Columnists » Grinding The Edge

The Gay Decade in Entertainment

by Steve Weinstein
Monday Dec 28, 2009

1) Brokeback Mountain
For obvious reasons, this was THE LGBT arts event of the decade, but to reiterate: the first gay love story to break out big, let alone with full-on man-on-man sex. Only consider that this lost to the execrable and utterly forgettable Crash for the Best PIcture Oscar to realize how gun shy Hollywood still is about homosex.

2) Ellen DeGeneres
Her show broke new ground, as did her Oscar hosting in 2006, as did her marriage, as did her gay advocacy. I admit I was late to the table admiring her, but I sure do now.

3) Rosie O'Donnell
Her talkshow ended. She shut down McCall's, a venerable Seven Sister woman's magazine. She added, then melted down, on "The View." She also championed gay causes and started a gay family cruise line. And she starred as Harvey Feirstein's wife in Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway!

4) RuPaul
Her resurgence came with a fabulous movie and Logo's breakout reality series on dragstar wannabes.

5) American Idol
Clay Aiken came out, as did Adam Lambert, both proving that you can be an out-gay man and draw hordes of teenage female fans. You listening, Rickie Martin?

6) Cheyenne Jackson
He's finally proved you can be an out-gay man and do believable love scenes with the opposite sex. You listening, Ruppert Everett?

7) Cynthia Nixon
Total class. She and partner Christine Marinoni are the gay couple of the decade. They keep it so real, Nixon's kids even go to New York City public schools. And thanks to the "Sex in the City" franchise, Nixon remains a big star at an age when Hollywood (if not Broadway, her real home) discards actresses like old tires.

8) Neil Patrick Harris
His public outing in 2006 was the model of how to do it right. "I'm gay, I'm happy. End of story" was how he played it. Not only has it not affected his career, he went into the stratosphere as the first bona fide out gay superstar.

9) The L Word
After the unexpected success of Queer as Folk, the suits at Showtime decided to do a female version. While its depiction of gorgeous, gym-built babes frolicking in West L.A. was as unrealistic as QAF's Pittsburgh-as-gay-epicenter, still it was the first mass entertainment to depict lesbians as beautiful, well adjusted and having a sense of humor.

10) Patricia Racette
Opera's first out superstar soprano. She posed proudly for the cover for the Advocate and has espoused gay causes while remaining dedicated to her craft.

11) Rachel Maddow and Anderson Cooper
She showed that being out only makes you a better news talkshow host. Meanwhile, Anderson Cooper has made himself the butt of jokes, innuendo and Internet gossip by continuing to hide behind "objectivity" for not just saying he's gay and moving beyond it already (see #8).

Honorable Mention:
• Black Party-Schwarzwald - for incorporating transman Buck Henry's sexual schtick into the sex-on-display at this massive annual fleshfest dance party
• Beefcake: This was the decade men of all stripes showed off their worked-on bodies. Underwear never had it so good!
• Lady GaGa: The successor to Madonna is a fierce gay-rights activist.
• Katy Perry: Yeah, yeah, the song is a sop to het-men's lust over lesbian sex. But she did it with great good humor.
• Chastity Bono: For having the courage to become the person she wanted to be, squarely in the public eye.
• Queer Eye for the Straight Guy: For pioneering one of the decade's nicest trends, the increasing warmth between gay and straight men, be they metrosexuals (remember them?), stag hags, or just plain guys.
• Soap operas: They've been leading the way on TV in dramatizing very real gay situations, from coming out to gay bashing.
• Bruno: Sasha Baron Cohen showed that it takes a straight man to show gay men how to REALLY act flamboyant.
• Ditto Eddie Izzard, the cross-dressing British comic (or, the other one) who calls himself a "male lesbian."
•Bruce Springsteen and Brad Pitt are only the two most prominent heterosexual role models who have used their superstardom to further gay causes, with no prompting from any organization. Honorable mention also to Jake Gyllenhaal, Heath Ledger and Collin Farrell.
• here! has been giving us some innovative programming, though, like Logo, its low budget has inhibited it from having the breakout hit that would distinguish it the way, say, Emeril helped launched the Food Network or The Real World did MTV or the way Mad Men has helped AMC reposition itself for original programming. But stay tuned. This is a work in progress, and the process itself is proving interesting.

Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early '80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).


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