‘The New Normal’ is the same old gay normal
Published: Thursday, September 27, 2012
Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 13:05
NBC’s new comedy, “The New Normal”—a seemingly progressive take on gay parenthood created by Glee’s Ryan Murphy—unfortunately sticks to the norm.
On the pilot episode, which premiered Sept. 10, the two main characters are presented as the very two extremes of gay men—one’s the effeminate shopaholic, the other the beer-drinking football fan doctor. At one point, wishing he’d let him watch the game, David (the doctor) tells Brian (the more stereotypical gay man), “Gotta wait till half time sweetie.” To which Brian responds, “Is that when Madonna sings?” I knew then this wasn’t going to be as progressive as I initially thought.
The show relies on tried and true representations of gay men to carry the comedy and, although stingingly funny, I expected better from Murphy who introduced hot button issues so well into “Glee,” at least initially.
The show handles issues of racism, feminism, homosexuality and marriage by bluntly tackling them straight on, mainly through Nana, the grandmother of David and Brian’s surrogate mother, who has some of the harshest lines. She says things like, “When I was a girl, we studied presidents who owned people like this president.” It’s all done very tongue in cheek and granted she has some of the funniest lines, but the way in which they’re so innocuously handled blurs the line between social commentary and outright comedic relief.
And the show doesn’t shy away from social commentary. During the third episode the couple is confronted by a man accompanied by his family at a shopping mall for kissing in public. The family man tells them he doesn’t want to have to go home and explain to his daughter what she just saw. Brian, enraged, replies: “Thanks for your intolerance and your bigotry and for fostering this ignorance in another generation.” It is clear here that the show makers want to champion the idea of love for all and reject bigotry, and then Brian follows it up with, “…and (thanks) for bringing back the fanny pack.”
Yes, this is a comedy, and as such we should be able to laugh at the ridiculousness of these characters, their over the top lavish style and the caricatures they convey, but on prime time and with all the hoopla surrounding the show, I think it befalls onto the makers to better address issues surrounding the LGBTQ community especially during this election season. Just on Sept. 25, Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan said that gay marriage was not an “American” or “universal human value” at a conference in Connecticut.
I understand that all different types of gay men cannot be properly represented in television and that a comedy isn’t going to be of much influence politically, but by reinforcing old stereotypes the show isn’t really helping either. And it seems to me now, more than ever, that more of a variety of representations of the LGBTQ community should be introduced to the American viewing public.
The show’s heart is in the right place and the mere fact that it got green lit still surprises me, but as one of the few shows in primetime with truly main gay characters it falls short in contributing to the important discourse its core plot relates to. Still, four episodes in, the show is funny and at times heartfelt. I just wish it were more than that.
Andrés Rodriguez may be reached at email@example.com.