A Step in the Right Direction.
Last week I took my mum to see the new Star Trek film. As far as a review goes, which this post isn’t, it was great. I highly recommend going to see it.
Anyway, about 10 minutes into the film the crew arrive somewhere to refuel or whatever, and the character Sulu is jumped upon by, I assume, his daughter. He then stands up and lovingly puts his arm around his partner. A man.
Sitting in the cinema, two things then happened. Firstly, my inner monologue kicked in and commented on how not only was it nice for the writers to play homage to George Takei, who played the original Sulu and is also gay, but also how nice it was for them to portray a gay person without it being a “thing”.
It sounds odd, especially as gay culture is so open these days, but you’d be surprised how often gay characters feature in films without it then being made a feature, a way to add adult comedy, or simply to tick a box. I’ll give you a hint. It doesn’t. A gay person is very rarely portrayed by a gay person firstly, which I find odd in itself, and is often given very stereotypical characteristics which border on insulting. I’m not going to describe what I mean but I imagine you know what I’m talking about.
Back to the film, the second thing that then happened whilst sitting in the cinema was that I listened to the audience. Were they going to moan, make some comment, or heckle. Were they going to think the same as me and comment on how nice it was seeing two husbands?
No. There was nothing. Silence.
I know I shouldn’t have been waiting for something, but I was. I’m also aware that as a gay person I shouldn’t have even given a second thought to that scene. But I did. The lack of LGBT people realistically represented in film and TV is so low that when you do see it it jumps out at you. Remember this ad?
Outside of the cinema, the scene got a mixed reaction. Some were saddened to hear that a kiss was removed from the scene during final editing – I couldn’t have cared less. It was obvious who the man was to Sulu, why make it really obvious? A kiss would have added nothing. Others were frustrated that the only reason the character Sulu was chosen to be gay in the film was because of his predecessor – I actually thought it was a nice homage, although I do agree with George Takei who commented…
“How exciting it would be instead if a new hero be created, whose story could be fleshed out from scratch rather than reinvented… This would have been more impactful”.
But then that’s just me being picky.
Either way, I think it’s a step in the right direction for all communities, straight or gay, to see LGBT people in films without it being made funny. It’ll just become part of the mainstream like other minority groups now do. Remember that first interracial kiss between Kirk and Uhura in 1968?
No, me neither, but ratings plummeted after that episode, however how many comments or stories do we see commenting on the same subject now? None. With any luck, the more LGBT people we see in films and TV (I’m looking at you, children’s television) the more “normal” (I hate myself for saying that) it will become. The silence in the cinema last week was evident that this is now a possibility.
This year has already seen a lesbian character in the new Ghostbusters film, and a gay couple is featured in the new Independence Day – all without comedy or stereotyping. They’re featured without making it a thing and without taking anything away from the film, and that’s all I want to see. Not in every film, just more often.
What are your thoughts? How many gay characters have you seen in films in the past year? Do you think it’s important?
Ooh interesting! I have to admit it’s not something I’ve ever thought about but I agree, it seems like a great step forward. And now that you’ve mentioned it, there really are no gay characters in children’s television are there? Hopefully they’ll put that right soon.
So glad you wrote this! The only this-is-not-a-big-deal gay characters I can think of are Captain Holt in Brooklyn 99 and Charlie in Supernatural but I think comedy shows and anything aimed at the alternative crowd will always lead the way (not that two shows is exactly a stampede); it’s mainstream drama which plays things depressingly safe.
I can’t talk about LGBT issues with any authority but I know how concerned I am about how girls and women are portrayed in the media; our kids pick up even the subtlest messages and make their own assumptions about what’s “normal” and what’s not. If they’re not seeing incidentally gay characters on TV or in their books, it stands to reason they’re going to think of gay people as unusual and that doesn’t seem like the message we should be giving them.
My thoughts exactly. I know as parents we’ll still have a lot of input – its up to us to quash any thoughts of gay characters being “unusual” – but it won’t help if it’s not backed up in the media! Only time will tell I guess.
I think its important to represent all people in every right
[…] LesBeMums are two mums who met in 2006 and civil partnered in 2012. The blog, mostly written by Kate, shares lifestyle, travel and reviews, along with issues around same-sex parenting. Kate has blogged about everything from trying to conceive to breastfeeding and weaning. As part of a same-sex parent family, Kate has also written several posts about LGBT culture and issues. […]