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We are evolving as a culture and the entertainment industry has to keep up with this change. No longer are black actors getting side roles and no longer are women being subjected to little more than eye candy. However, we could argue that the industry is still a little unsure of how to handle gay characters in their series. Below are three series that take different approaches at handling homosexuality and how well they achieve it. Feel free to argue in the comments below.

3 – BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER

No one can ignore Willow’s character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, when talking about how TV have changed our opinions of homosexuality. In the fourth series of Buffy, Joss Whedon made the decision to make Willow, one of the three main leads, a lesbian. It was a slow change, Willow coming out of her relationship with a male character and slowly getting closer to Tara.

The key thing here is that it was done tastefully. This was not a choice made by Whedon trying to get a few more views out of his TV programme with kissing girls. No, Willow’s character does not change with her switch in sexuality, in fact, we could argue s he is empowered by it. And the series continues with Willow, like business as usual, with the occasional reminder that she is gay. Sure, the series sometimes flaunts it to get the most out of a storyline, or to improve a joke, but for the most part, Joss Whedon succeeds in handling homosexuality, especially when we consider that this series is a few years old now.

2 – DOCTOR WHO

Also very forward thinking with reptiliphilia.

Also very forward thinking with reptiliphilia.

Doctor Who is slowly introducing more homosexual characters. As recently as the 2012 Christmas special, the Doctor is seen working the lesbian couple, Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint, and throughout the series, several characters reveal that they are gay, the most obvious being Captain Jack Harkness, who also adds this feel to the spin-off, Torchwood.

However, for some reason, this does feel over the top. The characters always reveal their homosexuality with a moment, almost daring the audience to challenge their use of homosexuality. In a way, it does feel like a ‘coming out’ moment and in 2013, we really shouldn’t need that. It’s almost as though the BBC are still uncomfortable with the thought of gay characters, but are over-compensating nevertheless. It reminds us of the alpha male in the group of friends, who laughs loudly with the gay friend to show how cool he is with the development, but it still scared to be left in the room with him.

1 – SPARTACUS

When it comes to handling gay relationships in TV, to my surprise, Spartacus is the most forward thinking.

For those who haven’t seen Spartacus, it is a retelling of the famous story of the gladiator slaves who banded together and broke free from their Roman captors. As the series progresses, it tells the story of the Romans trying to chase down Spartacus and his men. It is hardly going to win any acting awards, is comprised mostly of sword fighting and Roman orgies, and wanders from historical accuracy quite often. However, when it comes to the simple things, they are astonishingly modern.

Not that anyone would call him 'gay' directly to his face.

Not that anyone would call him ‘gay’ directly to his face.

Maybe their strong defence of homosexuality is to make up for their lack of feminist standing (period dramas struggle to make strong female figures, as in the Roman era, sadly, women were lesser beings). The gay characters are dropped subtly into the storyline. The best example is one of the series’ lead action heroes, Agron. He is one of the lead fighters in Spartacus’ gang and then, in between episodes, he begins a gay relationship with one of the slaves he saves from the Romans. There is no explanation for when this happened, it just did. Whereas other series would make a big character development with it, Spartacus just accepted it and moved on.

It is surprisingly mature for a series that gets uncomfortable if someone hasn’t been beheaded for a whole ten minutes.

4 thoughts on “3 Ways TV Series Handle Gay Relationships

  1. I’m surprised you haven’t used any of the British programs on Channel 4 in their handling of gay relationships. Hollyoaks, as I have been informed by others more interested in it, has quite a different approach to homosexual relationships, taking two particularly masculine characters and developing a love between them. Shameless was also key in British television showing a gay relationship done tastefully. My personal favourite would probably be Sugar Rush which was the story of a young girls unrequited love for her best friend and how she handled coming to terms with her homosexuality.

  2. I totally agree that Doctor Who feels the need to show you how a character is defined by their homosexuality! I also love Willow’s transformation, except that she goes from “Straight woman” to “Straight woman in love with another woman” to “Gay” and never acknowledges her attraction to men ever again. I thought that was a little weird.

  3. Um. How do we know that Madam Vastra is gay? “Kindly infer no impropriety, sir. We are married.” I felt she said that quite naturally. I like to wind up uptight straights too. In her earlier episode, she reveals a tongue several yards long then says to Jenny “I don’t know why you put up with me”.

    Doctor Who still does not go for much character development, the situations matter more than the characters, so we could not see the relationship develop. So, I am glad to have the occasional queer reference. In Children of Earth, there was time for Ianto to discuss with his parents his love for Jack, setting up the death scene. I am glad to have the queer references, particularly with characters who do not seem screwed up.

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