Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Pride: Will & Grace

WILL & GRACE made its debut on NBC on September 21, 1998. However, I was in Japan at the time and I didn't actually begin watching the show until nearly three years later. By the time I did see it it was a huge hit and something of an "event." I wasn't able to come across it accidentally or when it was just starting out.

The show revolves around best friends Will Truman (Eric McCormack) and Grace Adler (Debra Messing). They are frequently at odds or in partnership with millionaire crazy woman Karen Walker (played by Megan Mullally) and self-promoted superstar Jack McFarland (played by Sean Hayes). Over the course of the show each of these actors received Emmy Awards for their work. When the show as at its best they were very, very funny.

The show was imminently important for showcasing gay characters as "normal." In fact, gay man Will was probably the most NORMAL character on the show! He was a straight-laced lawyer, the axis around which his designer and entertainer friends would revolve. Karen was one of his clients and then his friend.

I started watching it because it was part of the "Must See TV" night on NBC, set within shows I actually really enjoyed, such as FRIENDS and SCRUBS. But I have to admit, this show was never really one of my favorites. Jack and Karen especially were totally "out there" characters and when the episodes were centered around them I found them more annoying than anything else (similar to Kramer on SEINFELD).

I do remember a few episodes fondly, however. I remember where Jack and Will storm to THE TODAY SHOW to try to kiss on live TV to show then men kissing was not a big deal. In the course of this episode I think all of the characters kissed each other and it was pretty funny. I also remember the episode where Jack actually meets his idol, Cher. He thinks she is a drag queen dressed up AS Cher, and tells "him" how to improve his look. It was pretty funny. I also remember the episode where adorable Matt Damon poses as gay and auditions to join the Gay Mens' Chorus for a free trip to Europe. He has to out-gay Jack, who also wants the free trip.

In the long run, I wonder if this show does more harm than good? People who only see homosexuals as "girly men" or "fairies" recognize that stereotype in Jack. And because Will hangs out with Grace and was not given a legitimate boyfriend for most of the series, you could possibly watch the show without realizing that they weren't a couple...or that he wasn't gay!! Plus it didn't help that the character of Will was portrayed by a straight actor who went several years without pushing the writers/producers to give him a boyfriend.

So the show boasts sterotypical representations of gays as funny, "queer" comedians. This is fine, but not if it's the only side we get to see. The show was not so good at showing homosexual characters in normal relationships just like Grace and her boyfriend/husband (portrayed by Harry Connick, Jr). Yes, there were a few episodes where Jack had to deal with the fact that he had a long-lost son, but the comedy there was that the teenager was more mature than Jack was. Not a great role model, ya know?

Of course, it's "only television." Still.....as I've written about before, shows I watched as a kid had a huge influence on me. I can't help but think this show affected millions of kids and young adults, too.

In closing, here's that scene with Cher I was talking about. See if you don't laugh. :-)

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