Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The "New" Normal?

It seems like all I am blogging about these days is TV.  RNC?....DNC?...who needs all that? I mean....granted there was a couple rather historic speeches that spoke as LGBT people as *gasp* worthy of equal respect, dignity, and the equal treatment of the law...but we're not talking about that today....nope.

Today I finally got to see the series pilot for NBC's The New Normal. And I need to be upfront...I was kind of dreading this show. While on the surface it's a good thing to have representations of gay people on TV...on the other hand, those representations tend to cater more to peoples expectations of gay people than the reality of who we are....especially the ultra sanitized and stereotypical version of gay life favored by network execs.  For example,I know everyone LOVES modern family and Cam and Mitchell, and that's exactly what I expected in terms of how we would be shown. All entertainment...no reality.

But I did watch and I have to admit that I am still processing what I saw. For you guys that means that I will be figuring it out as I am writing this....lucky you. I am having a mixed set of emotions and I guess that must mean that the show got to me on some level and altered my preconceptions of it. Thats good right? Well...pour yourself something cold and lets talk about it....

First...the background for those who may not yet have seen the show...

That was a great clip because it did a good job of giving you an idea of the characters and a loose idea of the plot. David Murray and Bryan Collins are a gay couple who have decided that it is time for them to build a family...for which they chose surrogacy. Goldy Clemmons story is a little more complicated. at the beginning of the series she walks in on her husband having sex with another woman. It is this act that causes her to take  her grandmothers car with her daughter Shania and just drive as far as they can go. The grandmother...Jane Forrest...is portrayed as homophobic and racist and in total denial about both of these traits. The final member of the core cast is Bryan's assistant, Rocky, played by NeNe Leakes of The Real Housewives of Atlanta. Events conspire to bring Goldie into David and Bryans life as their surrogate birth mom with the first episode ending in an "Is she pregnant or isn't she?" cliffhanger.

So first off...the show is written just like Modern Family. The comedy is exactly the same right down to the camera pans. The grandmothers bigotry is so over the top that you constantly find yourself asking, "who would say that out loud?" It's hilarious in the context of the show and the dynamic between the grandma and the grand daughter and Rocky are, so far, my favorite elements of the show. Like most Network comedies these days I sometimes fail to see the humor because what the person is doing is so blatently stupid...which happens alot on Modern Family. So far this show hasn't done that and so I can go with the jokes instead of being left behind. BUT...heres were I struggle...

I understand that the show is a comedy. The people are meant to be over the top...I get it. But when you call the show the "new normal" that is sending a message to America that, that is exactly what this is...a more accurate depiction of family life in America. The problem is...it's still not. This show is WAY more comedy than it is commentary. The Characters on the show are more characters with exaggerated traits than they are real, living and breathing, people. Goldie is portrayed as beaten down by life and yet hopeful stereotype of the single mom, the daughter is the deadpan comedic relief. Rocky is the new Karen from Will and Grace, and the grandma's bigotry is way over the top....all of this adds up to funny in most circumstances but the show's efforts to create believable characters that you can sympathize and identify with are being shot in  the foot by the exaggeration of those traits.

For example...one of my pet peeves about portrayals of gay people on television is the use of stereotypes. When networks chose to show us they often use the same devices over and over. They are afraid that America can't take us just how we are and so we have to be caricatures. So far....and in my opinion only...this show is not turning out to be any different. The gay couple is very stereotypical....affluent and upwardly mobile gay men with an expensive home and the unlimited budget to shop. They portrayed one of them  as feminine and the other as masculine therefore, setting one up as the male role(husband) and the other as a female role(wife) because thats all America can digest.....that bothered me a bit. For a show called  "The New Normal" then seem less interested in portraying that than in reinforcing old versions of normal. I.E...all families need a man and a woman, all gay men are label conscious shopping addicts with high paying jobs,  expensive homes, and teacup dogs.

Are there families just like that?...Hell yes there are and it is not my intention to talk down about anyone who's life looks just like there's. My problem is that, that image is all that network television is ok with because it makes America laugh at us...not always with us.

