“Gay and Lesbian Celebrities”

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When I began to do my research on how gays, lesbians, transgender and bisexual individuals were portrayed in the media, I immediately wanted to research who the most recognizable gay and lesbian celebrities were today. Even though more and more celebrities are coming “out of the closet” and beginning to associate themselves more and more with the gay and lesbian communities, there is still a real lack of gay and lesbian portrayal in the media.

When I say that there is still a lack of gay and lesbian portrayal in the media, I mean that even though there are a number of gay and lesbian singers, actors and actresses, television host, and movie directors, they are often not cast or put into roles that display their sexuality.

One example of a famous openly gay actor, who always seems to be portrayed in his roles as a straight male is Neil Patrick Harris. In 2006 Neil Patrick Harris came out to the public and announced that he was, “quite proud to say that I am a very content gay man living my life to the fullest”. Even though it is very much known that Neil Patrick Harris is gay, he still plays a single, straight male in his role as Barney Stinson in the sitcom show “How I Met Your Mother”.  Not only does he play a single, straight male, but also often throughout the show he is often pursuing multiple women, always looking to find a new sexual partner.

Another example of an openly gay celebrity who rarely displays her actual sexuality while performing in front of the media is the host of the Ellen DeGeneres Show, Ellen DeGeneres. Even though she came out as a lesbian in 1997 her show tends to be focused at the straight community. She may be a proud lesbian, but when it comes to her daytime television talk show the gay and lesbian sexual orientation is usually never displayed. To me this shows that it is acceptable to be gay or lesbian as long as you do not display it. In Ellen’s case she is almost desexualized by her humor, which makes her an acceptable lesbian in today’s society.

After looking at these two cases it is evident that these celebrities aren’t ashamed of who they are, but it is the media and the publics fear of things that are different that cause these celebrities not to display their sexual orientation. To me this directly plays into intersectionality and especially SCWAMP, which stands for straight, Christian, white, able-bodied, male and property owner. Intersectionality is the intersection of everything that defines us, such as race, sexual orientation, gender and class. Even though these two celebrities and many others are openly gay, when it comes to their roles in media they are displayed as straight, white and of a high class in society and we are not given the opportunity to see how people of gay and lesbian sexual orientation really behave and interact among others and their partners.

I feel like the main cause of this is due to societies fear of everything that is different from the norm. We do not want to view two men or two women kissing on television, unless it’s for comedic value. Is this right? The media does an awful job of truly showing gay and lesbian interactions and those shows that choose to show it are usually on premier channels such as HBO’s “L Word”. Media is truly under representing the gay and lesbian communities, by muting the sexually of gay and lesbian celebrities.

This type of under representation raised the question, if gay and lesbian sexualities were more openly portrayed in the media would we still feel the same way about these celebrities that we love and identify with? 

One thought on ““Gay and Lesbian Celebrities”

  1. Interesting approach to this topic, Tom–you use the SCWAMP framework of privilege very effectively in analyzing how LGBT celebrities negotiate their status in mainstream media.

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