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Why Do Realistic Representations of Gay Relationships in the Media Matter? Ask EW’s Annie Barrett

The recent blogosphere buzzing about the lack of physical affection between ABC’s Modern Family gay couple Cam and Mitchell has really underlined a huge problem with modern portrayals of LGBT families.  My recent article ABC’s Modern Family: How “Modern” Is Its Gay Couple? and the ensuing comments have been an interesting case study on how LGBT couples are viewed in our society.

But perhaps the most telling glimpse came from a write up about the Facebook movement to have Cam & Mitchell Kiss from Entertainment Weekly.  Contributor to their “PopWatch” section Annie Barrett let this homophobic screed fly about the idea of two men kissing:

Look at Mitchell. He is so sick of having to merely hug that sad clown who just wunna dance at the ballet! Just let them make out in the middle of the airport already. Viewers LOVE that.

So gay men who kiss or give a peck on the cheek to their significant others are obviously “making out”, while straight couples are just showing affection.  The idea of those queeny, ballet-loving queers kissing are so gross to you and the audience, right Annie?

Herein lies the problem with neutering gay couples in the media.  By making it seem not normal for same-sex families to show affection, it gives credence to people like Barrett.  

We don’t kiss, we “make out.”  

That peck on the cheek or the kiss between the heterosexual couple? That’s “normal.”  Yet kissing by gays is a hypersexual, physical-only act of pure sex being “shoved down the throat” of America.  People like Annie Barrett can’t see a gay couple kiss without think SEX, while they can easily separate the idea of sex and affection in straight couples.

Many of the gay commenters on the articles about the Modern Family discussion have said they understand not kissing in an airport because they don’t feel safe (a feeling I understand, having been the target of an anti-gay death threat in over the intercom at an airport while traveling with my husband).  Why is that? Because we censor and neuter our representations of gay couples or make it a ratings-grabbing event.  Playing into that allows people like Barrett and their small-minded attacks on gays to continue, or worse, leads to violence against gays that do dare to show affection in public.  That leads to more fear.When television and media wipes out normal, same-sex affection or makes it a “very special episode” to show a gay couple kissing, it further reinforces that it is outside the norm and allows the very attitude of “gay=gross” to perpetuate.  If they simply showed a realistic representation of how real LGBT people interact, it would take away the sting of shock and go a long way in shaping cultural and societal ideas of how gay families interact.

This isn’t about Modern Family.  This is about people like Entertainment Weekly‘s Annie Barrett and their close-minded response to the idea of a gay couple kissing and the embracing of an unfair double standard in media representation.

That’s why things like the discussion around Modern Family and events like The Great Global Kiss-in are so important. We can’t fix a problem and move forward until we put it out in the open.

If we don’t talk about it, the only voices out there are homophobic, heteronormative ones like Annie Barrett’s.  Those are the voices that young LGBT people will hear.  And those voice only lead to more problems, not greater acceptance.

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