Which brings me to the surrogacy issue. Why that? Not all same-sex households build their families that way. It's a majorly expensive option that not all of us can afford. And it is shown so much in shows with gay characters that I think it leads people to believe that we shop for babies like they think we shop for clothes. This is further backed up by a scene in the show when they are choosing potential mothers and talking about nothing but looks and making "no fatty" jokes. That is a horrible message to send...not only to America at large but to anyone. Our kids are not teacup poodles or fashion accessories and the way this show portrayed that decision making process made it seem like that's exactly how we come at it. I was not happy about that at all.

I love my kids. They are not biologically related to me in any way...but they are no less mine. They come from my heart just as if I had to carry them myself. I do not now...nor have I ever needed little carbon copies of myself in order to call them my kids. As Goldie says in the show...love is love and its that love that makes a family. This is a fact that I hope the show develops more fully as it progresses.

Which brings me in closing to the title of this show. Just what the hell is the new normal anyway? There is no "new" normal....Period. In altering what we call normal, there is only acknowledging life as it is actually lived by real people everyday, in ways that are more accurate and authentic. There is nothing new about that. All it is, is dropping the idea that "normal" is Ward and June Cleaver....that was always a fantasy that wasn't even "normal" when it first aired. But because it was what everyone strived to, we accepted it as "the way it should be". This, even though single parent families, divorce, remarriage, and adoption have been a part of the America family structure for generations. So what is new here exactly? Nothing is changed but that fact that it's two men. That is the "new" they are trying to sell....and I don't much appreciate being a product, even if it does raise the notion of same-sex families into a greater public view. That's just me.

The notion that we are "new" still sets us apart...and the fact that Hollywood and Network TV still stubbornly clings to the notion that gays are too scary for the American public to take just as we are frustrates me. And yes....I know there are many people out there who have zero exposure to gay people for whom this show will be an eye opener...and maybe a heart opener. I don't discount the positive of that...or the fact that a gay family is now the primary focus of a prime time television show...these are all good things. I just want America to know the real us...that there are gay people all around them living normal lives and just wanting to live and love like anybody else. We aren't all doctors or designers....sometimes we are Taco Bell drive through servers and your mechanic. We don't all obsess about our looks and shop at "barnies"...in fact on look at me proves I've never set foot in a Barnies. We are not divided up into neat little "butch" and "femme" boxes. We are often the person you pass on the sidewalk without a second thought and this show does nothing to get that across.

I am reminded of the stories I Heard from Nichelle Nichols(Uhura) of Star Trek. She had the chance to meet the Reverand Doctor Martin Luther King, who was a fan of the show...at a time when she was considering leaving the show. He told her(and I am paraphrasing) he wished she would stay with the show because for the first time in history, a black person did not just have a role on television...but an equal role.  Is that what we have here?  A gay couple that is the primary focus of a major network television show?....is that what Cam and Mitchell are on Modern Family...an equal role? Perhaps...But as a member of a same-sex household with kids, I still don't look at that show and say, "And that's who we are." I can't yet say that.

I am glad to see shows on television that not only show gay couples...but gay families as well. Regardless of whether I agree with the show...or even see my family reflected there...I am happy that the ice is being broken. And in spite of my jaded preconceptions about the show, it made me laugh at times. Despite myself, I did get drawn in and was left wanting to see the next episode....that's got to say something. Perhaps in the future the gay people we see on TV will be a little less safe for mass consumption and little more like the real deal but until then....I will just enjoy it for what it is and remember...it's just television....Right?

Until next time dear readers....


  1. I was glad to see that for once bigotry actually is explained with Ellen barkin's character. Sure, it is a silly reason to hate gay men, but at least for once the hate is given a context for being there. SPOILERS Now waiting for it to turn out the man her husband was sleeping with was black and that explains her racism. Nice piece

  2. I actually enjoyed the first episode, it was pretty funny and amusing at times. I was a little put off by the stereotypical feminine guy masculine guy couple though. I was very very worried that this show would be too stereotypical but I don't think it was too bad on that part. On another note it is just the first episode and I'm eager to see the direction it goes in from here. I'm hoping its for the better.

  3. I cant wait to this show. And look forward to more shows that will give a positive outlook on our community.

  4. I can agree with a LOT of what you said. I wasn't impressed with the show because it really wasn't that entertaining, and of course it had plenty of obnoxious stereotypes which I feel are outdated and seemed overplayed in the show.

