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American Television, Reality Shows  
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Speculation was also rife about the sexuality of competitors such as Clay Aiken (nee Clayton Holmes Grissom, b. November 30, 1978), Idol runner-up in the show's second season (2003), as well as the flamboyant Adam Lambert (b. January 29, 1982), who was also runner-up in season eight (2009). Such speculation and attendant trepidation led singer Adam Levine (b. March 18, 1979)--who served as one of the coaches on NBC's rival program The Voice--to tell Out magazine in 2011, "What's always pissed me off about Idol is it wanted to mask [competitor's sexuality], for that to go unspoken. C'mon. You can't be publicly gay? At this point? On a singing competition? Give me a break."

Levine's criticism can easily been seen in the contrasting responses viewers had to the eventual coming-out revelations by Aiken and Lambert. According to Advocate columnist Michelle Garcia, Aiken's eventual coming of the closet in September 2008 provoked a backlash among his "Claymate" fans, many of whom felt betrayed and accused him of being hypocritical and un-Christian. However Lambert, who initially (if coyly) deflected questions about his sexuality, nevertheless reveled in Lycra, dry-humped his male backup dancer, and unashamedly kissed other men, all of which provoked a blasé reaction from Idol viewers. As Dale Hrabi explains, Lambert's defiant out-ness ultimately resulted in viewers considering his homosexuality irrelevant to his obvious talent as a performer.

Adam Lambert's flamboyance on Idol may have raised few viewer eyebrows, but his vamping paled in comparison to the fierce capering seen on the Logo series RuPaul's Drag Race. Hosted and judged by the self-described "most famous drag queen in the world" RuPaul, along with out fashion designer and Project Runway alumnus Santino Rice (b. August 20, 1974), RuPaul's Drag Race premiered on February 2, 2009, and featured nine drag queens who competed for the "fierce title of America's Next Breakthrough Drag Superstar."

The show utilized the same format as seen in America's Next Top Model and Project Runway, albeit with a drag twist. For instance, competitors were expected to recreate a glamorous drag look using hand-me-downs from a dollar store, attend "drag charm school," and, of course, perform in front of live audiences and judges.

Like its predecessor Project Runway, in 2010 "RuPaul's Drag Race" also received the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Reality Program. According to Eir-Anne Edgar, although RuPaul's Drag Race is broadcast on the deluxe cable channel Logo--which also bills itself as the network providing "entertainment programming for lesbians and gays and just about anyone who enjoys a gay point of view"--its proximity to a queer audience makes it ideally positioned as the "official reality television show for queer America, demonstrating the permissible forms of drag and gender performance."

Following up on the success of RuPaul's Drag Race, in October 2010 Logo launched another series based on a previously tested formula. Based on Bravo's wildly popular Real Housewives franchise, Logo introduced America to The A-List: New York. In this show, which New York Daily News writer David Hinckley termed a "docu-reality," the lives of six gay and bisexual men are followed in order to show the ebb and flow of intimate relationships, professional careers, and personal interactions between cast members.

Similarly, Mike Albo of Salon magazine stated that while The A-List was definitely "reality showsploitation," it also serves as a "surprisingly thought-provoking reminder of how much representations of gay men on TV have changed and how gay identity is turning into a kind of consumer bracket rather than an act of self-expression." In spite of well-founded criticism, The A-List: New York has found a devoted audience and, in fact, has generated spinoff A-Lists in Dallas (which premiered October 10, 2011) and Los Angeles (currently in production).

As shows such as The A-List franchise have demonstrated, reality television shows continue to demonstrate the marketability and popularity of gay and lesbian participants. With reality television expanding its boundaries and encompassing a wider and wider array of personalities, it appears that television viewers will increasingly and invariably get the message that queers are simply another variation of the people who might (and probably will) move in next door.

Nathan G. Tipton

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arts >> Overview:  American Television, Drama

American television has made significant strides in its portrayal of homosexuals in dramatic series and movies, but cable networks have been more daring than the "big three" broadcast networks.

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, 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.

social sciences >> Overview:  Rural Life

Rural life offers both challenges and satisfactions for glbtq people.

