By now you have likely come across LOGO’s newest brightly-colored and oft-repeated “Finding Prince Charming,” which is essentially “The Bachelor” but for pretty gays. I don’t watch “The Bachelor” (or “The Bachelorette”) because it is terrible television, but I tuned in last week primarily because it was right after “RuPaul,” but also because it is one of the few occasions in which we get to see gays on TV, even on our own channel which is comprised mainly of reruns of old sitcoms, repeats of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” and adverts for something called “Cocktails and Classics,” which serve merely to remind us that a role in “Ugly Betty” is not a precursor to career stability.
It was the same reason I watched HBO’s “Looking,” in which Patrick (Jonathan Groff) plays the most painful character in the world, all the more painful because he reminds me of me (may Cher bless the patience of my husband). It is one of those oh-so-deep HBO shows that I find hard to follow because my attention span is so tiny, but I watched every second, and the movie, because we don’t have that many opportunities to watch shows about ourselves. I even dragged myself through 80 percent of “Queer as Folk,” motivated not by anything resembling quality, but solely by the fact that there were gays on TV.
There is such a dearth of representation of people who are not straight, white men on TV that I cling to the few remnants available to me. My husband and I are considering adopting a child; there is a chance that child will be another race from ours, and making sure that child sees him or herself represented in media they are exposed to is going to be a task I have rarely confronted, being a white man myself. But it has made me even more aware of how difficult it is to see common representation of black, white, Hispanic and Asian people on TV, and I don’t mean a speck in a sea of white, and I don’t mean sitcom stereotypes (“2 Broke Girls,” my God).
On film and television, women, who make up more than half of the population, have less than a third of speaking roles, and make up 12 percent of protagonists. Twelve percent. TWELVE PERCENT.
I have a wonderful friend whose son suffers from a common neurological disorder, Asperger’s, who finally saw himself reflected in the media in “The Big Bang Theory,” but was robbed of that when the show decided to “fix” Sheldon. To him, Sheldon was normal. Representation of himself is now almost nonexistent on the airwaves.
For some reason we all want to see ourselves reflected in the world around us. We all want to be seen as fitting in and normal and part of the whole picture. I don’t know enough about psychology to explain why that is, but I think we can all agree that we do. But for every Patrick from “Looking” there are 100 McDreamies and McSteamies, and god there’s even multiple Patricks for every Titus Andromedon (if you can handle “Kimmy Schmidt”) and Captain Holt. For every Olivia Pope there are a thousand Don Drapers, and for every “Blackish” there multiple and remade versions of “Full House.” For every Shonda Rhimes there are billions of Jerry Bruckheimers.
You might be able to list multiple instances of underrepresented people, but the point, really, is that you can easily count them.
I have no idea how to go about making representation better, outside really supporting the ones that are prepared to cater to me, and others. I don’t know or really care how TV works. But I do know that I like to see my people represented onscreen, without having to watch porn.
So for the next few Thursdays, you can find me on my couch, battling through the severe awkwardness of “Finding Prince Charming,” hoping to hell that Robby (he’s easy to spot) wins.