    One point of disagreement that I have with you (it's not really anything significant), is our views on the Mitch/Cam complex from Modern Family. I really feel that MF has done a great job of mixed mild stereotypes with actual experiences. Accidentally locking your baby in the car, generally feeling like an insufficient parent, an "effeminate" gay man's issue with being referred to as a "better mom" - those are things I think people can relate to.

    There are definitely some quirks that are predictable. I mean, the old man married a Latina bombshell, the gays adopt an Asian baby, The Dunphy's have the really popular, dense daughter and the super-geeky, intelligent one too. These, in my opinion, are balanced by the serious moments and the various "life truths" that the characters come to realize along the way.

    Mitch/Cam have some significant moments too, though. End of the last season being the most poignant one for me, where they deal with frustration over not being able to get another child.

    Thinking along the timeline of gay presence in social media, I think that MF is a natural and aptly-timed continuation of the work first set forth by WnG, Ellen Degeneres' short-lived show, and many others. I think that (especially with WnG), America in general NEEDED to see the silly, frivolous character of Jack McFarland. He was harmless and occasionally satirical. If they had tried to make him too serious, or if there had been a Will with no Jack, I don't know that the series would have fared as well as it did.

    Now that characters like Jack have come and gone, there's room for more layered characters, like Mitch and Cam, and even for a couple to appear *together!* Returning to The New Normal, I feel like the show itself, not just the two gay characters, is sort of a step backwards. It's too campy and crass for me.

    Sorry for getting long winded! One final remark, I love your YouTube videos and the efforts your family is making. Thank you!

  5. The entire show was one massive cliche of stereotypes. The only saving grace was the little girl, who seemed very natural and human. I'm not going to waste my time supporting a show that treats gay people like they were cardboard cutouts. The fact that (non-stereotypical) gay characters like Max (on Happy Endings) exist, makes this show all the more offensive.

  6. In Omaha, this show airs at 8:30 central and I’ll watch it then. I’m also recording it on the DVR so I can watch it as many times as I please. I looked at the video excerpt you posted, Bryan, and the casting makes me cringe. The gay characters are so stereotypical that I want to blow chunk! :-D So, supposedly one is supposed to be masculine and the other feminine, eh? I’m personally into bears myself, so my perception of masculinity is warped in the direction of hyper-masculine. Neither one, in my eyes, comes off strongly masculine. They’re both too manicured, too Bed, Bath & Beyond. :-D One, however, looks so fabulous that surely he must fart estrogen, and there’s no air freshener that can fix that! :-D :-D This may prove to be really funny, but that it is so stereotypical is not at all helpful at all. It’ll just perpetuate the same ol’ neanderthal attitudes of bigoted vermin out there. What would better casting decisions look like? What is the most obvious polar opposite of typical gay stereotypes? Bears. Had this series been in my personal creative control, I would have cast bears as the gay couple and I would have made both equal in masculinity so there are no space for “husband” and “wife” role inferences. What about the bigoted grandmother? I think I’d leave her in as is. But I’d introduce one or more additional characters whose mission in life is to humiliate this bigoted twat at every possible opportunity. :-D This is in keeping of my own militant personal philosophy toward bigots: They are NOT to be appeased or coddled. They are to be humiliated and then crushed. Made a footnote in history to be laughed at and the sooner, the better….

    1. lol.....

      as one who has made the statement 'my politics is done at the end of a gun' (because regardless of party, assuming democrat or republican, there exists very little real difference from one to the other, insert highly volatile political rant) i am highly amused.

  7. The pilot doesn't promise much... looks like the show will be one of those that don't cross the threshold of all that's PC and good, with superficial and neatly-resolved-within-the-episode conflicts. Yes, that describes many shows on air, but the viewership of comedy has been getting serious and demanding for a while now.
    They really need to stop doing the neat gender role assignments. And if they must do it, why define femininity as effinimacy? Ugh.
    We've already encountered gay dads. The surrogate angle is now, but the premise is not radical enough anymore to retain attention even when the show itself isn't steller.
    Oh I hope they shape up and soon!