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 >> Bass, Lance

Singer Lance Bass gained fame as a member of the boy band *Nsync; since coming out in 2006, he has spoken on behalf of glbtq rights.

arts >> Black, Dustin Lance

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

arts >> Boitano, Brian  

Figure skater Brian Boitano, who won a gold medal in the 1988 Winter Olympic Games, came out publicly soon after he was named to the American delegation for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. 

arts >> Bono, Chaz

The child of a famous show business couple, Chaz Bono has had to cope with family resistance and intense public scrutiny as he came out, first as a lesbian, then as a transgender man.

arts >> Cooper, Anderson

Award-winning television journalist Anderson Cooper, famous for his reporting from war zones and scenes of natural and man-made disasters, ended years of speculation by confirming his homosexuality in 2012.

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.

arts >> Overview:  Interior Design

The career of interior design has been stereotyped as gay; although this stereotype often invites ridicule, it stems from a cultural perception that gay men may have special skills in the area of artistic design and fashion trends.

arts >> Leifer, Carol

Comedian, writer, actor, and producer Carol Leifer never anticipated that after the age of forty she would find personal fulfillment by recognizing her lesbianism, becoming a mother, and standing up for glbtq rights.


Albo, Mike. "'The A-List': The Triumph of Vacuous Gay Culture." Salon (October 2010):

Andreoli, Rick. "Party of Five." The Advocate (July 22, 2003): 62-64.

Armstrong, Jennifer, Mandi Bierly, and Alynda Wheat. "If We Ran Reality TV: Paris, You're In. Trista, You're Out." Entertainment Weekly (May 21, 2004): 24.

Aterovis, Josh. "Interview: Sam and Dan McMillen, Gay Brothers on the Run on 'The Amazing Race.'" AfterElton (October 2, 2009): race.

Barrett, Jon. "Reichen and Chip: Reality Sets In." The Advocate (October 28, 2003): 32-41.

Brenton, Sam, and Reuben Cohen. Shooting People: Adventures in Reality TV. London: Verso, 2003.

Dehnart, Andy. "Gay Porn Star Cast on Real World Las Vegas." Reality Blurred (November 8, 2010):

_____. "TAR 14 Teams Include Nude Model, Three Gay Men." Reality Blurred (January 28, 2009):

Edgar, Eir-Anne. "Xtravangza!: Drag Representation and Articulation in 'RuPaul's Drag Race.'" Studies in Popular Culture 34.1 (2011): 133-45.

Garcia, Michelle. "Claymates in Crisis." The Advocate (November 4. 2008): 13.

Hart, Kylo-Patrick R. "We're Here, We're Queer--and We're Better Than You: The Representational Superiority of Gay Men to Heterosexuals on 'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.'" The Journal of Men's Studies 12.3 (Spring 2004): 241-253.

Hatch, Rich. 101 Survival Secrets: How to Make $1,000,000, Lose 100 Pounds, and Just Plain Live Happy. New York: Lyons Press, 2000.

Horowitz, Craig. "Reality Check." People Weekly (March 22, 1993): 61-64.

Johnson, Hillary, and Nancy Rommelmann. MTV's The Real Real World. New York: MTV Books, 1995.

Jones, Wenzel. "Lance Loud." The Advocate (November 12, 2002): 60.

Meers, Erik. "Keeping It Real." The Advocate (April 30, 2002): 38-46.

Philpot, Robert. "Underground TV: The Beauty of 'The Beast.'" Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service (July 10, 2004): K2358.

Pollet, Alison. MTV's The Real World New Orleans Unmasked. New York: MTV Books, 2000.

Rice, Lynette. "Alterna-TV." Entertainment Weekly (February 13, 2004): 65.

Sigesmund, B. J. "Boys R Us: Dating Games." Newsweek (July 21, 2003): 52.

Steele, Bruce C. "A Teen Idol's Dream: Jim Verraros, the 19-Year-Old 'American Idol' Finalist, Talks for the First Time About Overcoming Antigay Abuse in School and Finding the Strength to Come Out and Take On Hollywood." The Advocate (January 21, 2003): 74-6.

Stransky, Tanner. "'The A-List: New York' Premiere Recap: Did You Love It or Hate It?" Entertainment Weekly (October 5, 2010):

Streitmatter, Rodger. From 'Perverts' to 'Fab Five:' The Media's Changing Depiction of Gay Men and Lesbians. New York: Routledge, 2009.

Yahr, Emily. "Chaz Bono Eliminated from 'Dancing with the Stars.'" The Washington Post (October 26, 2011):


    Citation Information
    Author: Tipton, Nathan G.  
    Entry Title: American Television, Reality Shows  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated January 6, 2012  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


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