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Portrayal of the LGBT community in the media

Homosexual milestones: 1972 to 1999

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Some milestones:

bullet 1972: An ABC made-for-TV movie "That Certain Summer" featured Hal Holbrook and Martin Sheen as a gay couple.

bullet 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.

bullet 1977: Billy Crystal played the role of "Jodie Dallas" a bisexual man in "Soap".

bullet 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

bullet 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.

bullet 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.

bullet 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.

bullet1986 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:

bullet 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.

bullet 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."

bullet 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 couple. 2

bullet 1993: A TV ad for a Danish newspaper, Politiken, featured a male couple kissing. This is believed to have been a world first.

bullet 1993: Two curious teenage girls kiss on Picket Fences. But CBS ordered that the "offending" scene be re-shot in the dark.

bullet 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.

bullet 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.

bullet Roseanne Barr and Mariel Hemingway kiss during the program Roseanne.

bullet 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.

bullet 1996: Friends celebrates a "lesbian wedding." The brides, Carol and Susan, played by Jane Sibbett and Jessica Hecht do not kiss.

bullet 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.

bullet 1997-JAN The ABC drama series Relativity broke new ground. The JAN-11 episode contained a lesbian scene which included caressing, nuzzling and passionate, open-mouthed kissing.

bullet 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

bullet 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.

bullet1997-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:

bullet #35 on the list was Ellen's coming-out episode (originally broadcast on 1997-MAY-30).

bullet #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)

bullet 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 were outraged.

bullet 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:

"Just 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.

bullet 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.]

bullet1999: 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:

bullet 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."

bullet 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).

bullet 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.

bullet 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


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 pastor, said:

"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, 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.

bullet 1999: On Spin City, Carter was openly gay and was portrayed as a sensitive individual.

bullet 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.

bullet 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

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Other developments:

bullet 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 episode.

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References used:

  1. "The adventures of Miles Cowperthwaite," Saturday Night Live, at:
  2. "Lesbian kiss is daytime first," Associated Press, approximately 2003-APR-15, published by the Toronto Star, 2003-APR-16, Page F4.
  3. "Sunday Afternoon: Ad overview,", at: 
  4. The Cathedral of Hope's webpage is at:
  5. "The Original British Series: Queer As Folk," C1TV Entertainment Television, at:

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Site navigation: Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality > Agenda & news > Media > here

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Copyright © 1999 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2012-OCT-18
Author: B.A. Robinson

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