  8. Try not to get too hung up on the title. Although, in that regard, same-sex couples (or anyone, really!) having children through surrogacy is pretty "new", in the grand scheme of things, just as it is now the norm for pretty much everyone to have a different kind of family situation ("normal" kind of ceasing to exist).
    You also have to bear in mind that TV doesn't portray many people very realistically, whoever they are! I mean, I'm a I'm a single, straight, white, brunette, but I'm nothing like Zooey Deschanel! I still enjoy watching her sitcom though (even though, again, quite a lot of what happens is rather implausible!).
    I enjoyed this pilot and am looking forward to the series. I didn't find every single joke funny, but I'm certainly willing to give it another look (particularly because of Andrew Rannells! He did such a fabulous job in the Book of Mormon!).

    1. i enjoyed the book of mormon a lot.

      my brother being mormon added a layer of amusement for me.

  9. I agree with you based on the roles the characters play. I would have enjoyed seeing two masculine guys in the couple. Maybe one being a GI and the other a lawyer or something. Or a cop and a fireman. Or a preacher and a construction worker. I just get tired of seeing the same characters over and over. Emmitt from "QAF", Kurt and Blaine on "Glee". Jack on "Will and Grace", Louis on "Partners", Stanford on "Sex in the City" and the list goes on.

    I remember the first gay character on TV I noticed was Steven Carrington on DYNASTY. He didn't fit the mold as the above. We need more like him on TV.

    1. skeletor was my first gay character, not that i understood that then.

      tales of the city was a huge display for me as a gay man. it was the first positive gay character i remember seeing, not to say it was an ideal portrayal even then.

  10. I just saw my first episode of this. OMG….Stereotype-wise, this is worse than I thought. What a Republican wet dream this show is going to be! :-D I can’t stand the Brian character. He looks like he just stepped out of an HGTV nightmare and makes David Bromstad look butch. :-D And that NaNa…. “Sodom and Gomorrah Fudge Factory?” You should talk, grannie, with that rotten sushi stinking hole you prance around with every day of your pathetic life! Not that I’d ever want to sleep with you anyway because I’m not into fish tacos but, even if I did, I’d feel the need to dunk myself in a jar of Purell afterwards! :-D Do us a favor, honey. Next time before you leave the house, jam some Airwick or Glade Air Freshener under your Depends, you geriatric Sarah Palin! :-D :-D We’re tired of fumigating our house after every time you come over and we just can’t afford you anymore! :-D I’m not a violent guy, but now I see I’ve been excessively narrow-minded in not considering strangulation at least once. Being unwilling to try new things is a serious character flaw and I understand that now and know it’s something I need to work on! :-D :-D Seriously though, this grannie character typifies the type of walking, talking bigoted colostomy bag I’m just waiting to try to get mouthy with me so I can have the fun of cutting loose and verbally mowing them down with all cylinders.

    Wow, she really got me riled up. This is probably the angriest anyone has ever seen me here.

  11. Another thing about tonight’s episode that really offended me was the gay bar scene. Did you notice that EVERYONE there, with the exception of the David character--the masculine part of the relationship--and David’s straight friends, were all ultra-thin, swishy and fabulous? You’d almost need a chainsaw to cut through the thickness of the estrogen fart stench in there. Please, just don’t anyone strike a match in there…. :-D :-D We’ll have to see, but I don’t know how many episodes of this show I can take. This show has to have more going for it than the fun of watching me completely lose my shit here in anger over it.

  12. I guess I will at least try and watch an episode(I don't know that I wan't to make a point of recording it) but I don't know the promos that I have seen just never captured me. They just annoyed me more then anything, in part because I just don't see any part of my life reflected in it. I think the only gay characters on TV I have ever liked where Will and Jack from Will and Grace, and most Favorite where Kevin and Scotty from Brothers & Sisters (I loved that show and was pissed when ABC ended it after only five seasons!!) Although it would be nice to see a character that reflected someone like me, IE not feminine but not masculine, and well honestly on the lower end of the income scale. (retail worker) I don't know that I will hold my breath on that but it sure would be nice to see a show where the gay character was not some well payed lawyer, designer etc.

    1. as a food service worker, yeah not everyone has money to blow like they do. working 70 hr work weeks and barely able to get ahead sucks ass. as a single person that wont always be the case, especially considering i completely lack certain bills, rent and other major expenses, but i am also not just paying for myself.

