From the public outing of Ellen DeGeneres and the success of Will and Grace to the vicious murder of Matthew Shepard, recent years have seen gay lives and images move onto the center stage of American public life. In this incisive and authoritative guide to the new gay visibility, Suzanna Danuta Walters argues that we now live in a time when gays are seen, but not necessarily known. Taking on the common wisdom that equates visibility with full integration, All the Rage maps the terrain on which gays are accepted as witty film accessories and sassy sitcom stars yet denied full citizenship.
The love that once dared not speak its name now dances at Disneyland's annual gay day and sells Bud Lite. Heck, even Bart Simpson questions his sexuality, while nobody questions South Park's Big Gay Al's, and there is no ambiguity about Saturday Night Live's Ambiguously Gay Duo. This comprehensive survey of gay and lesbian visibility in popular culture offers a whirlwind of facts, figures and documentation of gay representations. Acknowledging television's past e.g., Mike Wallace's 1967 CBS report reconfirming many homophobic stereotypes Walters concentrates on post-AIDS entertainment in which gay characters and themes appear everywhere from HBO's Oz to The Drew Carey Show to that bastion of backlash, Ally McBeal. A double edge runs through Walters's countless examples: does this visibility indicate acceptance, or does "gay chic" just characterize a profitable niche market? Moreover, are these trends destructive? An associate professor of sociology and director of women's studies at Georgetown, Walters (Material) quotes activist and writer Sarah Schulman as criticizing "the creation of a false public homosexuality that is palatable and containable and... not authentic." Walters's analyses are often astute the Roseanne gay marriage show was more about Dan and Roseanne confronting their own homophobia than about homosexuality but occasionally reductive, like her assertion that the film Boys in the Band is "filled with... self hatred" mightn't it be commenting on self-hatred? Citing academics Kath Weston, Josh Gamson and responding to mainstream critics, Walters's initial distrust of this visibility gives way to grudging appreciation in a clear, up-to-date map of the basic debate overhomosexuality in the media. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.