By the time Dawson’s Creek entered its second season in 1998, Jack McPhee, played by the 10-year-older Kerr Smith, became a cultural icon for American teenagers. McPhee marked one of the first gay characters to appear on network television with a targeted teenager demographic. Gay or straight, teenagers were able to relate to his struggles in earning acceptance from his peers and family. More importantly, they were able to relate to his journey in seeking self-acceptance of his identity. When Creek’s third season aired in fall 1999, McPhee found new confidence in his sexuality, and you better believe the writers of Creek were going to explore the life of a newly out-of-the-closet male teenager.
This fall television season marks 13 years since McPhee shared the first U.S. prime-time television male-on-male on-screen kiss with his then boyfriend Ethan (Adam Kaufman). American television has come a long way since 1999 in respects to representing homosexual characters, but there has yet to be a prime-time television show solely centered around the life of a gay couple…until now.
The New Normal is essentially what the titles says it is: the new normal of what a “normal family” is defined as in modern America. The show takes place in Los Angeles (where else?) centering around a gay couple who wants to start a family of their own. A young Midwestern waitress and single mother finds herself questioning her own existence. She caught her boyfriend cheating and her nagging, politically incorrect, conservative mother is driving her to the brink of insanity. Thus, she flees to Los Angeles and becomes a female stripper where we find her at the end of the pilot doing hits with Lindsay Lohan behind an In-N-Out on Sunset Boulevard–only kidding, the rest is so blatantly obvious I couldn’t resist: She becomes the surrogate, Ann Romney her mother comes to find her, and hilarity ensues.
The presence of the New Normal on television makes history. Should’ve a show like this gone on air years ago, or is America only now warming up to the idea of homosexuals starting families?
Matt Gorenc, a gay senior at Colorado State University, thinks the show is groundbreaking. “There hasn’t been a show like this ever,” Gorenc said. “From Lucy and Ricky sleeping in separate twin beds on I Love Lucy, to David and Bryan sleeping in the same bed on The New Normal, family sitcoms have come a long way in only a few decades.”
Alexis Yeager, an ethnic studies major at Colorado State University, is unsure about how normal The New Normal is portraying gay couples. “The producers of the show, like many other shows featuring homosexual couples, have clearly identified the more feminine gay and the more masculine gay in the relationship,” Yeager explained. “Because of this, they are making the couple as heterosexual as they can. It’s not like this in the real world.”
Yeager does have a valid argument. Bryan is very similar to the character of Jack in Will and Grace re-enacting a ‘campness.”
“Campness,” as defined by Professor Christopher Castiglia of Penn State, is the “colloquial term for the pleasurable misreading that transforms mass-cultural phenomena into sub cultural memories that help to cohere and strengthen gay identity in ways that challenge dominant cultural beliefs.”
Though David and Brian are a gay couple, the producers have tried to make them seem like a heterosexual couple whereby both characters took their role as either female or male position in the relationship.
Is this form of “heterosexual homosexual couples” on American television better than none at all?
The show premiered September 10, 2012 on NBC after The Voice to a respectable 6.8 million viewers. Apparently America is ready for a “new normal,” and if it’s easier to digest by giving David and Brian heterosexual couple characteristics, I think diluted exposure of homosexual families is better than no exposure at all.
Overall, The New Normal is a reflection of how much progress America has made in the past decade since season three of Dawson’s Creek. It’s unfortunate there are protests against a show that is simply reflecting the progress of America. It would be a shame to see The New Normal not achieve the success it deserves. The show possess true heart and humor while addressing issues of privilege and discrimination homosexuals currently face. I hope Americans continue to tune in for reasons far more than ratings, for equality.
Now off to re-watch season three of Dawson’s Creek (it’s on Nexflix!)