The Bully Pulpit

By Alston, Joshua | Newsweek, November 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

The Bully Pulpit


Alston, Joshua, Newsweek


Byline: Joshua Alston

TV is full of gay role models these days, but they won't solve the problem.

You may have heard about (or seen) the city-council meeting in Ft. Worth, Texas, that took a turn for the viral. Councilman Joel Burns used his time with the microphone to deliver a tearful elegy for the gay teens who have committed suicide recently, revealing in the process that he too had been bullied as a teenager because he is gay. The video is the latest in a program organized by author Dan Savage, who mobilized the gay community to take part in a project called It Gets Better, in which successful, settled adults record YouTube clips to encourage gay youth to stick around for the rainbow after the storm. It's a laudable and moving response, but for gay teens, a lack of role models onscreen doesn't seem to be the issue.

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination, which is usually all too eager to heap scorn on media images it finds wanting, released a study last month that actually showed gains in the number of gay and lesbian characters on television, including teen-agers. There is, of course, Kurt, the preening he-diva of Glee, which also includes experimenting cheerleaders Santana and Brittany. Friday Night Lights features a punk-rock girl named Devin, and Weeds had a spunky, plus-size model named Isabelle. This season on 90210, moneyed tennis phenom--and ladies' man--Teddy is slowly discovering that he's gay, and the virtuosic therapist on In Treatment will treat Jesse, a troubled gay teen who deals prescription drugs and uses sex to escape from his emotions.

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