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American Television, Drama  
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Another stereotype-buster also entered the American television landscape on January 9, 2011, with the premiere of Showtime's Shameless. The show, a remake of the popular British TV series Shameless, revolves around the lives of a dysfunctional down-and-out family living in the Chicago suburbs, and includes closeted gay teenager Ian Gallagher (Cameron Monaghan) who, in addition to being ROTC-trained, also smokes pot, is obsessed with porn, and has a torrid affair with his married Muslim boss Kash (Pej Vahdat).

In an interview with Vanity Fair columnist Brett Berk, Monaghan described his character as the "anti-stereotype" and the "anti-Kurt Hummel" (a reference to Glee's flamboyant out gay teenager Kurt), and noted that Ian never does anything that could be perceived of as stereotypically gay. Monaghan also stated that even though he himself was not gay, he was drawn to the character of Ian because it was a "fantastic part." He observed that "a lot of teens--and a lot of gay teens, especially--will really relate to the role."

Television portrayals of homosexuals have made significant positive strides since the images seen in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Indeed, as the prevalence of televised gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, and transgender portrayals increases, television viewers (and the general public at large) become exposed to what GLAAD--in its annual Network Responsibility Index--calls the "rich tapestry of the GLBTQ community." This exposure, in turn, results in a continued favorable trend toward greater acceptance of gay and lesbian persons among the American public.

Nathan G. Tipton

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literature >> Overview:  AIDS Literature

In the twenty years since its first appearance in the West, AIDS has been the subject of a large body of literature, most of it written by gay men and much of it designed to expose readers as closely as possible to the emergency of the epidemic and the suffering of affected individuals.

arts >> Overview:  American Television, News

Although glbtq people and issues have been inadequately covered by American television news, there have recently been signs of improvement.

arts >> Overview:  American Television, Reality Shows

Reality television viewers have come increasingly to expect the appearance of gay men and lesbians on these shows because their presence helps further underscore the "reality" in Reality TV.

arts >> Overview:  American Television, Situation Comedies

American television sitcoms have consistently reflected the presence of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people, often in distorted and stereotyped ways, but occasionally in ways that acknowledge our humanity and complexity.

arts >> Overview:  American Television, Soap Operas

Treatments of gay relationships on network soap operas have always been limited; recently, however, gays and lesbians have created their own soap operas to tell the convoluted stories of lesbian and gay entanglements.

arts >> Overview:  American Television, Talk Shows

For glbt people, television talk shows have been both promising and problematic; they have brought glbt issues to public awareness, but until recently they have also presented glbt people as stereotypes and freaks.

literature >> Overview:  Amazons

Historically either distrusted as agents of chaos or admired as examples of female power and intelligence, Amazons were depicted as heterosexual until the twentieth century, when lesbians adopted them as symbols of powerful women living without men.

arts >> Allen, Chad

Unlike many child stars, Chad Allen has successfully made the transition to accomplished adult actor; he has also come out as a gay man and become an advocate for glbtq rights.

arts >> Baitz, Jon Robin

A leading contemporary American playwright, Jon Robin Baitz produces works that are both morally serious and politically conscious.

arts >> Ball, Alan

Award-winning screenwriter, director, and producer Alan Ball, whose work frequently features glbtq characters, has had great success in both film and television.

arts >> Barclay, Paris 

Award-winning television director Paris Barclay is also an activist for glbtq rights, including marriage equality and the opportunity to adopt children as he and his husband have done.

arts >> Batt, Bryan

Actor and designer Bryan Batt achieved fame playing a closeted advertising executive on television, but in his own life he has been active in affirming the naturalness of homosexuality.

arts >> Baxter, Meredith

Since coming out in 2009, actress Meredith Baxter, best known for her starring role in the ABC situation comedy Family Ties (1982-1989), has become a spokesperson for glbtq rights.

