Gay Slurs in Television

I would like to preface this entire post by mentioning that most actors who play high school students in our favorite dramas are really, really old. Though they have not yet succumbed to the allure of Life Alert and Jello three times a day, they are a shockingly false portrayal of what teenagers actually look like. I'm going to postulate that shows such as 90210 and Gossip Girl have female dominated audiences, so I suppose having really old male actors serves to sexualize high school beyond its sordid reality?

In any case, Trevor Donovan, the 90210 regular whose character is slated to come out of the closet this season, is 32 years old. Though this is largely a case-in point statement, I'm going to drag out my story even further. Because I can.

Donovan's character, Teddy, begins to struggle with his sexuality this season in 90210. He gets drunk at a party and accidentally (or not so accidentally) makes out with a gay kid in his class. He doesn't remember it until later, and the shit hits the fan. Teddy can't deal with what he has done, so he proceeds to act like a total jerk towards the gay kid, who doesn't even want to coax Teddy out of the closet. But because Teddy is so paranoid, he calls the kid a faggot, and then gets into a brawl with him in the hallway. All of this nonsense happens because Teddy can't accept himself.

The exact same scenario happened in Gossip Girl a couple of years ago. Erik Van der Woodsen comes out of the closet, and his lover/boyfriend/fellow gay who isn't out yet/classmate calls him a faggot as well in order to preserve his manliness.

I guess I'm just perplexed as to why it's only the closeted gay kids who end up being so awful to the out gay kids. Of course, one could argue that these kids are so repressed that they have to attack anything that may cause their secrets to come spilling out, but I think that this is only partially true in real life. It is the infallible, absolute truth of television.

I'd like to see a few storylines in television where straight kids who aren't doubting their sexuality go after gay kids, and then realize they were wrong. I think that many series are missing this aspect to their shows, and it's an important perspective to incorporate into any teen series. For all of the closeted kids who berate the out kids, those kids eventually come to terms with who they are and accept the world and there are happy bunnies and cupcakes and rainbows. Hooplah. The lack of storylines where inherently biased people learn to accept others in spite of their differences is somewhat scary. It's encouraging bigotry through omission. Gay people aren't the only ones who have to overcome the hurtles that come with being gay. There is an entire world that has to learn to accept gay people, and the silver screen does not portray this in the least. The closeted gay kids call others fags because they're closeted gay kids. But other types of people aren't encouraged or discouraged from partaking in the verbal abuse of LGBT youth. That message needs to be projected to everyone through showing scenarios where all different types of people overcome their presumed notions.

More articles by Category: Feminism, Girls, LGBTQIA, Media
More articles by Tag: Activism and advocacy, Title IX, Gender bias, Sexuality, News, Television, Identity



Alec A
Sign up for our Newsletter

Learn more about topics like these by signing up for Women’s Media Center’s newsletter.