Portrayal of the LGBT community in the media
Homosexual milestones: 1972 to 1999
||1972: An ABC made-for-TV movie "That Certain Summer" featured
Hal Holbrook and Martin Sheen as a gay couple.
||1975: The first gay couple was portrayed in the series "Hot l
Baltimore" ("Hot l" is Hotel with the "e" burned out). It was
a Normal Lear production on ABC. George and Gordon were a older gay couple.
||1977: Billy Crystal played the role of "Jodie Dallas" a bisexual man in "Soap".
||1979: Michael Palin, Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Bill Murray,
Gilda Radner and others appeared in the Raging Queen sketch on
Saturday Night Live. The Raging Queen is an imaginary ship staffed by
some rather effeminate gay sailors. 1
||1981: NBC adapted the TV movie "Sidney Shorr into the TV sitcom "Love,
Sidney" In the movie, Sidney was gay, but pressure groups successfully influenced
NBC to change the lead part into a person of indeterminate sexual orientation.
||1985: NBC showed TV movie "An Early Frost" which featured Aidan
Quinn as a young gay man who had to tell his parents that he had AIDS and that he was gay.
||1986: My Two Loves was a made-for-TV movie featuring
Lynn Redgrave and Mariette Harley. Harley played the role of a recently
widowed woman who began to question her sexual orientation. She had an
affair with Redgrave in the movie.
||1986 to 1994: Homosexuality had
become a controversial topic. By the mid 1990's most North Americans, while not
necessarily "approving" of gays and lesbians, recognized their existence and
became in favor of equal rights for persons of all sexual orientations.
Some TV events were:
||1986-7 season: Dana Carvey was a cast members of "Saturday Night Live" on NBC
from the 1986-7 season until 1992. One of his many recurring
characters was Lyle Clark, the effeminate homosexual.
||1987: Kellog Co., producers of the Nut N' Honey
Crunch cereal aired what is believed to be the first homophobic TV
ad throughout North America. It portrayed four scenes in which
individuals responded to the question "What's for breakfast"
with a reply that sounded like "Nothin, Honey." In the final
scene, some male cowboys reacted violently when their mail cook gave
the reply; they drew their guns. The Coalition Against
Media-Marketing Prejudice (CAMMP) complained: "The commercials
send a serious and dangerous message: that gays and lesbians or anyone
perceived as sexually or behaviorally different are easy and
acceptable targets for trivialization."
||1991: Amanda Donohoe and Michele Greek, playing the roles
of C.J. Lamb and Abby Perkins, hugged and kissed after they succeeded
in winning Abby a raise on a 1991-FEB episode of L.A. Law.
Advertisers threatened to pull their ads. This
is believed to be the first kiss on network television by a lesbian or gay
||1993: A TV ad for a Danish newspaper, Politiken,
featured a male couple kissing. This is believed to have been a world
||1993: Two curious teenage girls kiss on Picket Fences. But
CBS ordered that the "offending" scene be re-shot in the dark.
||1994: Ikea placed an ad on TV which featured two men shopping for a table
together. It was one ad in a series which was designed to show that all kinds of people
shop for furniture at Ikea. This is believed to be the first TV ad which
portrayed two gays as an ordinary couple.
||1994: Serving in Silence is a made-for-TV movie about
Margarethe Cammermeyer, a nurse who challenged the military's official
position on homosexuality. During an interview for a security
clearance, she revealed her sexual orientation. She said that she
would "rather lose [her] uniform than [her] integrity."
The movie features Glenn Close and Judy Davis, both of whom won Emmy
Awards for their performances.
||Roseanne Barr and Mariel Hemingway kiss during the program Roseanne.
||1995: Chris Bruno played the role of a gay school teacher on "All My
Children" from 1995 to 1997; he expected to return periodically in the future.
||1996: Friends celebrates a "lesbian wedding." The brides, Carol
and Susan, played by Jane Sibbett and Jessica Hecht do not kiss.
||Circa 1997: Many gay and lesbian non-lead characters were being featured in TV
comedies such as: "Melrose Place" and "Roseanne". "Friends"
featured a lesbian couple.
||1997-JAN The ABC drama series Relativity broke new ground. The JAN-11
episode contained a lesbian scene which included caressing, nuzzling and passionate,
||1997-MAY: On the MAY-30 episode of Ellen, Ellen DeGeneres became the first
openly lesbian actor to play the lead role as a lesbian in a TV sitcom.
Chrysler, Mazda, Wendy's and J.C. Penney withdrew their ads from this
episode. However, ABC did not lose any advertising revenue. They charged
replacement advertisers twice the normal rate. Volkswagen had an
interesting ad on this episode. It portrayed two men tossing a discarded
chair into the hatchback of their VW. "...many lesbians and gays
immediately thought the VW-two were supposed to be a couple, while most
straights assumed them to be roommates." 3
||1997-MAY: Jorja Fox played the role of Maggie Doyle -- a doctor on "ER" (Emergency
Room) who is a Roman Catholic. She came out as a lesbian. But apparently none of the media
watchdog groups noticed; there was no response to this development by
conservative Christian groups.
||1997-JUL-4 A special collectors' issue of the TV Guide was published. The
editors devoted almost 40 pages to rank "the very best shows from five decades of
television history." (1950's to the present time). They prepared a list of "The
100 Greatest Episodes of All Time" These are "timeless treasures," originally shown on prime-time:
||#35 on the list was Ellen's coming-out episode (originally broadcast on 1997-MAY-30).
||#38 was an episode of "My So-Called Life" in which "Rickie
(Wilson Cruz), who's gay, has a crush on Corey (Adam Biesk), who likes Rayanne (A. J.
