of how gay men are in real life. I mean, what is to happen to the straight-laced gay guy that rocks tailor made suits, a briefcase, has a boring 9 to 5 like an accountant or lawyer and doesn’t speak with a lisp?  I tell ya what happens: he is unfairly stereotyped into the roll of what society, and more accurately television, says a gay man is supposed to be.

Like so many other reality TV show watchers I have began to notice the casting on these shows seems to be on reinforcing our expectations of a certain group. The loudmouth, angry black woman is probably the most notable – if not talked about – of these memes.  But there are many, many others, including the non-threatening gay sidekick, which are just as pervasive.  The irony is that the gay male sidekick is supposed to show how progressive and completely accepting of homosexuality these women are. However, watching these reality TV show characters tote these men around on their arms like latest handbag would be just as bad as watching a character in an old black and white film, saying that she loves Negro people because, “I have a Black maid.”

It is tokenism at its most egregious. And even Andy Cohen, Bravo TV executive and creative force behind the Housewives series, acknowledges as much in an interview, when he stated that while the gay sidekick character on his reality shows are his favorite, he could never see them headlining a show of their own as, “I think it could be a little relentless. I love them, you know, but I think sometimes when a sidekick gets their own show it becomes too much.”

Too much for who? Those who can’t seem to see people outside of what they feel comfortable with? Outside of a few drinks at the latest posh nightspot, what real connection do we ever see with their gay companions? They don’t champion causes. They never ask them about who they are seeing or their families. Heck, we are not even invited into their homes.  Another irony is that rarely, and I mean almost never, will you see a woman befriend a lesbian. I guess that would mean being a little “too” accepting of homosexuality.

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