Waymon Hudson

Discussion: What Media or Pop Culture Figures Do You Identify With?

Filed By Waymon Hudson | June 11, 2010 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Media
Tags: Adam Lambert, Ellen DeGeneres, icons, Justin Suarez, media, Melissa Etheridge, Modern Family, music, Pedro Zamora, pop culture, representation, sports, television, Ugly Betty

Every generation has them- media or pop culture figures that resonate or are reflective of the changing fabric of society. The LGBT community is no exception. Our community has always found or made icons in pop culture that speak to us or we feel represent us.

gays_b.jpgFor those who think that media representation of our community isn't important, all they need to do is look at the recent CBS poll that showed that 77% of Americans reported knowing an LGBT person, which directly correlated to greater acceptance of same-sex relationships and greater support for equality. Visibility matters. The more people see and know our community, the more they support us.

That's why I'm working on a series of blogs about media representation for our community and wanted to pick the brains of our readers to see what figures in the media or pop culture have resonated with them over the years.

It's a subject that seems to really get our community up in arms, which I found out recently...

family3x.jpgWhen I recently blogged about Modern Family and the discussion arising out of the lack of physical affection between the show's gay couple, it really showed how sensitive many in our community are about their pop culture/media figures. Reactions seemed to be how could bloggers question a show that is friendly to our community and breaking ground by showing a functional gay couple with a child on primetime TV.

It got me wondering about how tied up our community is with media & pop culture and how we are represented in it.

6a00d8341c6d4753ef0120a94fafd5970b-400wi.jpgI'll be looking at everything from the diversity (or lack thereof) of the representations of the LGBT community in media to the idea of pushing friendly shows to lead the way in truer representations to the meme of "rich, white, & gay" that permeates LGBT representations and how that effects our fight for equality.

So that's where all of you come in. I'm curious to see what characters or figures in the media and pop culture you have identified with over the years.

american-idol-ellen-degeneres-diva-behavior.jpgDoes Ellen's refusal to be part of the gender binary speaks to you? Perhaps the new batch of young out characters like Ugly Betty's Justin Suarez and Glee's Kurt Hummel create a connection. Maybe The Real World's Pedro Zamora and his public battle with HIV/AIDS on television was a defining moment for you. Or maybe television hasn't been your thing, but a musician like Adam Lambert or Melissa Etheridge really made you identify with them. The same question goes for our straight allies that are reading- what figures shaped your views of LGBT people?

adam-lambert2.jpgI want to hear your thoughts on this. The visibility of our community and the richness of how we are represented has a huge impact on how society at large views us and how quickly we create change, so I really think this is a discussion worth having.

So how about it, Projectors:

What Media or Pop Culture Figures Do You Identify With?

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Rick Sours | June 11, 2010 9:51 AM

In general, my Partner and I tend to view on a regular basis television shows like Law & Order, CSI, and NCIS. We also view the local and national news shows daily. Sometimes we will view some of the cooking, local dining or cooking competition shows.

We would greatly appreciate television shows in which the openly Gay/Lesbian characters are cops, fire department personnel, border patrol...

We do watch the Ellen show on a regular basis and greatly appreciate all she is doing for the LBGT community.

I'm trying to think of shows with openly gay cops, firefighters, etc but can't recall any. I wonder if any of the other readers know of any...

Kima on The Wire. Matter-of-factly too--just who she is, rather than as a device to introduce a gay storyline. I'm on a roll!

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 11, 2010 11:05 AM

Cruella DeVille!

That makes sense. :)

But seriously, I know a lot of gay men who found commonality in cartoons Disney 'toons were super gay!), whether it be the "outsider" feel of the Little Mermaid & Aladdin or the "forever young" Peter Pan. It's an interesting part of the pop culture discussion!

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 12, 2010 3:51 AM

OK, any superhero in spandex.

Well if we're talking characters in general but that aren't necessarily LGBT then probably Buffy Summers from (duh) Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
If we're talking specifically LGBT characters then the nod goes immediately Tara Maclay from the same show.

