For all of us, when growing up, regardless of our sexuality, we seek role models in a variety of ways, the most obvious place to start is with our parents or guardians and then our wider family and the friends we choose to be with. Beyond that we turn to the media, be it famous people in magazines pop stars or actors and personalities on the television, or world leaders, people in power….personally, with very few gay role models around when I was growing up, I settled on Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones as my perfect male icon.
Thankfully, television and those that make the programs happen, have been more willing to embrace peoples differences; admittedly it has taken years, but at least this media is moving in the right direction.
As previously mentioned, gay role models during the 1970’s were pretty thin on the ground; whereas the 80’s was the era we began to see gay men demanding a platform of visibility. The most obvious being in the charts with bands like Bronski Beat, where all three members were open about their sexuality through the songs they sang, like Small Town Boy and Why, While Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s video for Relax, left little to the imagination, as band member, Paul Rutherford, led lead singer, Holly Johnson into a very gay S&M club; what was their not to like?
The 1990’s got bolder in showing the world what the majority of younger gay men got up to in the clubs, pubs and behind bedroom door with the ground breaking, Queer as Folk and the Tales of the City series. As brilliant as these programmes were, there was an equal amount of gay men who thought the show gave a negative view of them, with episodes featuring countless episodes of men either taking drugs having sex or horrors of horrors, Antony Cotton, camping it up as Alexander Perry. The truth is, taking drugs and being camp have been on the gay scene since way back when, just take a look at those greek urns…the show was just reflecting one side of what it was like to be young and gay.
Over the last twenty odd years, there has been an increase in visible, out gay men in the media on prime time television, from, Alan Carr, (Chatty Man), Brian Dowling (Big Brother), Paul O Grady (for the Love of Dogs), to Simon Amstell,(Never Mind the Buzzcocks), Anthony Crank (T4, BBC Holiday) and Russell Tovey, (Being Human, Him & Her); all of which have given many young (and old) gay men the understanding that they are not alone, that gay men come in all shapes and sizes, from the flamboyant to the other end of the scale.
The most recent addition to the gay media family tree comes in the form of the brilliant, The New Normal, created by Ryan Murphy and Ali Adler, the show revolves around the lives of two handsome, successful gay men. David Murray (Justin Bartha) and Bryan Collins (Andrew Rannells), David’s a gynecologist, while Bryan is a producer of a television series called Sing, (a bit like the other gay friendly program, Glee which Ryan Murphy is one half of the creators of).
Whereas Queer as Folk was aimed at young gay men, with the story line filled with drugs, partying and having lots of sex with lots of different men, The New Normal, looks at the lives of two gay men, in a great relationship, who want to start a family of their own. Other players in the mix include, Georgia King as Goldie Clemmons, a woman who after finding her husband in bed with another woman. Quite rightly, she walks out of her old life, taking her daughter, Bebe Wood (Shania Clemmons), away from Ohio, to start a new life in California, with desires to return to law school. To raise the funds she enrolls in as a surrogate mother to raise the funds and meets David and Bryanway.
Twenty years ago, such an idea for prime time television would be unheard off, that’s not saying that this present storyline doesn’t deal with bigoted thoughts. From the right wing, racist, homophobic, extreme far right Jane Forrest (Ellien Barken) she’s Goldie’s mother by the way and makes Sarah Palin look like Mother Teresa, to the truly vile, but not unheard off man ranting off, that to see two men kissing (in a department store) should be banned. He’s problem? that it is a family store (!!) and he dosen’t want to explain the wrongs of what they are doing to his young daughter. What is refreshing is that the gay people in this show aren’t victims, asking to be excepted, they are The New Normal, where bigotry and hate is shown up for the backward, stupid ideal it has always been.
The New Normal is shown on E4 every Thursday at 9pm,