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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Does American TV portray gays and lesbians better than British TV does?

And here I was worried about whether Captain Jack Harkness’s omnivorous sexuality would get toned down in Torchwood: Miracle Day. At Entertainment Weekly’s Inside TV, John Barrowman assures us this won’t happen:

“I knew they would be true to the show and not change drastically,” says star John Barrowman. “If it was watered down, I wouldn’t have done it. For those people who are our stanch fans, it’s going to have the heart and soul of Torchwood which we’ve always had, plus the energy and excitement of a show that’s bigger and better.”

As for his character’s love life, Barrowman says Capt. Jack “gets to have full-on boy-sex a couple of times. On those days going to work I’d wake up and Scott my partner would say, ‘What are you filming today?’ And I’d say, ‘Oh it’s going to be a tough day, I get to have sex with a 24 year old.’”

What’s more, we also get this tidbit (via reader Bluejay, who first alerted me to this article):

[S]howrunner Russell T Davies says that, contrary to what Americans might assume about all European countries, our primetime lineup is more progressive about showing gay characters. “The portrayal of gay, bisexual, and lesbian characters [in America] is currently way ahead of Britain,” Davies says. “The kids on Glee, the beauty and detail of that couple on Modern Family. We’ve got nothing like that. Even a nice Republican sitcom like $#*! My Dad Says, a show I quite liked, was stacked with intelligent gay-friendly stories, and that’s in a corner you’d never expect to find them. If course, it’s all the gay men and women sitting on writing teams pushing their stories forward, which I think is wonderful.”

(Warning: There’s a sort-of spoiler at the Inside TV post, though apparently it’s something that has leaked elsewhere. I hadn’t heard it, though.)

Bluejay adds:

For all of its shortcomings, is this something the American media is doing right (or at least doing better than its counterparts in Europe)?

I’m not so sure about that. My general sense of American TV is that gay and the far rarer lesbian characters in comedies tend to be kind of cartoonish stereotypes that are defined almost exclusively by their sexuality. In drama, they tend to come across as being present in the narrative in order to make some sort of political statement. Not all of them, of course. And I’m not intimately familiar with any of the American series Davies mentioned, so my impression may not apply to them.

I do feel, though, that no show — British or American — has created a postgay ethos better than Torchwood. By postgay I mean that there’s no political aspect to the characters’ sexuality, either within the narrative or in the meta context, and no one cares whom anyone else is sleeping with, apart from the normal gossipy aspect. I wish more shows could be as casual and relaxed about sex and sexuality as Torchwood has been, and I hope that aspect of the show remains intact in Miracle Day.

What do you think? Does American TV portray gays and lesbians better than British TV does?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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