Blake KanewischerDecember 1996
The images we are inundated with daily revolve around straight couples and their relationships. One has only to look at movies, television, and novels (to a lesser extent) to see this trend.
Romeo and Juliet's recent adaptation starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes is just one more example of this straight monopoly. The TV show Friends continually bombards its viewers (gay and straight) with straight relationships. The novels we read rarely feature gay relationships.
Straight teenagers have any number of coming of age movies to turn to in their search for affirmation of their sexuality and societal acceptance of that sexuality and the relationships they enter into. Romeo and Juliet comes to mind, in its many forms, along with many other movies (made for TV and otherwise) that explore the depth of the male-female relationship as teenagers and young adults. When straight teenagers watch a film, they're likely to see frank discussions of (among other topics) HIV positive teenagers, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, partner abuse, rape, date rape, and many other serious topics in the context of the straight teenage relationship.
Television is hardly less fruitful for straight youths. In fact, because of the more immediate nature of the medium, even more taboo topics are discussed more frequently. Incest, child abuse, child sexual abuse, and so on. In fact, on a recent CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) show I watched, dealing with sex and relationships among teenagers, only one mention (brief, at that) was made of homosexuality in a thirty-minute program. Needless to say, the remainder of the program was spent affirming heterosexuality in all its myriad, insidious forms.
Books and magazines everywhere bombard us with relationship issues. YM is perhaps the most insidious of these for straight teenage females. They're continually given advice on "How do I know if this (straight) relationship is right for me?" or "How to find the perfect boyfriend", and so on. Not one mention has been made in YM of "How do I know if this lesbian relationship is right for me?" or "How do I find the perfect girlfriend?". Again, this blatant heterosexist slant ingratiates itself into our consciousness.
So, you might say, what's the point? Gay teens do have some things to draw inspiration from. Recent movies along these lines have included Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, To Wong Foo, The Birdcage, and Jeffrey. (Well, perhaps Jeffrey isn't quite so recent, but you get the picture!) These movies all feature gay (or gay-positive) story lines with one common element--older gay men. Hardly teenagers at all. The same problem exists on television, with the exception of a recent series on MTV. Even novels rarely, if ever, take into account the possibility of homosexual relationships at the teenage level. Sure, there are a few out there, but the sheer number of heterosexual romance novels FAR outweighs the number of gay romances for teenagers.
So, what's the solution? Romeo and Julian? A gay version of the Wonder Years? Sweet Valley High gay romances? Fag dating / relationship rags? I'm not quite sure. But, one thing's for sure. Unless we get our society's collective head out of the sand, gay kids are still not going to see successful examples of their relationships and of their lives. Without those examples, I'm afraid we're gonna lose more and more gay kids.
We need those examples at the actor / actress level, at the show level, and everywhere. Register your displeasure with this crap by calling or e-mailing studio executives. We need to make our voices heard!