arts >> Berlanti, Greg

Writer-director-producer Greg Berlanti has had a prolific career in television, successfully incorporating glbtq characters and storylines into prime time shows.

arts >> Black, Dustin Lance

Academy Award-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black has quickly established himself as both an accomplished filmmaker and a committed activist.

social sciences >> Cammermeyer, Margarethe

The highest-ranking official in the United States military to acknowledge her homosexuality while in the service, Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer served a number of years in the Washington State National Guard as an open lesbian.

arts >> Cholodenko, Lisa

Filmmaker Lisa Cholodenko makes movies whose narrative motor is sexual attraction.

arts >> Coco, James

Quick-witted, roly-poly, sad-eyed clown James Coco proved one of the most versatile and successful American stage, film, and television actors from the late-1960s through the mid-1980s.

arts >> Deitch, Donna

Although pioneering film and television director Donna Deitch is best known for Desert Hearts, a classic of lesbian cinema, she has also made other films that probe gay and lesbian relationships

social sciences >> Don't Ask, Don't Tell

The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, in effect from 1993 until 2011, was a compromise intended to end discrimination against gay men and lesbians in the U. S. military, but it failed to halt discharges based solely on sexual orientation.

social sciences >> Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) is a watchdog group dedicated to promoting accurate representations of the glbtq community in the media.

arts >> Gilbert, Sara

Actress Sara Gilbert, who became a favorite with lesbian audiences for her portrayal of tomboy Darlene on the long-running television series Roseanne, came out publicly as a lesbian in 2004.

arts >> Hoffman, William M.

Playwright, librettist, and educator William M. Hoffman is best known for his ground-breaking play As Is, one of the first theatrical works to focus on the AIDS epidemic.

arts >> Kleiser, Randal

Although best known for his direction of lighter fare such as Grease, Randal Kleiser made his most significant contribution to gay cinema with the 1996 AIDS-themed "It's My Party."

arts >> Lynch, Jane

Out lesbian actress Jane Lynch has forged a successful career on television, in movies, and on the stage, including some memorable turns portraying lesbian characters.

literature >> McNally, Terrence

Texas-reared Terrence McNally, whose first play, And Things That Go Bump in the Night, was one of the great scandals of the 1964 New York season, emerged in the 1990s as America's most important gay playwright since Tennessee Williams.

arts >> Nixon, Cynthia

Award-winning actress Cynthia Nixon recently acknowledged publicly that she is bisexual and in a loving relationship with a woman.

arts >> Singer, Bryan

Film director and producer Bryan Singer overturns standard narrative formulae and develops complex characters; he consistently emphasizes the fluidity and ambiguity of identity categories, including those pertaining to gender and sexuality.

arts >> Star, Darren

Responsible for such pop culture touchstones as Beverly Hills, 90210, Melrose Place, and Sex and the City, writer-director-producer Darren Star has had a prolific career in television.

arts >> Stiers, David Ogden

Best known to television viewers for his role as Major Charles Emerson Winchester III on the series M*A*S*H, David Ogden Stiers has had a long and successful career.

arts >> Williamson, Kevin

Screenwriter-producer-director Kevin Williamson is best known as the writer of clever, self-referential horror films and as the creator of the groundbreaking television series Dawson's Creek.

arts >> Zadan, Craig (b. 1949), and Neil Meron (b. 1955)

Prolific film, television, and stage producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron have created a diverse body of work, including a number of theatrical films and television features with glbtq themes.


"Alan Ball: The Producer." The Advocate (December 2009/January 2010): 76.

Alwood, Edward. Straight News: Gays, Lesbians, and the News Media. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.

Aslinger, Ben. "Creating a Network for Queer Audiences at Logo TV." Popular Communication 7.2 (2009): 107-21.

Ayers, Dennis. "Interview with The Wire's Michael K. Williams." AfterElton (February 25, 2008):,1.

