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The Real ’New Normal’: No Stereotyping

by Vince Pellegrino
Wednesday Oct 3, 2012

Having recently viewed the latest episode of "The New Normal," I admit I was both uncomfortable yet emotionally affected by the show. When the two partnered men found themselves confronted by a bigot in a department store, I was reminded of my own experiences in defending my sexual orientation and having to explain myself yet again to another narrow-minded stranger or family member.

Of course, a straight couple would rarely have to defend a public show of affection for one another. I bristled at the gay couple being reprimanded for showing theirs.

When is all this crap going to stop? Will it stop when all 50 states approve gay marriage? Or when the racists in America rid themselves of their hate and disapproval of those who are different from them or have a different belief system?

Being a big fan of "Modern Family," I am pleased that this sitcom, which promotes a gay relationship as its central characters, is such an overwhelming fan favorite and seems to enjoy nationwide approval. Although most of the scenes on the show are played for laughs, of course (as with the other sitcom mentioned above, "The New Normal"), "Modern Family" broaches many serious topics, such as gay marriage, gays parents and prejudice.

Now there is a new gay-themed show on the airwaves from the creators of "Will and Grace" called "Partners", with similar stereotypical characters we remember from the previous show. Which means there will be significantly less physically romantic moments in lieu of comic bits of fluff; similar to its predecessor, where it took forever for Will to finally find a love interest.

Although I appreciate the momentum in Hollywood to promote gay couplings with all the intricacies, do comic shows such as the ones mentioned above really give the American audience an authentic portrayal of our lives? Simply put, I want to see the trials and tribulations as well as, the physical and romantic passion of gay relationships; not just playing for the laughs and in the process, making us eunuchs.

If the latter is the case, then in most circumstances, the gay character will become similar to the centuries old caricature of the silly "fop" who most resembles the clown than the romantic lead. A popular character of Restoration theatre of the 1600s and 1700s, the fop was a silly, ineffectual man often became the fool of the situation. Wikipedia describes him as "a 'man of fashion' who overdresses, aspires to wit, and generally puts on airs, which may be aspiring to a higher social station than others think he has." The only way in which the audience could sympathize with the character was when he humiliated or played the asexual sidekick to the hero.

Having been "out" for more than 40 years, I have never considered myself as a "fop" or a comic fool and often react to the "queen" reference among my peers if it is not expressed in a playful manner.

I have lived an amazing life with just as many memorable life experiences as any of my straight contemporaries and it is my desire to see a character experiencing similar experiences as myself. Oh sure, I have had my share of comic moments; such as being one of few party guests attending a Halloween party in costume!

But most of my life has been made of moments of a more serious nature that I would love to see recreated on the screen as is the case with romantic comedies and dramas for the heterosexual audience. In this I know I don't speak for just myself but for many within the gay community who often express a desire to see a film or television show that depicts the true nature of their lives such as the difficulties of finding and keeping a lover, and are tired of seeing films or plays with a tragic or unsatisfying ending.

Although I have love gay-themed movies such as "A Beautiful Thing," "Adam and Steve," and "All Over the Guy" -- all of which had happy endings, incidentally -- there are just too many films which show the gay characters losing out on finding love or being killed off. Why can't we have more films with the gay leads looking for love, which is the common theme running through romantic comedies. Take "Sweet Home Alabama," "Friends with Benefits" or any Nicholas Spark film such as "The Notebook" or "The Vow." All, incidentally, have heterosexual leads, while many offer a gay non-sexual sidekick.

As for the increasing popularity of gay-themed sitcoms, I truly appreciate the effort of Hollywood and hope they are all successful in doing so. But I have to question their authenticity and ability to appeal to the gay community in depicting the true nature of our world and not a caricature thereof.

Dr. Vince Pellegrino has PhDs in educational theater and drama therapy from New York University and is a board-certified psychotherapist in New York City and Connecticut. He teaches communications at Hofstra University. He is currently working on a book, "Gay Communication Game," about "Gayspeak"; an interactive TV program featuring real-time therapy sessions in development. Go to Dr. Vince TV for more information.


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