  13. I completely agree with Bryan.

    What we see on TV is so much fake, especially when it comes to gays and stereotypes. The New Normal, Desperate Housewives, Modern Family - the gays on these shows are pretty much the same. The people who don't know any gays in real life tend to think: "Oh, that's what all the gays are like!"

    I'm still closeted and my mom thinks that there's always a male and a female part in a homosexual relationship. I consider both you and Jay masculine. If I was out, I'd show my mom your videos like "look at these sexy men raising their kids better than any straight couple out there". ;)

  14. i am reminded of the bugs bunny shows and the other old cartoons. the humour there was exactly the same stereotypical crap. the stereotypes exploited have been around for a very long time...and they still exist in the minds of people. i like that they make satire out of the ridiculous bigotry of nana.

    i think it would be foolish to completely write that stuff off as done, people are still racist homophobic assholes that continue in their self serving little boxes of pseudo reality that allows them to justify their own hate and stupidity. merely because we have laws on the books and groups out there trying to stop the 'growing of' old stereotypes via litigation and loudly screaming foul when they are portrayed does nothing to stop people from believing those stereotypes. it certainly does not stop the stereotype for it to be a real thing in certain cases.

    people fail to understand satire across the board. i dont always get it myself-especially when it hits close to home. part of the point of comedy is to make you think about the views you possess without attacking you as a person, even if you are in fact in the wrong. it remains to be seen where they go with the show, it could be awesome but probably only sporadically.

    i really enjoyed the scene where bryan comes home with the baby clothes...i know hetero women who do that very thing and with the same attitude that david is afraid bryan has. which is sad....children should be treated as the blessing they are.

    welcome to being an objectified hot commodity bryan.

    TV is fake...sadly too many people dont understand that and it has been that way from word one, look at the scare that war of the worlds brought to the U.S. and it was just a radio broadcast.

    i am a member of the tv generation, the kids that grew up learning about the world through a less than 20" monitor screen-mostly not in color and without a remote. in many ways i live in a fantasy world but the reality is we all do in one way or another, some fantasies are better than the one currently possessed.

  15. Hello! I'm Nuria, I'm spanish so my english is not really good, I'm sorry for that! I understand your point of view, but the thing is my parents are straight and I've never felt that any straight family on tv represents my family. Tv it's Tv and never it's gonna shows the real life, because like you said many times, the real life is boring, doesn't matter if you are gay or straight.

    And I agree with you Cam and Mitchell's family maybe don't represents a real gay family, but do you thing the Dunphy's family represents a real straight family?

    So don't worry if this tv gay families don't represent your family, because the important thing is that this tv gay families help many people to understand and accept your family.

    In Spain now we have equal marriage and gays and straights have the same rights and I'm sure tv and films helped a lot people to accept and defend that.

  16. Nuria,

    While I would like nothing better than your hope that this show will help others to understand and accept gay families better to actually come true, it feeds so heavily into the stereotypes that bigots have of us that I’m doubtful that such a result will be achieved. Those stereotypes may get pandered to so much in this series that many viewers may miss the point. I still maintain, as I did above, that very bad casting decisions were made for the gay couple. The best way to refute a stereotype is to present its polar opposite: bearded, burly hyper-masculine men with lots of chest hair AKA “bears” would have been much better choices as the gay couple. The bigoted grandmother, as much as I hate her stinking guts, probably needs to be there. But other characters need to be there to oppose her and ridicule her. Any show that depicts gay parenting is automatically going to be dismissed as leftwing propaganda regardless of how it’s done, so we might as well make the show a combination teach-in on gay parenting and a bigot-bashing platform and do as much damage to our opponents as humanly possible.

    Yet another rant from your friendly neighborhood gay Malcolm X…. Nuria, if your from Spain (?), there’s no reason for you to understand the Malcolm X reference but Americans who remember the 60’s will understand me just fine.

    1. But for example in Spain we have Almodovar who can be accused to stereotype gay characters and we have also the film Cachorro who presents "bears" gay characters taking care of a boy.

      But Cachorro may not have been possible if Almodovar had not done their films before

      Step by step, it will come.

