A few facts, ladies and gents: fish don’t fry in the kitchen, beans don’t burn on the grill, and gays who aren't White and upwardly mobile tend to get treated like a tiny, burnt piece of chicken on television.
For years now many have complained about the often-linear depiction of gays on the small screen: Well-to-do White men playing largely into a heteronormative narrative. The issue isn’t just a matter of inclusion, though. It’s about perpetuating a fallacy about the kind of lives gays lead in this country. While there is certainly a segment of the population that are top earners with lots of disposable income – ergo, why they tend to be the most vocal of the bunch – the fact is most gays are working with far meager means.
There’s a new report from the Williams Institute that confirms this, noting that members of the LGBT community are more likely than their straight peers to live in poverty. Worse, Blacks, women, and children are especially vulnerable to economic strife.
The study goes on to note that, “ While male same-sex couples have lower overall poverty rates than married different-sex couples, male couples were more likely to be poor than married different-sex couples after controlling for other characteristics that influence poverty.”
Children in gay households “are almost twice as likely to be poor as in married different-sex couple households.” Moreover, African American children in gay male households have the highest poverty rate (52.3%) of any children in any household type, and the rate for children living with lesbian couples is 37.7%.” Black gay households also “have poverty rates at least twice the rate for different-sex married African Americans.”
And as Salon’s Katie Mcdonough writes, “Contrary to dominant media narratives about gay affluence (the ‘New Normal,’ ‘Modern Family’ and others spring to mind), the data on wealth, sexuality and gender identity portrays a vastly different reality shaped by a nexus of gender, sexuality, race and geography.”
This is a reality check for the village idiots of the world who seem to be under the unfortunate impression that “turning gay” is now the magic key to wealth and success. Likewise, it’s a reminder that stories about gay life from Hollywood don’t just need several cans of paint, but also different perspectives.
It’s a similar point I made in a Salon piece complaining about the dearth in Black sitcoms focused on the working-class.
I love that Cam and Mitchell from Modern Family can fly to Asia and scoop up a child for their cute California home. The same can be said for the ultra-rich Bryan and David from The New Normal, who hired a surrogate to start their perfect little family. Those shows are fine, but it’d be nice to see something else.
Why not a gay Good Times? It’d be nice to see how a bunch of gay men and women scratch and survive in this economy. You know, before they reach their deluxe apartments and start looking to make babies. There are plenty of untold stories – stories that can humanize these people in ways statistics cannot.
And before you ask, yes, I’ve tried to be the change I’d like to see (so if you've got a direct line to Shonda Rhimes, tell her I have screenplays for days). As of now, Hollywood remains indifferent, but perhaps that’ll change soon. After all, The New Normal tried its best to paint a pretty picture of gay life and it got canceled anyway. Maybe folks are ready for something new after all.