The Fragile Relationship Between Media and Sexuality

Throughout the last few years, we’ve seen a variety of mediums portraying homosexuality under a positive light. TV shows almost always have a gay character, films oftentimes incorporate themes of sexuality if it’s fitting enough, and video games, more than any other medium, attempt to break every possible boundary. The latter, in particular, is often the target of criticism or specific comments regarding its constant portrayal of women and sexuality.

Although the LGBTQ community should feel represented, what the media decides to portray is not close enough to reality. Each day we see fewer discussions on how women are written, with comments becoming pats on the shoulder rather than feedback or rants. On the other hand, the more homosexual characters writers incorporate into their storylines, the more backlash they suffer, be it from the general public or, in part, the very community they try to represent.

The problem lies in the fact that our society is still extremely sexist. Strong and independent women are finally starting to be accepted, but that doesn’t mean their fight for equality is over. In the same manner, whilst California may seem like a gay paradise, the rest of the world doesn’t share that sentiment, especially third world countries.

The media, in general, refuses to take risks because having a gay character is already edgy, with many such storylines being forced on the public. Having a story surrounding sexuality is something most people will dismiss if it involves man-on-man action or an affectionate lesbian relationship. Attempting to market a mainstream product (be it a film, a TV show, or a video game) with a gay protagonist is a death sentence.

Scream

Being a less-than-feminine young woman, Scream‘s Audrey Jensen is a good example of a realistic portrayal. Other mainstream TV shows with a variety of positive LGBTQ representations include Orange is the New Black and Glee.

Whereas RuPaul’s Drag Race dissipates many myths regarding the LGBTQ community, most other forms of entertainment stick to the safest and most marketable portrayal of a gay man or woman. For example, in video games, it’s nearly impossible to find a young and feminine gay man that isn’t a joke. Prominent in today’s titles are hunks who do little to nothing to defy masculinity and social patterns, as well as women who instead of going all the way with a tougher personality, stick to the strong yet feminine stereotype that everyone loves to praise.

It will take years until we see a feminine man or a butch woman as the protagonist of a mainstream story and we have the LGBTQ community itself to blame. Those who came before us, especially in the 70’s going through the 90’s, fought for diversity and the right to be treated as human beings. But, as we step into the third decade of the 21st Century, few members of the community are brave enough to present an image straight people can’t easily relate to. For example, the aforementioned RuPaul’s Drag Race achieved its status in mainstream media by showcasing “outcasts” who went through thick and thin not only for their sexuality but also their mannerism and tastes. The show fully embraces these individuals and everything they represent while demonstrating how talented they and reminding us that they have just as many problems as a straight white father.

On the other hand, MidBoss’s 2064: Read Only Memories was mostly designed for a very specific audience, one that doesn’t quite mind its aggressive approach to social and identity issues. It features a varied cast that serves a statement more than the story, with some being accurate representations of those angry activists you find online. It isn’t a bad game and the characters each have their strengths, however, the way it tackles the struggles of the LGBTQ community and how it attempts to mix that with transhumanism makes people who need to be aware of its message turn the other way. In the end, 2064 is a good inclusive product that’s just right for the people it was developed for, but it has a short reach beyond that. It’s an academical work rather than a transformative piece.

Of course, the world isn’t black and white. The LGBTQ community holds its share of blame for the situation, but everyone else is just as guilty. Whenever the topic of sexuality is brought up, the public freaks out. That’s particularly easy to witness within the gaming community, where many men will fight with teeth and nails any attempt at including LGBTQ characters and themes. Not everyone agrees with those who oppose difference, but unfortunately, the “haters” are the loudest. Having so much as a same-sex romance option is enough for people to claim that they won’t purchase a game, so whenever someone attempts to have a friendly conversation on the matter, they have rocks thrown at them.

Mass Effect: Andromeda

Mainstream video games, on the other hand, still struggle with the portrayal of gay men and women, playing it safe instead of sticking to reality.

Although the topic isn’t as furiously discussed as it was a few years ago, it also isn’t in a place where comments such as “What kind of weak minded people need to be represented in a video game to have their existence validated? How pathetic is that?” don’t comprise the majority. The lack of empathy is rampant when it comes to sexuality, particularly within the gaming community.

It’s a tight spot we find ourselves in especially because many people within the LGBTQ community believe that there’s no fight to be fought, with a few going as far as agreeing that “fairies” and “butch women”—the ones who raise flags and fight for their right to use Grindr or get married—are the source of the problem.

How can a fragmented community achieve something as ambitious as equality? Why is it right to guarantee that the heteronormative gay men and women have a bright spot in society while the “underdogs” are forced to fit into the norm? And most importantly, what happened to Stonewall and the AIDS craze that took many in the 80’s and 90’s? Were those people fighting for the good of heteronormative gay men and women or for all of us to be seen as human beings?

One thing is certain: No matter how good things are in California or other places where being gay is en vogue, that’s not the same tune the rest of the world is playing. While some worry about how their hair looks and who they’ll fool around with at night, others struggle with negligent and violent families or are surrounded by communities that encourage discriminatory behavior. That said, as much as having the community represented to the average public is important, we can’t forget that the average portrayal is not the norm. Moving forward, writers should work on diversifying characters to be more realistic. As “ugly” as many may find a feminine man, they exist and are just as human as the next person.

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