“Oh, he’s gay!” The Perception of Gay Men of their Portrayal in Television and Film
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Currently, there is little research on the perception of gay men of their portrayals on television and in film. Thus far, literature on such portrayals on the small and silver screens has taken a general survey of men and women of all sexual orientations. This qualitative research explores the perceptions of a group of gay men, as garnered in a focus group, by presenting a curation of TV and movie clips to generate discussion. The main findings suggest that shows and movies are apt to illustrate gay men as overly sexual, flamboyant, and reliant on the act of ‘coming out’. The idea of ‘coming out’, as a focus of the participants, was emphasized as an integral part of a gay man’s experience and identity. Participants stressed the importance of recognizing one’s homosexuality, as a practical act of saying the words – ‘I am gay’ – aloud, and they also highlighted the perpetual process of coming out to everyone. Other findings in this research highlight general stereotypes of gay men that establish a standard of ‘gayness’, which is advanced through these media forms. This standard is utilized by both gay and straight individuals as a reference for what it means to be gay – that is, what it looks and even sounds like to be a gay man. In the case of heterosexual individuals, this research highlights that the portrayal of gay men on television and in film can serve to condition how straight people think about gay men in general. This standard of ‘gayness’, however, serves as a form of role modeling that serves to inform gay youth how they should act. This anthropological work is a glimpse into how gay men perceive their portrayals on TV and in film, but further study is required to contribute to this very important topic.