Why is it that Hollywood doesn’t understand that it isn’t enough to include LGBT stories in the background? It’s like they don’t understand that we’re not an afterthought. We’re not just there to float around the straight male lead and make HIS story more interesting to watch. We have our own stories, our own lives, that deserve the spotlight just like everyone else. That’s why NBC’s ‘Rise’ pisses me off so much.
Here’s a little background for you: NBC wants to combine the power of Glee and Friday Night Lights. This gave birth to Rise, the story of Lou Volpe, a closeted gay man who developed a theater program that would change the lives of many and make it so the theater program rivaled the football team in its need for funding. At first, this sounded exciting. The story of an older gay man struggling with his sexuality?! Holy shit, sign me up! But the NBC Rise showrunner wanted to make it “kind of my own story.”
How, you ask? Well, Rise’s showrunner Jason Katims decided he wanted to do that by making the character straight.
It didn’t take long for the internet to lose it’s ever loving shit at the erasure of a gay story. They felt insulted that a straight man thought that the best way to make the story his was by changing the main character’s sexual orientation, as if it was nothing or just an itty bitty change that wouldn’t change much about him.
Katims, and the executive producers Jeffrey Seller and Flody Suarez, thought they’d calm the firestorm this decision has created by releasing a statement to EW about the controversy:
“The misinterpretation by some of what we’ve done with this show goes against what we fundamentally believe and who we are as individuals. We are firmly committed to LGBTQ inclusion, and most of all, are excited for the community to see Rise, which we believe portrays positive depictions of LGBTQ characters and stories on broadcast television with honesty and sensitivity. To that end, we worked with GLAAD on the show’s LGBTQ storylines to ensure they are told with respect and authenticity.”
Thank you Katim’s and Co. for trying to brush the LGBT community off as if we were the crazy ones in this situation and as if we were making a big deal out of nothing. We didn’t misinterpret your words Katims. We heard you loud and clear.
You wanted to change Lou Volpe’s story. Make it fresh. Make it new. Make it yours. So you decided to change his sexual orientation and erased one of the key reasons why people were so excited to see his story in the first place. And it was a mistake.
We didn’t twist your words about or misunderstand you. We understood you perfectly. We understood that you could not relate to a man who was gay.
We understand that you didn’t think you would be able to connect with his life, his woes, his family, his struggles with the theater program he was building, because he was gay.
We understand that you think it’s enough to have gay stories in the background, as an addition, an afterthought, because you’re too scared to have a male lead that is a gay man.
We understand that you think it’s enough and that you don’t have a problem with the LGBT community because you talked to GLADD and included stories of discovery, a transgender student, and another exploring a happy family unit that just so happens to be a same-sex relationship of Volpe’s sister.
We understand that you don’t get that LGBT people are tired of being treated as if their stories aren’t relatable.
You don’t need to cook crystal meth to understand Walter White’s desperation to give his family security after his passing on Breaking Bad. You don’t need to own dragons and have stark white hair to understand that your birthright was stolen from you and that you’d do anything to get it back on Game of Thrones. And you don’t have to be the Sheriff of a small town in Indiana to understand the struggle of keeping your life together after the loss of a child like in Stranger Things.
So, why is that people (Hollywood executives, writers, producers, studios) think it’s such a hard sell to write, produce, or make LGBT stories where WE are at the forefront and OUR stories are being told? Why do they think it’s so hard to connect to our lives or give us an opportunity to tell our stories?
We’re human. We laugh, love, cry, struggle, just like the rest of the world and we’re tired of being told that we’re “misinterpreting” things when a gay man is written as a straight man.
It’s gay erasure.
There’s no misunderstanding that.
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