Langer)" (originally broadcast on 1994-NOV-10)
||1997-OCT-29: "Ellen" has an episode showing her
first awkward meetings with another woman in a developing lesbian
relationship. Ellen (played by Ellen DeGeees) and friend Joely Fisher
kissed in a bar. Advertisers pulled their ads. Religious conservatives
||1998: An NBC sitcom, Will and Grace is structured around two
gay men and a couple of heterosexual women. It debuted in the fall and appears to have
been successful. One Canadian reviewer described it as "dialogue-rich"
and "one of the season's best new shows."
1998: Coral Ridge Ministries, a Fundamentalist Christian
group, aired an add which featured Michael Johnston, a gay male, and his
mother Frances. She indicates her love for her son. But she says:
because you love your children, it doesn't mean you approve of
everything they do. Sometimes they make bad choices. My son Michael
found out the truth -- he could walk away from homosexuality. But he
found out too late -- he has AIDS. If you love your children, love them
enough to let them know the truth, that there is hope for change, hope
for the future."
The implication is that gays can change their
sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. The ad raised a
great deal of anger from gay-positive groups who felt that the ad was
grossly deceptive. Essentially all human sexuality researchers agree
that gays can "walk away from homosexuality" only by deciding to
be celibate. It took until 2012 for Exodus International, the leading promoter of reparative therapy, to admit that it was ineffective and potentially dangerous.
||1999: ABC aired an episode of "thirtysomething" which
contained a scene in which two gay men were in bed talking. The network
lost over $1 million in advertising revenue.]
||1999: Actors portraying characters with a homosexual orientation
became more common on TV drama shows. In many cases, they were not brought in for one or
two episodes; they were permanent characters who are seen weekly. For example, In 1999:
||Warner Brothers' Dawson's Creek featured Jack, a gay character whose
experiences reflect that of series creator Kevin Williamson. The reaction from
conservative Christian anti-gay groups has been silence - unlike the furor which erupted
over Ellen DeGeneres in 1997. Williamson commented: "It's a very good sign and
I'm thrilled about the lack of controversy...I was kind of expecting this. I was hoping,
at least, that the climate was better."
||Fox's Party of Five, featured a bisexual woman who begins a lesbian
relationship after the breakup of a heterosexual affair. Also on this
program Julia kisses her lesbian professor Perry (played by Neve
Campbell and Olivia D'Abo).
||NYPD Blue had intermittently featured a sensitive, caring, and obviously
gay clerical assistant in the detectives' squad room. One episode described a gay-bashing
incident involving the assistant and his partner, who was a police officer . In early
1999, the clerk became a permanent character.
||1999: A Hyundai advertisement was aired in Sweden, Belgium
and France. It shows a woman driving a Hyundai and hiding her boyfriend
from view. Then her husband appears in another Hyundai, shielding his
lover from view - a young man. It was given the "Gayest Commercial of
All Time" Award by visitors of gay.com-PlanetOut.
1999-APR-8: After decades of anti-gay broadcasts by conservative Christians, the Cathedral
of Hope aired a program by and for lesbians and gays. 4They
billed it as the "first-ever Lesbigay National Telecast." It is available
from their website via RealAudio and RealVideo. The beginning of the program features
anti-gay hate signs, banners, and speech. This is a total contrast with the rest of the
program which is gentle, inclusive, dignified and spiritual. Rev. Michael Piazza, senior
"For too long homophobia and religion has been synonymous on TV in
this country. Although the Cathedral's first broadcast is only a small drop in a sea of
oppression, we have discovered that a drop of hope can neutralize oceans of hate."
Their program was rejected by The Oddessy Network, The Discovery
Channel, Lifetime, BET,
and The USA Network. It took almost two years of struggling and a nine-month legal battle.
But the program finally found a home on the Chicago TV superstation WGN which is carried
by many cable TV companies. The church received many bomb threats; it was visited by the KKK, picketed by Rev. Fred Phelps of http://www.godhatesfags.org,
and Operation Rescue. Main goals of the program are to offer hope to homosexual youth who
are at a high risk of suicide, and to help counteract the isolation of the rural LGBT community.
||1999: On Spin City, Carter was openly gay and was portrayed as
a sensitive individual.
||1999: On the program Ally McBeal, Ling (played by Lucy Liu)
has a dream of a sexual encounter with Ally (played by Calista Flockhart).
Later in the episode, they re-enact the scene.
||1999: Queer as Folk debuted in England. "Its
steamy, pill popping, no holds-barred depiction of life in Manchester's
club scene had tongues wagging as soon as it was commissioned, and the
rumormongers weren't disappointed." 5
||The Simpsons cartoon series has featured gay characters. Waylan
Smithers chronically has a obvious crush on his boss, industry mogul Montgomery Burns. The
character Carl was at one time a personal assistant to Homer. He kissed Homer in one
- "The adventures of Miles Cowperthwaite," Saturday Night Live, at: http://snltranscripts.jt.org/
- "Lesbian kiss is daytime first," Associated Press, approximately
2003-APR-15, published by the Toronto Star, 2003-APR-16, Page F4.
- "Sunday Afternoon: Ad overview," CommercialCloset.org, at: http://www.commercialcloset.org/
- The Cathedral of Hope's webpage is at: http://www.cathedralofhope.com/
- "The Original British Series: Queer As Folk," C1TV Entertainment
Television, at: http://queerasfolk.c1tv.com/
Copyright © 1999 to 2012 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2012-OCT-18
Author: B.A. Robinson