      (About Malcom X with Wikipedia every reference can be understood no matter where you from hehehehe)

    2. Nuria,

      In case you actually bothered to look up Malcolm X at Wikipedia, you probably understand that during the struggle for black civil rights in the 60's, Malcolm X was hardly the turn-the-other-cheek figure Martin Luther King was. Malcolm X was much more the if you get in our faces too much and aggress upon us, we WILL strike back. In the gay equality movement in America, the meek weakling approach of a Martin Luther King-like figure doesn't seem to work on the Bible-banging and Republican bigots we face in this country. So, when we are dealt with harshly, I'm personally okay with us responding harshly back. We as gay people in this country need to drop the nicey nice crap and grow a spine. More of us are doing that anyway, but not yet enough. Maybe we should draw inspiration from Malcolm X and make those bigoted maggots out there very sorry they messed with us.

    3. hugs dave....

      wikipedia is not a reliable source except for very surface browsing, they do have fact checking but the encyclopedia brittanica they are not.

      there is a commercial for mister (an app for smartphones that is basically grinder for older guys and bears (isnt scruff for bears?? that seems more 'appropriate' - lol)) in which the cute cub says everything with 'woof' and 'grrrr'(not totally inaccurate ;P) the guys on bearcentral, some of them anyway, had the same reaction you did here dave. i personally found it a very well done bit of humour.

      nuria is right, it is a step by step thing. sometimes to get where you want you need to cater to something a bit less to prepare the way...its very sexual if you think about it.

    4. inserting gratuitous humour and cute guys..
      bear talk the add for mister.


    5. Hugs back, Steeldrago. Maybe more if I can just get you alone. Just kidding! :-D We wolves need to keep current on our stalking skills. It’s part of our yearly continuing education requirement! :-D :-D Grrr!! :-D

      Yeah, I was really upset when I did that funny rant on that bigoted grannie. Maybe anger enhances my creativity the same way that LSD enhances the creativity of others. Dunking my schlong in a jar of Purell after boning Grannie? :-D Not sure that Purell is strong enough to kill the tiny little critters she’s carrying around inside her. Maybe I should have tried to get the worst off first by vacuuming and THEN follow up with the Purell dunk! :-D :-D

  17. I saw another episode of The New Normal tonight. While definitely not my type at all, I’m getting better adjusted to Brian’s fabulosity now. Don’t mind me if I invent some new words; it’s not like you can stop me anyway! :-D At least this show is consistently making whatever bigot shoots off his or her mouth look bad rather than a Republican folk hero. The lumber jack dude in the fast food got the smack down in tonight’s episode. He turned out to be gay too? I didn’t see that one coming. But the guy I really would have enjoyed seeing his lights punched out for his bigoted rant was “Maggot Daddy” in the department store with his wife and his brainwashing-victim-in-progress daughter. Yeah, have a transcranial, transfacial knuckle sandwich on me! :-D That’s a little surgical humor that only certain people here receiving private e-mails from me would understand.

    One part that unexpectedly made me tear up a little was when Brian and David were listening to the ultrasound and one said to the other that we’re hearing the sound of our new family. I would guess that line had a similar effect over at the Leffew’s household.

  18. I'll give it a try. I don't mind some of the stereotypes because I have been friends with gay people who are very much like the characters that these shows get criticized for.

    I'm a little worried about some of the comments. It may be that I'm reading too much into them, but it seems like some people are blaming feminine men for the bigotry of anti-gay people rather than blaming the anti-gay people for being anti-gay. I understand the frustration that television seems to only display one kind of gay person (though, to be fair, sitcoms aren't exactly known to have layered characters). The problem is when the frustration starts to crossover into condemning feminine men for being feminine.

  19. The latest episode, which aired Monday, Oct. 8th, about the pretend wedding of the surrogate mother's daughter, really upset me to the point of tears. And I have never hated the Nana character or wanted to strangle her more. What a fucking bigotted cunt she is! If I ever ran up against someone THAT bigotted in real life, I would tell him or her off in the most brutal way I possibly can come up with. They'd probably get a restraining order against me! :-D :-D

  20. I love that show. She really is a nutball. And so narrowminded. And congrats to the engaged couple.