Monday, December 05, 2005

Force of Nature

Animal Therapy: Best Friends

Jon's post--and specifically the picture of his (male) dog humping another (male) dog--reminded me of last night's Desperate Housewives and some questions it raised. Andrew, Bree's son, finally returns after being sent back to camp near the start of the season. And with blame for his mother for his father's death in his arsenal, he has no trouble deciding that he's above Bree's authority--so much so that he has Justin, his sometime paramour from last season, come over to spend the night.

Here's where the questions come in. Andrew explains his hatred toward his mother by saying that when his mom told him he would go to hell if he didn't change after he told her he " liked guys," he realized she would one day stop loving him and he decided to stop loving her first. This is an interesting mental process, certainly, but I doubt it's one with which many gay men relate. And yet it's happening on a show created and controlled by Marc Cherry, who has made no secret of his homosexuality or his strong relationship with his mother, who he credits with giving him the idea for the show.

This revelation is preceded by Andrew's attempt to kiss Justin, which Justin rebuffs for fear that Bree will walk in. He promises to make waiting until Bree is asleep worth Andrew's while--and then this concept is dropped. I know this is a very prurient question, but what happens between these two?

The question is important not only because I wanted to see two men making out on network TV, but because of the way Andrew constructs his talk about his sexuality. He doesn't say he told his mom he's gay--he says he told her he "likes guys." This is not the same thing. I've said before that I think bisexuality is often just a stop on the train to gay, but in this case it's important to know whether Cherry is espousing the same view. Andrew told the priest last year that he's not gay--he's just not going to stop fooling around with guys when the mood strikes him. But Justin appears to have real feelings, and not just carnal desires, for Andrew--feelings he expressed to Gabrielle last season. Is Andrew manipulating Justin? Will he go so far as to seek Justin's help as he tries to send his mother for a fall?

This, finally, is important because while there has been a flowering of gay characters on television in the last decade, the bloom is currently very much off the rose. A show with 27 million weekly viewers that features a gay or sort-of-gay character is one of TV's few windows onto gayness for most of America (by which I em>mean the "most of America" that doesn't subscribe to HBO or Showtime, didn't watch or Queer as Folk, and probably won't buy a ticket to see Brokeback Mountain, either). And so it matters quite a bit how that show's "gay character" is portrayed. Right now, the only main character who dabbles in the love that dare not speak its name is also up to some rather unspeakable deeds, including attempting to destroy his own mother and quite possibly manipulating an innocent person into having sex that is based not on love (as the innocent seems to believe) but on simple, base desire. Lest we forget, Andrew also hit Mrs. Solis while driving home last season, and showed no remorse afterward.

I'm concerned, then, that Cherry is taking his grand opportunity to offer some sort of positive portrayal of homosexuality and not merely squandering it but turning it on its head to show same-sex attraction as part of a pathological personality. I realize that Cherry's mission is to make good TV, not to subtly change the hearts and minds of viewers. I realize that DH probably isn't on the must-DVR list of many folks who harbor great hostility against gays, as their churches have already warned them of its sinful nature. And I realize that the show has featured a great many screwed-up characters, only one of whom has shown interest in making it with a member of the same gender. But there's a difference between portraying Andrew as a gay guy who lies about his sexuality sometimes, hates his mom, and feels no remorse about killing an old woman with his car, and portraying him as a sorta-bi guy who pretends to be gay to get a little no-strings attached action from a guy who clearly wants more while engaging in the aforementioned other negative behavior. For the sake of tried-and-true gays everywhere, I hope Andrew is bi and playing on Justin's hopes. Making that cruelty another aspect of his pathology, rather than simply making him both the bad guy and the gay guy on the show, would enhance both the show's portrayal of gays (by playing up Justin's innocence at the hands of a lying manipulator) and the show's storyline. That's a win-win Cherry should grab with both hands.

If he does it after a scene where Andrew and Justin make out on camera, well, so much the better!


Jonathan said...

Network TV hardly ever portrays gay characters as not having some problem!

So what are you saying about bi-sexuality?

Richard said...

I don't want gays on TV to be problem-free; I'm just not thrilled with the idea of the only gay character on a show created by a gay man being pathologically evil.

As for bisexuality, I'm saying, while it probably exists in men as an actual phenomenon, it can also be a convenient label for two types of men to adopt: Guys who are on the way to accepting their homosexuality but not quite ready to foreswear the possibility of having a socially-accepted relationship somewhere down the road, and guys who prefer to be with women but will accept the sexual services of a man in a pinch. If Andrew's protestations to Susan in the pool ("I'm not gay") and to the priest in the church (I'm not gay, but I'm not going to stop going after chocolate ice cream sometimes, even if your God would prefer to see me stick to vanilla) were part of the former process of coming to terms with his sexuality, then he is in fact gay and this is a problem for the reasons I stated in the first sentence. If these protestations are true, though, then Andrew is leading Justin on by pretending to be gay with him when he, in fact, knows that he's NOT gay and thus probably NOT experiencing the same feelings of attachment that Justin told Gaby he has been feeling last season. And that, at least, would make Andrew's willingness to play gay when he isn't really gay a part of his wickedness. Which is fine with me, because lord knows there's nothing a sincere gay man would hate more than being strung along by someone who isn't really gay and doesn't really feel the same way about him, but closes his eyes and enjoys the sex anyway.

So, I'm NOT saying that bisexuality is inherently evil. I AM saying that in this case, it has the potential to be played as a component of Andrew's particular brand of evil because he isn't being honest about it, letting people think he's fully gay (when he's really just bi-curious, perhaps)to either hurt them (in the case of Bree) or take advantage of them (in the case of Justin). If Andrew is just plain-old gay, well, that's just not as interesting, is it?