On this Mardi Gras weekend, gay writers, performers and producers have shared their thoughts on gay representation on Australian television.
In an excellent article for News Corp, Shannon Molloy speaks to writers Sarah Walker and Michael Lucas, director Jet Wilkinson, producer David Sale and director / producer Tony Ayres.
Ayres nods to early casting in The Block and Australian Idol as bold, brave casting more than a decade ago.
“They just show you the world,” he says. “It’s a sample of the community, what you might see walking down the street. I think the rest of TV could do that.”
In the US, Modern Family, features same-sex parents with a child among its core characters.
“And in situations like that, being gay doesn’t mean being ‘other’. It’s part of the broad story,” he says.
“I think the time is nigh for gay characters to be mainstream characters, when sexuality is just part of the character and not the defining part. I think we’re still catching up a bit.”
Michael Lucas notes House Husbands inclusion of Gyton Grantley as Kane “hasn’t scared viewers away.”
Writer Sarah Walker recalls working on a mainstream drama when she wrote a same-sex relationship into the script. When it aired, a storm of controversy erupted and “everyone at the network freaked out”.
“I was told there was to be no mention of gays and lesbians on the show — no references at all.”
That show would most likely be Home and Away which Walker and the controversy when policewoman Charlie Buckton played by Esther Anderson fell in love with Joey Collins, played by Kate Bell. The network famously cut a gay kiss. Ironically it was actually News Corp that enflamed the situation with volatile articles before episodes had even aired, giving Seven cold feet.
There is however, one angle in the article I disagree with: that there a reluctance to include homosexual characters in mainstream shows.
On the contrary I see it increasing all the time. Off the top of my head: Wentworth, House Husbands, Neighbours, Janet King, Offspring, A Place to Call Home, The Family Law, Please Like Me, The Principal, Peter Allen: Not the Boy Next Door, Molly, Glitch, Carlotta and Dance Academy. And that’s without looking back on Prisoner, Sons and Daughters, Pacific Drive, Water Rats, GP, Sweat, Raw FM, Breakers, The Secret Life of Us, All Saints, Rush, Love My Way, Satisfaction, The Circuit and of course Number 96.
Then you have and almost every reality show at one stage or another including gay participants, plus documentaries and shows such as Q&A, The Project, The Feed, Insight and breakfast TV which discuss gay issues with regularity.
Shows that don’t have a gay character somewhere in their universe are beginning to stick out like a sore thumb. It’s true that television still leans terribly toward young, good-looking white gay males. Females, seniors, ethnic and disabled gays are lagging behind.
But the key to inclusion is always to avoid tokenism, having sustained, fully-rounded characters where sexuality is but one part of their make-up.