This year’s Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage took an epic step towards equality, and a documentary called Playing Gay believes that television helped pave the road. Playing Gay: How America Came Out on Television explores the progression of gay TV charactersand how they got the ball rolling on equality.
Written and Directed by LGBT activist and talk show host David Bender, the film hypothesizes that series like Ellen, Modern Family and The L Word helped create a more accepting and tolerable world. As far as we know, no other film that explores LGBT television, but the creators of Playing Gay believe it’s important to know “where we came from.”
The project will include interviews with actors from 1960’s TV shows like Sheila Kuehl (The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis) and Wilson Cruz (My So Called Life). In the trailer for the film, Cruz — “Rickie” from the cult-classic My So Called Life — gets emotional when discussing his audition process for the series. Cruz says he told the casting people, “How important this part would’ve been on TV if I were able to see [another bi character] when I was 15.”
— Playing Gay (@PlayingGay) July 22, 2015
Cruz’s Ricky became the first ever openly bi character in a leading role on a television series in 1994 even though My So Called Life was cancelled after one season. Ellen DeGeneres’s show Ellen suffered the same fate once her character came out as a lesbian although over 40 million people watched that episode. With shows like Glee, Modern Family and Degrassi: The Next Generation, gay television characters have become prominent and important pieces to both TV storytelling and progressing a culture of acceptance for LGBT people.
The project needs funding and currently has a Kickstarter campaign. The Kickstarter goal is $137,500 but currently has nearly $23,000 funded with only 21 more days to go. The project has already interviewed Michael Douglas, Michael Sheen and Wilson Cruz and, once funded, hopes to interview Rachel Maddow and other actors who have portrayed LGBT characters or are LGBT television figures.
The Supreme Court ruling was an “about time” kind of thing, but gay television characters definitely didn’t hinder it. The wide variety of gay TV characters like the powerful and successful (albeit flawed) advertising executive Brian Kinney on Queer As Folk and the emotional and hilarious married father Cameron Tucker on Modern Family did help squash the idea that gay people are radically different from other Americans.
Also, gay television characters can hold a strong importance to young, closeted kids as Cruz discusses in the trailer. Saying that gay television characters were the catalyst for marriage equality and progression in America may seemed far fetched but not giving these characters at least some credit for helping to paint the picture of tolerance is wrong.
Watch the trailer here:
(featured image via Nerd Like You)Degrassi Junior High documentary Ellen DeGeneres