Heteronormativity and LGB Characters In American Sitcoms

Narrowing down my project to solely research American Sitcoms, has allowed me to carefully deconstruct elements within the characters from a few present day sitcoms and compare them to the past (1990s- early 2000’s). Of course gay rights has become an increasingly publicised and welcomed topic with society throughout the years, although with hundreds of years of oppressive opposition, comes strong discourse around the negativity towards homosexual orientation. Thus prominent stereotypes within society have lived on and have essentially shaped a social construct towards LGB citizens, for example the association of gay men as feminized males and lesbians as masculine females. These social construct which apparently are current within modern day society are then translated into television, as a way to represent realities. My main concern with this is that, as we are constantly exposed to heteronormative value through television, the way in which LGB people are represented are so distinctively different from their surrounding heterosexual characters (attitudes, clothes, body language and tone of voice), that it emphasises the idea that being homosexual isn’t normal- ultimately characterising them as outcasts.

Here are some television programmes which I have looked into, which exemplify traditional heteronormative values:

-Will and Grace
-Modern Family
-The New Normal
-One Big Happy
-Glee

In each series I have listed above, their is at least one gay male character who evidently more flamboyant, overly dramatic and has a higher pitched voice that the rest of the men on the show- generally conforming to the stereotypical elements in which symbolizes feminine behaviours. For example in The New Normal and Modern Family, both married male couples consist of one of the partners playing the role of the more masculine husband, whereas the other stands as the role of the wife. This is something which I find quite bizarre as again it reinforces the heteronormative ideology that no matter what you sexual orientation may have, the roles of a man and a women in a relationship is imperative. I am not saying that this is completely a false representation, however It a construction which has been commonly framed by american sitcoms, which roots to the ubiquity of heteronormal standards which television promotes.

One main object I aim to evoke from the audience is the invisibility of the dominance of heteronormativity in popular culture, but specifically in television. People who are not affected by it may as well be blind to it, as it is not and never will be a problem for them as being exposed to your personal version of normal is not something that would being upsetting. However on the receiving end, homosexual citizens deal with the gap which should reflect their position in society just as equally as heterosexuals.

‘Heterosexuality as a social reality seems to be invisible to those who benefit from it. In part, this is because of the remorseless construction of heterosexuality as normal. If things are natural, they cannot really be questioned or scrutinized and so they fade from view. Such naturalisation often characterizes how we see, and don’t see, the powerful; how they see, and don’t see, themselves. (Westerfelhaur & Lacroix). This normalisation is very apparent in television programmes, through the extreme differences of portrayal between hetero and homosexual characters, which I want to highlight as a problem we as a society are facing, through the use of my interviews.

References

Westerfelhaus, R. & Lacroix, C. 2006, “Seeing “Straight” through Queer Eye: Exposing the Strategic Rhetoric of Heteronormativity in a Mediated Ritual of Gay Rebellion”,Critical Studies in Media Communication, vol. 23, no. 5, pp. 426-444.

 

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