About BMC 277: Media and Diversity

This course asks students to critically examine the role of the media in facilitating and challenging the social constructions of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation in U.S. culture.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Queerness at its Best:Queer Eye for the Straight Eye and Noah’s Ark

“Television is a new medium. It’s called a medium because nothing is well-done” – Fred Allen (1950). Television does not fully represent gay Black males. Currently Caucasian homosexuals are seeing much more television air time; nonetheless this commonly changing TV paradigm barely incorporates the growing African-American homosexual male subdivision. Recently, however, minority figures on TV programming have. Up until October of 2005 when cable-television network Logo released “Noah’s Arc”, there was no show with more than two consistent gay Black male characters. Gay White male characters however can be seen in various reality and scripted TV shows including “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” The shows do differ in content, but both shows are alike in that they positively represent a usually underrepresented subgroup… the gay male. Author Laura Stempel, wrote in her article Queer Life for the Straight Eye: Television’s Commodification of Queerness that “queer life has been commodified so that straight audience will “buy” it (2009, p217).” But is that the case for Noah’s Arc too? In this blog analysis I will take an in-depth look at Logo’s Noah’s Arc and Bravo’s Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, more specifically I will compare and contrast both shows in regards to points in Stempel’s article. The points mentioned include: LGBT in the mass media, commodification of LGBT in order for them to appeal to all audiences, and show content.
“Noah’s Arc” is a series that explores the daily lives of Noah (a fledgling screenwriter), Wade (straight fellow scribe who's just learning to get comfortable with his same-sex feelings), Ricky (slutty boutique owner), Alex (boisterous HIV counselor), Trey, and Chance (university professor who has recently moved in with his partner, Eddie and his daughter).
Noah's Arc and its gay black and Latino characters, integrated such socially relevant issues as same sex dating, same sex marriage, HIV and AIDS awareness, infidelity, sexual curiosity, promiscuity, homophobia, gay bashing, and same sex parenthood. It had parallels to, and has been cited as, a gay version of Sex and the City and Girlfriends. The series ran from October 2005, to October 2006. Following its cancellation, it was made into a 2008 film, Noah's Arc: Jumping the Broom, as a follow-up to the series (logotv.com1).

Queer Eye for the Straight Guy is about five gay men who specialize in fashion, food & wine, grooming, culture, and interior design. The Fab 5 consist of Kyan, the “Grooming Guru,” Jai, the “Culture Vulture,” Ted, the “Food and Wine Connoisseur,” Thom, the “Design Doctor,” and Carson, the “Fashion Savant.” After throwing out much of the straight man’s unfashionable possessions, each member of the Fab 5 take him to the appropriate places to learn new techniques, labeled as culture and grooming, and pick out new furniture, clothes, and food. They then return him to his redesigned home, and turn him loose to cook a meal for his girlfriend, wife, or family, who gush at the successful makeover while the Fab 5 watch on a TV screen from afar (genders.com1). The reality show debuted in 2003 and its final ten episodes aired in October 2007.

Laura Stempel writes about QE (Queer Eye) in her article Queer Life for the Straight Eye: Television’s Commodification of Queerness, but her theories can also be applied to NA (Noah’s Arc) and the shows make up/content. Stempel first argues that QE is good because it gives LGBT viewers a chance to see people like themselves in mass media and non-LGBT viewers get to witness the “lifestyle.” NA arguably offers the same thing seeing that the groundbreaking show was the first of its kind and showed its characters with depth and 2 dimensional. Contrary to her positive feelings about the show Stempel second argument says that QE is designed as a show needing to appeal to both hetero and homosexual audiences so it can sell. Thus, the show becomes commodified, or becomes a thing for sale, the wider its appeal the bigger its profits. Though QE is about the features of queerness, its show is turned to the service of straight people so that it will sell. In QE, “sexuality takes a back seat to the remodeling (2009, p219)” of the men. Because QE uses its characters talents to sell, this show can be viewed as a larger commodified show as compared to NA. NA uses homosexuality as the shows pitch like QE, but in the actual shows seeing homosexuality is more prevalent in NA.

Both shows have become the “face of queerness” in mainstream Black and White popular culture, but the characters may have been chosen or created precisely to embody particular stereotypes. “Its content raises critical questions about what form of queerness it represents and what parts of queer communities it renders invisible (gender.com2).” In terms of queerness represented in both shows, QE obviously shows very particular view of gay experience by not entering into the character’s personal lives. NA is the exact opposite, being more transparent with its characters and their personal issues and gay relations. Lastly, Stempel argues that the cost to the initial commodification mentioned before concerning QE, is that it is “stripped of the very things that make it queer (Stempel),” to shows gays as valuable members of straight and “normal” society. NA once again is the opposite because it embraces the sexual aspects of being gay. It openly discusses and shows every part of being a gay male.
Even though QE and NA are both two very different shows in terms of creation and characters, both are alike in the fact that they feature almost all openly gay characters in a positive manner. Analyzing these shows puts much in perspective about the networks intentions. Bravo obviously went commercial by commodified QE so that it can appeal to both homo and heterosexuals crowds for profits. LOGO took another approach and gave their characters developing storylines that unfolded personal aspects of them all. QE character might have simply been playing themselves in their roles, but it still “reduces queerness to a narrow and class-based subset, it also puts a public face on some forms of gayness (gender.com3).”

Work Cited

Stempel, L. (2009). Queer life for the straight eye: Television‘s commodification of queerness. Race/Gender/Media: Considering Diversity Across Audiences, Content, and Producers, 2.


No comments:

Post a Comment