If you have been a follower of Cypher Avenue, you know that we have serious concerns about the lack of masculine black gay characters and representation in movies, television, web series, internet blogs and websites.
Yeah I already know the answers to most of my questions but that doesn’t mean I‘m satisfied with the answers. Flowing studio resources can equal better scripts and better productions. Bigger budgets can also equal access to a better pool of skilled actors. Okay, I get it.
Being gay is more complex than what we usually see in the form of the typical effeminate gay characters within the aforementioned forms of media. In no way am I saying these gay men shouldn’t have a voice or be represented; nonetheless there is no harm in having balance in the images that are displayed. This brings me to the point of this article.
Constantly we hear the same tired and lame argument. “If more masculine black men would come out of the closet, then black gay content creators would have more masculine men within their content. Frankly I feel this is a misguided argument and points out how creatively crippled many black writers and directors are. I think it’s safe to say that the majority of black gay men have experienced black gay life and we all know masculine black gay men exist. More masculine black gay men coming out may help the black community and the level of acceptance or tolerance within it; however what does that have to do with masculine men being included in features or works by black gay content creators? Besides just being the prize that is obtained by the end of the story or the object of lust or affection, masculine men most of the time are just back ground noise in many projects.
To prove my point against this misguided argument; with the perceived lack of masculine black gay men coming out of the closet, white content creators have still managed to put masculine black gay male characters in their features. Let’s just focus on network television and cable television. From the list below beginning with HBO’s Oz which came out in 1997 to FOX’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine which premiered in 2013, there have been about 9 masculine black gay men in recurring roles on television in the last 15 years.
CW – Down in LA : Kaldrick King (Andra Fuller). Tariq Muhammad (Benjamin Charles Watson)
FOX – Brooklyn Nine-Nine : Captain Ray Holt (Andre Braugher)
HBO – OZ : Simon Adebisi (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje)
HBO – Six Feet Under : Keith Charles (Mathew St. Patrick)
HBO – The Wire : Omar Little (Michael K. Williams)
Logo – Noah’s Arc : Wade Robinson (Jensen Atwood)
ABC Family – Greek : Calvin Owens (Paul James)
AMC – Breaking Bad : Gustavo “Gus” Fring (Giancarlo Esposito)
With the exception of Wade Robinson, all these masculine black gay characters were written or created by whites. In addition to this observation, looking at this list of characters and their stories within these series, it makes me feel like white heterosexuals (mostly white men) can tell the story of a masculine black gay man better than black gay content creators can. Is it possible that because of their heterosexuality they are able to tell stories from a more traditional male point of view therefore making the black gay male characters and story lines more masculine?
I do want to point out that Alan Ball, the creator and producer of the very entertaining and critically acclaimed Six Feet Under, is an out gay man. His creation of Keith Charles (played by Mathew St. Patrick) was for me the most relatable and relevant from the above list of characters. Keith was a masculine hard working blue collar black gay man attempting to make the relationship with his partner work.
So I ask the question again, why does it seem like white content creators are able to recognize the diversity within the black gay community and bring to life something more than just the loud, sassy, flamboyant, gender bending effeminate black gay man that seem to dominate media created by black gay men?
Understand that the contemptible undertones within my questioning doesn’t mean I am completely satisfied with the masculine gay characters that we have received so far. If you look at the list, many of these characters weren’t the picture of good behavior or positive portrayals of black gay men. DL or hyper-masculine thugs, drug dealers, drug king-pins, murderers, drug addicts, rapists and insecure abuse victims. Yes I understand that the normal everyday life of a masculine gay black man may not be as sexy and drama worthy for TV such as the sometime brutal life complexities faced by these characters; yet positive portrayals like Captain Ray Holt (Andre Braugher) are always welcome and refreshing.
Regardless of perceived masculine or feminine qualities of their characters, I do believe many black gay content creators are continuing to perpetuate the same negative gay stereotypes in media while many black gay reality stars and personalities continue to perform drag coonery all over network television.
I find it ironic that straight white men (a majority) are telling rich complex stories about masculine gay black men (a minority within a minority of minorities) and in turn are telling our stories and possibly shaping our culture.