“The New Normal”

I tuned in to the first episode of “The New Normal” on NBC, and I was shocked at the way the gay couple was portrayed. The show displayed a homosexual couple in a heterosexual relationship. In other words, one partner was more feminine while the other was more masculine. This is not the first show to depict homosexual relationships in this way, and a stereotype has now been created that gay relationships have a “girl” and a “boy”. In this show, one man was seen shopping while the other was watching sports. A review, posted below, echoes the same sentiments:

http://ordinary-gentlemen.com/russellsaunders/2012/09/the-new-normal-trying-to-prove-rupert-everett-right/

I think that TV shows portray gay couples in a heterosexual way to make it more acceptable and less frightening. They can be seen as a “normal” couple because one person embodies the gender characteristics and roles of a typical female while the other displays the gender characteristics of a typical male. This is a problem for two reasons. One, it is creating a stereotype of homosexual relationships that is not accurate at all. Secondly, it is reaffirming the idea that there is a typical female gender role and a typical male gender role that must be fulfilled in successful relationships. This is a problem for heterosexual and homosexual couples alike. I’m very curious as to what you guys think about homosexual couples being portrayed in a heterosexual way.

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3 Responses to “The New Normal”

  1. sheilass says:

    I completely agree! The same thing happens in Modern Family. At first I thought the show was so progressive and revolutionary for portraying a gay family. But the more I thought about it and watched the way in which the characters were portrayed, the more angry I became. They present two extremes/contradictions though. While they portray typical gay stereotypes (Cam is flamboyant and dramatic, Mitch is snarky and modern), they literally have to affirm their normalcy to the audience. The show is set up in a mockumentary style, so the characters are “interviewed” by the crew and directly talk to the audience sometimes. Whenever Cam and Mitch are interviewed though, they end up explaining their relationship, actions, or behavior to an assumed ignorant audience. They always have to tell the audience ‘we’re just like you’ and end up lecturing the viewers into accepting gay couples. Not only do they ‘teach’ the audience and declare their normalcy, they act like a heterosexual couple. On multiple occasions Mitch has literally referred to Cam as his wife and mother of their daughter, Lily. After they adopted their daughter, Cam quit his job to stay home with her – assuming the “housewife” role. The show’s creators even make fun of Cam’s motherly role, claiming he gained “baby weight” before Lily was adopted. Mitch is frequently portrayed as the “man” of the house – the one that wears the pants, has a high-paying job, and is the dominant one in the relationship. Mitch is more ‘manly’ in his behavior as well: he is portrayed as very straightforward, clear-headed, and authoritative. Cam, on the other hand, is characterized as over-dramatic and emotional, and his thoughts are often trivialized – much like a woman’s thoughts are trivialized by a dominating husband.

  2. alasnyc says:

    I saw the previews and looks like absolute shit. When Hollywood tries to make something accurate about gay life, they fail miserably. They’re always writing shows to make straight audiences especially the more conservative set, comfortable.

  3. alicial2012 says:

    I agree with you completely that “The New Normal”, rather than redefining or challenging existing gender roles, simply reinforces them. Robert McRuer similarly addresses this topic in this article, deeming the acceptance and application of heterosexual norms to homosexual couples part of a new concept of “homonormativity”:

    http://www.avidly.org/2012/09/18/the-new-normal-normal-and-normaller/

    The show “The New Normal” says that it’s “normal” to be a gay couple…as long as you still follow heterosexual gender roles, family structure, and it helps if you are white, financially secure, attractive males. There is a problem with representing homosexual couples in a heterosexual way because it simply reinforces that the heterosexual way is “normal” and that all relationships, romantic and sexual, are expected to measured against and conform to the heterosexual standards. I’m sure that many people in this class, in other gender studies/LGBT classes, and members and allies of the LGBT community agree that this representation of gay couples is unfair, inaccurate, and embedded in gender stereotypes. However, I do not think that this group of people comprises Ryan Murphy’s target audience. Ryan Murphy does not challenge the concept of “normal” too much because his target audience is likely people who consider themselves “normal”: white, middle aged men and women from the middle or upper class, many of whom are undoubtedly straight. For this demographic, “The New Normal” does exactly what they want it to do; it affirms that they are “normal” and that they can support the “new normal” because it doesn’t threaten them, and they can feel good about themselves for doing so. This is unfortunate because it allows people to be complacent in established gender roles and concepts of “normal” rather than challenging them.

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