Mark Harris, the openly gay former executive editor of Entertainment Weekly, takes Grey's Anatomy Executive Producer Shonda Rhimes to task for not including any leading gay characters in her show. That, plus not firing Isaiah Washington—who returns from counseling today—certainly questions her "commitment" to diversity.
I'm sorry that the first time this happened, Shonda Rhimes, whose commitment to on-air diversity is evident—even if the evidence stops short of including an actual gay staffer at Seattle Grace—thought it was okay to write this off as a private affair rather than immediately let the many offended fans of her show know how hateful she thought that epithet was. I'm sorry that T.R. Knight, the target of Washington's slur who came out following the incident, didn't have the instant, unqualified, and loudly public—because that matters—support of every one of his colleagues. I'm sorry that the overall non-reaction to Washington's behavior helped to reinforce a perception that some quarters of the African-American community tolerate homophobia, a stereotype that is only going to divide us more unless both groups fight it at every turn. ... I'm sorry that there aren't more gay characters on television: I don't want quotas or tokens, but I do think that shows like Grey's Anatomy and Lost and Heroes, which pride themselves on the variety of their ensembles, could expand their vision to better reflect their world, since series ranging from The Office to The Wire have shown that it's not so hard.
Well, Mark, the best way to reinforce the stereotype is to keep repeating it, no?
In re stereotypes: Isaiah Washington is one man, not the voice of "the community." Rhimes is one show runner, not the consciousness of black women or even black Hollywood, which, like its white counterpart, is much more liberal than "some quarters" of the general population. It's the height of arrogance to constantly assume that blacks are amoeba-like and think and act as one, a stereotype often repeated by "some quarters" of the gen pop. As a gay man, one who would hope that Harris would be sensitive to these stereotypes.
Unfortunately, as GLAAD has recently pointed out, LGBT characters represents only 1.3% of the broadcast networks landscape. (Only one is non-white, not sure what "world" that reflects.") Apparently there is no shortage of gayversity on Grey's Anatomy. Joe the bartender is openly gay and his partner has been featured in several episodes. A number of story lines have dealt with gays and homophobia, including the pilot. The ensemble cast and producers include blacks, Asians, recently out-of-the-closet gays, women ... It's probably a lot more diverse than the masthead and management at Entertainment Weekly and this is coming from someone with a dozen years in print and television newsrooms.
However, there is a point to be found here despite Mark Harris' subtle innuendos. Stereotypes seek to divide us more unless both blacks and gays fight them at every turn. Which is exactly why we're sorry at the "overall non-reaction" by Entertainment Weekly and many within the larger gay community to, say, Paris Hilton's latest homophobic and racist rants. One would expect more from the "gay icon" who was recently on the cover of Out and was the grand marshal of the West Hollywod gay parade.
Sorry Situation (EW)
Should Offensive Words Be Banned? (Keith Boykin)
Where We Are on TV (GLAAD)
Some Background ...Boykin on Offensive Language (Rod 2.0) John Legend & Cornel West vs Homophobia (Rod 2.0)