Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Color Television

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Color Television

Article excerpt

Somewhere in the Land Where Television Is Made, we are only slightly visible--and then woefully out of focus. "What us?" you ask. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people of color who look and act like anyone we know. We have sat by, apparently content with the queeny, quipping white males who pop in for humorous asides on quite a few sitcoms or the occasional sardonic transvestite or the "Surprise!" lesbian or the one black gay man (who at least has a political consciousness) on Spin City.

Is it enough? I, for one, think not.

We've made strides, there's no doubt. Will of Will & Grace, the bisexual detective on the late Homicide: Life on the Street, and, of course, our bold Ms. DeGeneres paved the way for others to dare to move toward a less flamboyant caricature of life on our own side of the street. Not to forget NYPD Blue last season, in which Bill Brochtrup's John Irvin was gentle, loyal, spiritual, and brave enough to punch a murderer in the face--and, later, to take a bullet from a bereaved father as he tried to stop him from hurting others.

But every one of those heroes is still white as snow.

Now it's time for the Second Wave. In the year before the turn of the millennium (which begins, I'm sure you all know, on January 1, 2001), let's work together, both creators and viewers, to see the broad panoply of us portrayed on network series.

Bring on the African-American hero of an action hour, the Latina lesbian who balances career with lover, the transgendered person who is not the butt of jokes but, finally, comfortable with who he or she is.

How do we do it? For the creators, writers, and directors, I humbly suggest these guidelines:

* Define the character first. Create characters as you always have, and then examine what a difference another race and sexual orientation might make--how might it color their decisions, the way they do their jobs, the relationships that may be developed among the cast. What new stories might it open up that haven't been explored on television, making your show fresher and more interesting?

* Fear not the advertiser revolt. Advertisers want numbers, and well-crafted characters in solid shows deliver viewers (with higher per-capita income and more disposable cash, I might add). …

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