The Prime Time Closet: A History of Gays and Lesbians on TV

By Cleary, Johanna | Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Winter 2003 | Go to article overview

The Prime Time Closet: A History of Gays and Lesbians on TV


Cleary, Johanna, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly


The Prime Time Closet: A History of Gays and Lesbians on TV. Stephen Tropiano. New York: Applause Theatre and Cinema Books, 2002. 332 pp. $16.95 pbk. Given the current media buzz surrounding Bravo's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, it may be hard to recall the groundbreaking nature of the "coming out" episode of the Ellen sitcom only seven years ago. Yet the decision by the show's star, comedienne Ellen DeGeneres, to out herself and her ABC character in April 1997 was perhaps one of modern prime-time television's most significant events. That episode, while enormously important, was just one moment in a long evolutionary process of American television programs dealing with the subject of homosexuality.

In The Prime Time Closet: A History of Gays and Lesbians on TV, Stephen Tropiano offers one of the first in-depth studies of how gays and lesbians have been portrayed on entertainment television. Tropiano, director of the Ithaca College Communications Program in Los Angeles, provides an important addition to the growing literature on the media's representation of homosexuality. Reminiscent of The Celluloid Closet, Vito Russo's seminal work on gays in American film, The Prime Time Closet's real value is its critical analysis of gay-themed television story lines and characters.

Like Russo, Tropiano deconstructs many of the programs' messages and ties them to contemporary events in American society. he divides prime-time television shows into four categories including medical and law and order dramas, dramatic series, and television comedy. (While Tropiano includes prime-time television news programming in his lists, he does not critique that genre in any detail, leaving a gap in the literature for another researcher to fill.) The book's scope is vast, ranging from campy but not overtly gay programs from the 1950s and 1960s like I Love Lucy and the judy Garland Show, to today's in-your-face gay cable hits Queer as Folk and Six Feet Under.

One of the most significant contributions of Tropiano's book is his historic overview of how television dealt with major social issues. he writes, "In the 1970s, the issue du jour was gay teachers. In the 1980s and 1990s, it was AIDS." Tropiano outlines how television, like the rest of the nation, struggled to find an appropriate response to the devastating disease. While the results were not always laudable, television did have a significant influence on how the nation viewed AIDS and those it affected.

The author also notes the occasional fallout from network decisions on gay programming. Some of the most interesting material includes Tropiano's account of the controversy caused by a 1973 episode of ABC's Marcus Welby, ? …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Prime Time Closet: A History of Gays and Lesbians on TV
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.