Out of the closet and on to primetime


Is it me or has everyone on Brothers And Sisters suddenly turned gay? Last week’s episode of the popular M-Net drama series saw an entire episode focus on every gay character in the series and the storylines that pivoted around them were heightened ten-fold.

Fans of the show already know that there’s a focus on gay relationships to the same extent that there’s a focus on straight relationships, and this is one of the first series to depict gay interaction in a way that it actually reflects real life.

When the Brothers and Sisters first emerged three seasons ago, we were introduced to Kevin Walker (played with such ease by straight Irish actor Matthew Rhys), a lawyer and part of the hugely dysfunctional Walker clan. Kevin was also an openly gay character and, for the first time, it wasn’t a gay character dying of Aids or an uber-camp hairdresser flapping his wrists like he was guiding a Boeing into a parking bay.

With the exception of his sexual orientation, Kevin was exactly the same as the rest of his brothers and sisters – flawed, issued, sometimes irritating, always endearing. And as the character developed, Kevin soon met his life-partner, Scotty Wandell, played by Luke MacFarlane, and they eventually got married at the beginning of the third season, which we’re currently watching on M-Net.

I interviewed MacFarlane in Cape Town earlier this year and because he’s actually gay in real life, a lot of our talk turned to this very subject.

The fact is, America has a huge section of its viewership in what is referred to as the Bible Belt, and ratings from this sector often make or break a show.

Apparently, Dirty Sexy Money folded because these viewers believed it to be too focused on materialism and greed, Eli Stone was not re-commissioned because some Earthly being was playing God and Pushing Daisies wilted for much the same reason. The list goes on.

MacFarlane says this was a concern for the producers when they first mulled over the creation of these characters. But because there’s such a large, on-going conversation about same-sex equality in the US, this attempt to show a gay couple in this way meant a lot to American society in terms of finding real role models.

So the characters, MacFarlane says, have been received very well, just because there is this desire for people to have role models specifically in the gay community.

Another interesting fact is that Kevin and Scotty’s wedding was the first gay marriage in a recurring role on US television, so it was a very big deal. It was also the first man-to-man kiss on primetime television, that wasn’t a comedy, so they were breaking ground on so many other levels too.

MacFarlane, who has, in the past, been dogged with rumours that he’s dating Prison Break’s Wentworth Miller, says he brings a lot of himself into this role of Scotty Wandell. He says he admires Scotty’s sense of right and wrong, and his very strong sense of self.

But the thing he’s most pleased about is the fact that they actually get to show a gay relationship through a long process. He admits that very rarely do viewers get to see this kind of relationship in a show – them meeting for the first time, breaking up for the first time, getting back together for the first time and then getting married.

And MacFarlane feels that’s a very accurate portrait of any relationship out there, never mind a gay one, and that’s the due integrity that should always be given to these characters.

But are they milking the concept a little now?

Saul (played by Ron Rifkin), the brother of Sally Field’s character, Nora, has also come out of the closet. Saul is probably in his early 60s and is, for the first time, searching for the kind of relationship he was never allowed to have because of societal dictates earlier on in his life.

While the twist was unexpected, I think this storyline is becoming more about making a point than being dramatic.

I can’t wait to see who else they pull out of this closet next. A lesbian? A black woman? A back woman who’s Tonight, South Africaa lesbian?

I suppose I can live in hope.

Source: Tonight (South Africa)

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