Buffy works because her status as "slayer" works as an incredible metaphor for being LGBT.
Tara, being a lesbian, fits obviously. ID'ing with either of them comes down to a whole bunch of reasons really and, in all reality, comes down to identifying with the show in general.

Funny that you mentioned that! I just started re-watching the series (thanks to streaming netflixs!) and couldn't agree more!

Interesting ideas so far, folks!

As a deeply closeted teen, Joan Jett was a very powerful image for me and I became a huge fan, huge enough that I have a black heart tattooed on my shoulder.

I was still doing the punk thing at that point, and Joan taught me that you could be a chick and still be tough. At that point, knowing that probably saved my life. It would have been quite easy to kill myself with drugs because I had plenty of opportunity. All it would have taken was a little more of this, or a little purer batch of that.

Becoming a Jetthead (yes, that's what we called ourselves) gave me something positive to focus on when I desperately needed it, and helped me hang on long enough to grow into adulthood, get off drugs (the hard stuff anyway), and at least make an attempt at an adult life until I was finally able to deal with my real issues many years later.

Joan Jett is amazing! Good addition to the discussion, Becky!

I like how the "strong, kick-ass woman" meme seems to go through all the suggestions!

For gay cop characters; the only one I'm aware of is Officer John Cooper played by Michael Cudlitz. The character isn't open about his sexuality, unfortunately.
As far as identifying with a character or popular icon; I would choose Captain Jack Harkness or Ianto (Yan-toe) Jones from BBC's Torchwood.

What show is Officer Cooper on?

And good call about Torchwood! BBC has quite the plethora od LGBT characters!

I was eleven when Ellen came out, and she was exactly the role model I needed to see. A gay man coming out would have been too direct, too close to home. Gay men were sexy and therefore terrifying. Ellen was like me, but she didn't make my chest tighten or my stomach drop like men did. She was like my queer older sister: she could show me, in a non-threatening way, that it was alright to be myself. So she had a huge impact on me. And she might be the reason that today, most of my queer friends are lesbians!

I can't believe no one has mentioned "Will and Grace". As an ally, this show gave me some understanding of gay people being "normal" in their everyday lives, just going about the daily acts of working, coping with common problems, dealing with relationships. Of course, Ellen also made a big impression on me with her courage to take a stand and be herself and take the blows to her career as necessary. And I love Kurt on Glee.

Rick Elliott | June 12, 2010 3:37 AM

I don't understand the need to find one's own identity in another person--why not accept one's own identity--unique and specially crafted.

Kate @ TUNE Kate @ TUNE | June 12, 2010 6:05 AM

I'd choose the following media personalities. Nothing sexual, these are just LGBT people that I really admire for there work..... from the US anyway. Bunch of others from Australia and the UK as well, however I'm just in the mood to talk about Journo's. :-)

- Rachel Maddow - MSNBC
- Rose Acre - CNN Documentary Unit - works with Soledad O'Brien - Senior Producer for the upcoming "Gary and Tony Have a Baby" CNN Documentary which will be released within the next week or so.
- Calpernia Addams
- Andrea James
- Ina Fried (CNET News Senior Journalist and former NLGJA National Board Member)
- Jen Christensen (CNN Senior Field Producer - "CNN Presents")
- Trey Graham - NPR Arts Editor, Washington D.C. Bureau

Looking for a gay paramedic? Remember the character in "Trauma" I can't recall his character name, but the issue of being gay is tenderly handled. I love "trauma" because it is dealing with the struggle of a loving, caring, and yet, often misunderstood professional man who just happens to be "gay."

I don't know how relatable it is (I've never watched it), but there's a french show called "Les Bleus" with two gay cops in it.

When I was in high school, I really identified with Marco Del Rossi from Degrassi: The Next Generation. More recently, I've been pretty happy with Calvin Owens on Greek.