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

June 27, 2012 ‐ By Charing Ball


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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  • Brad Baylis

    Reality TV CRIES OUT for a life-size Brad such as I-a cover boy handsome black Canadian lad,62,said to resemble a black cowboy stud in my Western duds.Unfortunately,neither “lamestream” or “black TV shows seem interested in someone such as I.(Face it,what black Reality show would have someone who didn’t sound “stereotypically black,’ elucidate VERY WELL,and HATES (C)RAP/hip-hop?)

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  • Brett Baylis

    D. Rose,that’s why I’m into buxom blondes and Latinas between 24 and 42.Too much drama,a** and attitude on FAR TOO MANY BLACK BROADS!!!!

  • Brett Baylis

    Of course,a life-size Brad doll-from 1970 to 1972,Brad was Barbie’s then-boyfriend Ken’s
    handsome black buddy-such as Yours Truly would have no shot at being seen on black or white reality TV shows,because we’re so good-looking we’d threaten the racist producers and directors who want us as gay bffs of b***hy black women or side-kicks of white stud/stars.That’s why I’m attempting to launch my own media company so we boyish handsome,randy,non-urban older black lads-I’m 59-can be seen by any buxom babe!!!!

  • Zee Jai

    TV is afraid of presenting gay men as sexual beings – Queer As Folk was about the only time we’ve seen this, and Noah’s Arc to a certain extent.

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  • CriticXtreme

    Real and strong black men, don’t let your male kids watch this fake crap because they’re turn so sweet they will lower case Cinnabuns instead of gees.

  • Ladyfingers

    Some of you people are so judgmental and disrespectful. Reading these comments solidifies the reasons why black people are separated the way they are. Grow the f***k up. Although this article had many valid points few of the comments did. Opinion or Not some gay men are naturally flamboyant. They are not acting. And to call them all these negative things and to deem them as something other then normal shows that you are a discriminating Bigot. Let people be who they are. Hollywood should not make it seem like these are the only versions of Black Gay men but they are who they are. And it would be fake to plant some masculine queen on the show if they only hang out with flamboyant ones. All you people want to do is complain… here is an option cut the show off if it is so awful or stereotypical..ugh..

  • Wa2

    And let the church say AMEN.. this article is nothing but the truth!!!

  • ALM

    Why is this Black women’s fault? Andy Cohen is a Caucasian male, and he is a member of the gay community himself. Andy casts these tv shows for Bravo. Black women have nothing to do with this. You need to check your misogyny at the door.

    • Eric McDaniel

      Misogyny? I doubt it. Throwing around that word negates its meaning when it’s warranted.

  • Dis Apointed

    I just hate watching these sissy strut around in women’s heels curling wigs and putting makeup on these women’s faces. “Gurl this”, “gurl that”…just sickening. I have gay friends, but NOT THAT KIND. You would never know these men were gay unless you KNOW them. They just don’t act like that. Have never wanted to wear women’s ANYTHING. AND only say girl when in like company. BUT at least these gays are getting paid to be the “mammies” they are. (just like in the movies)

    • Ashley Sykes

      i was with you until you said ” at least these gays are getting paid to be the mammies they are” SMH so money excuses everything huh? just because somebody is getting paid doesn’t make it right to continue fuckery.

  • Gimmeabreak78

    I think the author is stretching here. Flamboyant gay men are not being exploited as caricatures any more or less than any other demographic. True, the gay male characters in reality t.v. shows portray stereotyped caricatures, but the point is that nearly every reality t.v. cast member is a stereotyped caricature of his/her demographic, i.e the belligerent black woman (NeNe, Tammy), the famous-for-nothing socialite (Kim K, Paris, Heidi Montag), the past their prime celeb or not yet proven celebrity who agreed to a reality show to try to obain/regain commercial relevance (the Braxtons, the Hogans). There is absolutely nothing real about reality t.v. Reality t.v. producers are not financially or emotionally invested in portraying reality, because the truth is that reality is boring. The over-the-top caricatures are what people tune it for.

  • D. Rose in the paint

    Black women have almost completed the castration of the American black
    male…and they are taunting it our faces now! This is one of the MANY
    reasons why I have abandoned the African American community, (except for
    online where I feel it is my duty to warn other like myself). And before
    some genius decides to call me a self hater who hates his “race”! Notice
    I said African AMERICAN community, that does not consist of the entire
    negroid race! in fact its less than 3% of the entire negroid world
    population. Since abandoning I’ve learn to appreciate other communities:
    Ethiopians, Brazilians, Nigerians, Puerto Ricans, Haitians, etc, aside
    from Asian and European. African Americans have lost their way after
    the Civil Rights era…SMH. And the African American women have let the
    Women’s Liberation Movement fool them into believing that they could
    actually benefit from it in a time when the black male and female needed
    to stick together more than ever! The damage is done! And reality tv only documents it.

  • FromUR2UB

    Yes. Sassy, work-neckin’, finger-snappin’ and catty. They can have it.

  • Guest

    So sick of “ghetto fabulous” independent black women and their black male gay buddies both worshipping corporate America and material crap. They are both a big joke in the large scheme of things. Talk about role reversal!

  • Guest

    Well said. Yes they are the new “Mammies” of television. It is embarassing, not to mention tacky to see men behaving in this manner. Yes I know that they are gay, but they are also still men. To conduct themselves as if they are actually women is ridiculous. No matter what you do, you will still always be the man God made you. I know many gay black men whom I love and respect that don’t behave as if they are in a permanent pms moment. Being a gay man means you’re attracted to other men, not that you’ve actually become a woman!!!

  • olivia

    THANK YOU…I have been saying this for the longest. Most gay men in real life do not act like these overly feminine stereotypes. I have been wondering why the gay community has not spoken out about the way that they have been portrayed in the media.

    They are quick to attack everyone else but seem to be blind when it comes to the coonery and buffoonery that casts their community in a bad light.

    • gryph

      they like black people are just happy to be on tv.

  • SlapBoxx Boy

    I think these women have found the perfect husband. They have someone to talk to, you know someone who actually listens. Does all the sappy stuff they need, and does not bother them about sex. Ain’t that the perfect husband?

    • FromUR2UB

      No. That’s a girlfriend, and even though he may think he’s a woman, there are some things I wouldn’t feel comfortable talking to him about…because he’s a man. Women really DON’T want their men to act like their girlfriends. Trust me on that.
      Plus, these guys are already ugly as men. They make hideous women.

    • Alexis Morris

      I dont want my husband to be my girl. I want to have sex with my husband, I don’t want to go shoe and purse shopping with him.

  • Candacey Doris

    They’ve been the mascot for women trying to be someone for the longest time. And it does suck for gay men that don’t act like that. I bet they feel the same way watching them as we do watching films where the black best friend pops up just in time to give advice. And just like the people that played those roles, these gay men are trying to get ahead in the only roles Hollywood will give them. Hollywood doesn’t want to show people that 90% of gay men are just normal people who don’t have time for all the drama that goes on in those shows. Sad

  • CaribTorch

    They have been for the longest while. The overly masculine thug that the media portrays must be transformed into a raunchy homosexual to appeal to the same audience. Just look at some of the most famous black men ever, they all behaved girly; Prince, MJ, Lionel Richie (soft than girly). But they are never manly heroes like Bruce Springsteen aka “Boss”

  • MLS2698

    Those men are apprentices, learning how to act and be womanly.