Berk, Brett. "Shameless' Gay Teen Cameron Monaghan is the Anti-Kurt Hummel." Vanity Fair (January 7, 2011):

Berlant, Lauren. "Sex in Public." Critical Inquiry 24.2 (1998): 547-567.

Buxton, Rodney. "An Early Frost." The Museum of Broadcast Communications website.

Delaney, Sam. "Omar Little is the Gay Stick-Up Man Who Robs Drug Dealers for a Living in The Wire." The Guardian (London) (July 18, 2008):

Doty, Alexander. Making Things Perfectly Queer: Interpreting Mass Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993.

_____, and Corey K. Creekmur, eds. Out in Culture: Gay, Lesbian, and Queer Essays on Popular Culture. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1995.

Dyer, Richard. The Matter of Images. New York: Routledge, 1993.

"Gannasoli Plays 1st Gay 'Sopranos' Capo." UPI News Track (May 3, 2004).

Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). "2011 Where We Are on TV." (December 2011):

_____. "2011 Network Responsibility Index." (December 2011):

Glitz, Michael. "Faces of Angels." The Advocate 904 (December 9, 2003): 38+.

Gross, Larry. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Lesbian and Gay People and the Media." Images that Matter: Pictorial Stereotypes in the Media. Paul Martin Lester, ed. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1995. 149-159.

Hart, Kylo-Patrick R. "Representing Gay Men on American Television." The Journal of Men's Studies 9.1 (2000): 59-79.

Hensley, Dennis. "Inside Queer As Folk." The Advocate 825 (21 November 2000): 47+.

Johnson, Michael, Jr. "After Noah's Arc: Where Do We Go from Here?" Queers in American Popular Culture. Volume 1. Jim Elledge, ed. New York: Praeger, 2010.

Joyrich, Lynne. "Epistemology of the Console." Critical Inquiry 27 (Spring 2001): 439-67.

Kaye, Lori. "Where Are the Funny Girls?" The Advocate 828 (16 January 2001): 85+.

Maupin, Armistead. "A Line that Commercial TV Won't Cross." The New York Times (January 9, 1994): sec. 2: 29.

Netzhammer, Emile C., and Scott A. Shamp. "Guilt By Association: Homosexuality and AIDS on Prime-Time Television." Queer Words, Queer Images: Communication and the Construction of Homosexuality. R. J. Ringer, ed. New York: New York University Press, 1994. 91-106.

Pela, Robert L. "Rating TV Ratings." The Advocate 727 (18 February 1997): 33.

Pilipp, Frank, and Charles Shull. "TV Movies of the First Decade of AIDS." Journal of Popular Film & Television 21.1 (1993): 19-26.

Reeder, Constance. "The Skinny on the *L Word*." off our backs 34.1-2 (2004): 51-52.

Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. "'The L Word': Novelty in Normalcy." The Chronicle of Higher Education 50.19 (January 16, 2004): B10.

Signorile, Michelangelo. Queer in America: Sex, the Media, and the Closets of Power. New York: Random House, 1993.

Skeggs, Beverly, Leslie Moran, Paul Tyrer, and Jon Binnie. "Queer as Folk: Producing the Real of Urban Space." Urban Studies 41.9 (2004): 1839-56.

Terrell, Kellee. "Black Is Back." The Advocate (May 8, 2007): 50-51.

Toepfer, Susan. "Is Prime Time Ready For Its First Lesbian? Gail Strickland Hopes So--and She's About to Find Out." People Weekly, (April 25, 1988): 95+.

Walters, Suzanna Danuta. All the Rage: The Story of Gay Visibility in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.

Wlodarz, Joe. "Smokin' Tokens: thirtysomething and TV's Queer Dilemma." Camera Obscura: Feminism, Culture, and Media Studies 33-34 (1995): 193-211.


    Citation Information
    Author: Tipton, Nathan G.  
    Entry Title: American Television, Drama  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated January 1, 2012  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  


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