I am accused of being a hipster on a day-to-day basis. One of the few times I will accept the accusation is when I huff about how I was watching the Sassy Gay Friend on YouTube before he was popular.
For the uninitiated, the Sassy Gay Friend is a character created by Second City TV, and the title is exactly as written. A woman from a popular work of literature (the series started with the works of Shakespeare) or history is about to make a bad decision. “This could have been prevented if she had a sassy gay friend,” the narrator tells us. And then a sassy gay guy interrupts the woman, persuades her to not make her bad decision, and the day is saved.
But now the Sassy Gay Friend is doing advertisements for Mio, and I’ve stopped watching him.
He sold out! How am I supposed to take this stuff seriously if he keeps trying to sell me water flavoring? It has completely destroyed the realism of a time-traveling gay guy who keeps poor Ophelia from jumping into that river.
Anyway, the Sassy Gay Friend’s rise to advertising fame obviously means that people are watching him.
And since I had the same mindset as a jilted lover who had just been dumped, I had to ask myself why he was so popular. Because, when you think of it, the Sassy Gay Friend is anything but new. He is a stock character that pops up everywhere—on TV, in movies, and co-hosting the morning show on BLI, among other things.
The shallow stereotypes of queer folk are floating around everywhere. If it’s not the sassy gay friend, it’s the manly lesbian or the sex-hungry bisexual. And so few of them have identities that extend past that, because they’re too busy propping up the main (straight) character’s storyline. We’re supposed to laugh at their antics, and then move on.
I know what you’re saying—I should lighten up, because there are these shallow stereotypes floating around everywhere and even straight people have them. That’s true. But if you browse through pop culture, you will find plenty of other representations of straight people; enough to tell you that they don’t all watch football or eat Yoplait. In short, heteronormative people get media personhood.
Not so with anybody who falls outside of that, including sexual and ethnic minorities. Our mainstream portrayals are limited to the crude approximations listed above, and if we want anything deeper or more well-rounded, it’s referred to as “niche.” As if straight people can’t empathize with us, so we need one specific channel to throw all of our programming and when a movie about us hits it big, it’s a huuuuge deal. Not because it’s a great movie, but because it’s got the queers in it.
We’ve made great strides recently in creating deeper queer characters that have hit the mainstream. But it’s not enough. We need more characters, and not just clean-cut white people who are just like their straight counterparts. I want to see trans people and people of color and genderbent queers who go home and drink apple cider on the couch with their dog.
Because lord knows, we get enough diversity in straight people. So can’t the LGBT community have it, too? Why do we just have to have Sassy Gay Friends?