Gays on TV and film aren't just stereotypical hairdressers and fabulous uncles anymore. They also are the gun-toting bad guys, terrorizing their way through your favorite shows with impeccable style.
That's right: From "Skyfall" to "Breaking Bad," the latest craze sweeping pop culture is a new breed of tough, complex, villainous antagonists—who also happen to be gay.
But should we see this as progress for the LGBT community? Well, yes. And no.
While we've seen LGBT characters integrated into TV and film much more in recent decades, they usually follow a basic trendy stereotype that everyone then tries to emulate. The '80s saw the offensive "gays are AIDS patients" meme, while the '90s embraced the "gays are your fun and flashy best friend" idea of "Will & Grace." The new millennium largely has been about LGBT couples as parents, on "Modern Family" and "The New Normal," or plucky young teens, like on "Glee."
Now Hollywood is giving us complicated, yet truly dastardly, villains who also have a strong case of the G-A-Y. Antagonists such as "Dexter's" murderous mobster, Isaak Sirko, James Bond's nemesis Raoul Silva or "Breaking Bad's" drug kingpin, Gus Fring, all are villainous characters who either hint at a fluid sexuality or later are revealed to be gay or bisexual as plot lines develop.
Here's the twist: Unlike earlier "evil gay" stereotypes in film and TV, these villains' sexuality actually is the redeeming thing about them, not the root of their evilness.
As Tim Molloy pointed out in a recent column for thewrap.com, they are humanized to the viewers using their sexuality, not portrayed as damaged or evil because of it. That's a far cry from the villains of the past, such as the gender-confused, skin-wearing serial killer in "Silence of the Lambs" or the ominously predatory lesbian Mrs. Danvers in Alfred Hitchcock's "Rebecca," whose sexuality and perceived deviance caused their villainy.
These new trendy bad guys also share another interesting stereotype: hyper-masculinity. The pendulum has swung from the predatory, over-the-top gay villains of the past to macho tough guys who viewers know are gay only because they are told. That stereotyping pendulum may be swinging a bit too far as Hollywood tries to correct course after years of being behind on how society views groups of people like the LGBT community.
The hyper-masculinity of these new gay villains shows signs of Hollywood trying far too hard to avoid making characters look "too gay"—you know, devices such as [childish epithet posted by a bigoted tool] mannerisms or non-traditional gender roles. And that's OK to an extent. Bad guys have to be tough.
But far too often, society believes equal representation means sanitizing characteristics that simply play into rigid gender roles. In the end, all that does is reinforce the perception that behavior outside of the gender norm still is hilarious and safe to make fun of.
I'd rather see acceptance and representation of a broad swath of the ways gays "act," because the LGBT community really is that diverse. For all its progress, Hollywood still is stuck in rigid ideas that "[childish epithet posted by a bigoted tool]" gays can be comedic punch lines on sitcoms and "real men" gays get to be tough, dramatic villains.
In the end, Hollywood is taking a step in the right direction. It is refreshing that villains' same-sex relationships are used to make them more relatable, human and complex to viewers. Dropping the "ick factor" for gay characters and relationships always is a good thing. That's one cinematic meme I'm happy to see these new gay villains put 6 feet under.
Yes! Now let's see if we can drop the "non-racial diversity factor".
How very 2008
Maybe someday someone will make a movie where being gay is no big deal, maybe not eve mentioned!
R3, wasn't it kind of that way in Breaking Bad? No big deal was made of Gus Fring being homosexual.
When we have a movie or TV show where the hero is gay then let's talk progress.
I think it's great we're finally getting some gay sociopaths on screen. I grew up watching those 80s and 90s movies where gays were either sweet and dying or sweet and campy. Then I finally came out, moved to L.A. and met real gays and, lo and behold, half of them ARE sociopaths, so I'd say the depictions are getting more realistic.
I take it as a badge of honor; when I'm watching anything, I always root for the villain anyway.
It was never confirmed that Gus Fringe was a homosexual.
Wasn't there a gay bad guy on "The Wire"?
Evil gays in "Midsomer Murders," and "Downton Abbey."
Javier Bardem got ugly....do we blame Penelope?
[childish epithet posted by a bigoted tool]
This is not a new phenomenon. Weren't the killers in In Cold Blood gay? And their psychopathy wasn't rooted IN their homosexuality, was it? And weren't Leopold and Loeb gay? I know these are real life criminals but they also made movies based upon them, too.
Robert Walker in Strangers on a Train was gay.
The killers in Hitchcock's Rope were gay.
Was it implied that their deranged criminal personalities were tethered directly to their sexual orientation in these old movies? It was subtle for audiences of the time, of course, and censorship.
Most Breaking Bad fanboys refuse to believe that Gus might be gay. They left it very vague.
They're both stereotypes. The stereotypical cliche gay for comedy and the evil gay have been around forever. When they have gay people as three-dimensional characters, or heroic, romantic leads it will be revolutionary. Until then, the cowards in Hollywood will trot out stereotypes to keep the masses ignorant.
It's not new at all. The gay villain was once a staple of tv and film. It's terribly sad that we're sliding back to that.
Let's not forget the third stereotypes (and all these apply to lesbians, too): the tragic, suicidal victim who is dead or lonely at the end of the film.
[quote] the tragic, suicidal victim who is dead
or the tragic, AIDS victim who dies
I'm excited for the day when they start showing gay characters who are more like real gay people, with a mixture of feminine and masculine qualities, and not just adhering to strict gender roles. And it'll also be nice to see gay characters who don't need a plot-driven excuse to be there.
R20 Will wasn't' a hero. He was Grace's gay BFF.
There are a decent amount of television shows that include relatively well developed gay characters. It is really movies that are lagging behind. It is still quite uncommon to see a movie's cast include characters who happen to be gay. It doesn't even have to be a big deal or have a lot time devoted to their sexuality, just show the diversity of life and make sure in some of your characters you acknowledge that yeah x is gay.
Given that television has started to embrace this I am surprised that movies are falling so behind.
The "childish epithet..." insertion is odd.
Is it [childish epithet posted by a bigoted tool] because if so, good for the webmaster. That guy was a tool.
In case anyone is confused...well, I'm not going to spell it out, but it starts with eff...
We had a thread about Skyfall being homophobic and many people stated emphatically that the villain was NOT gay.
Make up your minds, bitches.
I'm beginning to wax nostalgic for Paul Lynde in the Center Square.
I fail to see how this is new. It's been 22 years since the British film The Krays, which was a true story about twin brit mobsters, one of them gay, the other possibly bisexual. That same year also had Miller's Crossing, which featured a Irish hit man who had a boyfriend played by Steve Buscemi. Josh Lucas's gay villain in The Deep End was smarmy, but not limp wristed.
And, yes, HBO has already been there with Omar on The Wire, and Vito on The Sopranos. Arliss Howard's character on short-lived Rubicon was gay, and thanks to premature cancellation, it was never made clear if his character was a villain or helping the hero.
#25 No self respecting gay man would be caught dead in that hideous blond wig.