Happy National Coming Out Day! I thought I would mark this special day by writing a post taking a look at the current state of coming out in pop culture media. My knowledge of past and present pop culture is certainly not exhaustive: I’ve watched a lot of TV in my day, but I make no claim to have seen every show. Nevertheless, it seems there has been an overall growing trend in TV shows—characters simply aren’t coming out anymore. Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but as a gay man, I feel that the implicit message of “That story’s been done before, coming out stories are so last decade,” all boils down to, “We don’t really care anymore.” Pop culture routinely inundates us with storylines that have been done time and time again: first (heterosexual) love, star-crossed lovers, first heartbreak, young person coming into their paranormal powers, and people readily consume those same scenarios over and over. Are people really so bored with coming out of the closet stories that writers think they aren’t worth writing anymore?
I love queer characters. I want them in all my shows. I want all the characters in all my shows to be queer. Maybe that’s asking too much, so I’m offering an alternative to geek media writers: give me at least a few queer characters in your shows, and for the love of God/Goddess/Gods, write their stories well.
When I started watching Orphan Black just about a month ago, I already knew that one of the clones, Cosima, was going to be queer, and I was excited to watch her story unfold. Unfortunately, there was nary even a hint of what could have been a very interesting nature vs. nurture discussion. Just as upsetting, I was treated to this outstanding line from Delphine, her new paramour: “I’ve never done this before.” Cringe/eyeroll/facepalm/etc. “I’ve never done this before” is not good queer narrative writing; it’s a line from the beginning of a porno. Let’s examine why it’s problematic for that to be the only queer narrative seen on TV.
In the 3B season finale of Teen Wolf last month, we were treated to one more unpleasant turn of events in a season full of unpleasant events: Danny broke up with Ethan. The moment left me with so many questions—was this just because Charlie Carver already has a new show lined up? Would they have stayed together if C. Carv didn’t get a new job, or was this just where the characters were headed anyway? Was it prejudiced for Danny to not want to date a werewolf? Why do I cry so much about fictional characters? But then I started to think about a more pivotal question: why did they start dating in the first place? It led me to a theory I call Magical Obligatory Queer Dating. Let’s take a closer look.