LGBTQ Representations on TV

This week marks the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City, which sparked the mid-century gay liberation movement in the United States. We’ll consider the ways in which representations of LGBTQ people have changed on TV from the start of the post-AIDS era (beginning in the mid-1990s with sitcoms like Ellen and Will & Grace) through our current day. More specifically, we’re focusing on representations of gay men and identity politics on the blockbuster sitcom Will & Grace.

In his article Will and Grace Changed Nothing, Christopher Kelly argues that the original sitcom did not accurately represent the “complexity and diversity of gay lives being lived in contemporary America.” You’ll watch an episode of the original series and compare it to a 2018 episode of the revived series in order to see if you agree with Kelly, and to consider whether or not the revived series gets right what Kelly argues the original got wrong. Consider the following questions when deciding what to talk about in your blog post:

Three of the criticisms Kelly assigns the original Will & Grace are as follows: that the show compartmentalizes gay people, asks gay people to be complicit in their own marginalization, and had a “deeply conservative, heterosexist mindset.” Do you agree — why or why not? Do you think the revived Will & Grace is also “guilty” of these criticism — why or why not? Use examples from both assigned episodes to support your answers.

The revived Will & Grace makes overt references to timely and contentious social-political issues/topics; the original series does not. Does this make the revived series better than the original? Why or why not? Use examples from both assigned episodes to support your answer. Kelly admits that it may be unfair to ask a sitcom like Will & Grace to advance the identity politics and social representation of a group of people because it is a form of entertainment “whose characters are always defined by one or two traits.” Do you agree or disagree; explain why.

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