Editor’s note: Spoilers ahead for last night’s Will and Grace conversion therapy episode
Since returning to NBC on Sept. 28, one of our favorite series, Will and Grace, has consistently brought the funny back to Thursday nights. It wasn’t until Will, Grace, Jack and Karen returned to our living rooms that we realized just how much we missed these neurotic, kooky, superficial and drunk characters (respectively). But this week allowed the show to tackle something rather serious for the LGBTQ community, albeit in a humorous way. Last night’s Will and Grace conversion therapy episode handled the topic with aplomb and alacrity.
At the top of the show, we find out that Jack’s son, Elliot, has had a son of his own, which — you guessed it — makes Jack a grandfather. The series’ most age-obsessed character just became “gramps,” though Jack is less upset by that fact and more downtrodden because Elliot (his son by sperm donation) never bothered to let him know he was a grandfather.
The grandson, Skip, has broken away from his parents while on a trip to Manhattan (mom being an ultra-conservative right-winger from Texas, where they all live) and made it up to New York City’s most lovely apartment, where he meets Jack for the very first time. (Upon opening the door, Jack tells him to beat it — “I’m sorry, dear, I can’t give you any money. I don’t support arts and music in schools. I don’t need the competition,” he says.)
But after realizing who Skip is, Jack worries that he won’t have anything in common with his grandson — that is, until Skip plops down on the couch in “pajama party position,” a way of sitting that no heterosexual man has ever attempted.
As soon as Jack realizes his grandson is “family” in more sense than one, he rushes off to gather props for Skip’s first trip to camp. But shortly after Jack returns from across the hall with a wig, boa and bathrobe — clearly the gay kid’s “first time at camp” starter kit — we learn Skip isn’t headed to a theater camp like Jack thought but Camp Straighten Arrow, a conversion therapy camp for gay kids. Jack and Will are heartbroken.
Hilarity ensues when Jack and Will head to Camp Straighten Arrow to make sure Skip knows he doesn’t need to be “fixed.” But instead of sappy drama and a cliché conversation, we’re gifted a really amazing, poignant moment between Jack and his grandson.
“It was hard for me once, too, but believe me, it gets better,” Jack tells Skip. “You are gonna be invited to so many good dinner parties. And there’s something else: When you get older you’ll understand that there’s the family you were born into, and the family that you choose. And the family I chose — well, it doesn’t get any better than that. … You’re just gonna have to be really strong, but I’m gonna be there for you as much as I can. And when I’m not, I want you to picture me in your head, looking at you like I am right now, saying, ‘You are exactly who you’re supposed to be.'”
But the end of the episode wasn’t completely straight-laced, as minutes before Andrew Rannells and Jane Lynch delivered a hilarious round of slapstick as the camp’s counselors — two “former” homosexuals who clearly have a little more work ahead of them before passing as grade-A heteros.
In the end, Jack’s son Elliot sees the error of his ways, realizing that his son Skip deserves the opportunity to live his own truth. Such a great, heartfelt episode.
Conversion therapy is still worthy of a conversation in the United States, where only some states have banned the practice. Back in May of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld California’s right to ban the practice within its borders. Only a handful of other states have enacted a similar ban, including New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, New York, New Mexico, Vermont and the District of Columbia. Some cities, like Seattle, have also banned conversion therapy.
But even the current U.S. Vice President, Mike Pence, has supported the use of conversion therapy in the past.
Conversion therapy uses a torturer’s array of brainwashing techniques that include weird types of aversion therapy, solitary confinement, creepy religious messaging, “peer pressure” groups and physical abuse. Every reputable American psychological association calls this type of therapy harmful, and it has no place in today’s society.
Gay people do not need to be “fixed.” We are a beautiful community.
Bravo, Will and Grace, for using your comedic platform to address such an important topic.
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