Monday, June 01, 2009

Gay and Greek

Since I'm 22, and therefore have mostly semi-mature 22 year-old friends, watching Greek has been a fairly solitary affair. It's hard to convince these friends that a show on ABC Family about Frats and Sororities is worth our time. Frankly, we couldn't be less interested in the Frats and Sororities on campus, so why spend our precious tv time watching them? I can cite witty dialogue, intriguing characters, and engaging, true-enough plot lines as much as I want, but it's an uphill battle.

But tonight, I got to watch the show with a gaggle of 19 year old boys who, for reasons unknown to me, have become infatuated with the lightly-angsty, bubbley, good-natured show. And it was kind of an eye opener.

There's lots of "cool" within Greek. Evan is cool in a douchey, rich frat boy kind of way. Rebecca is cool in a bitchy, well-groomed, intelligent kind of way. And of course Cappie embodies cool in his every shaggy haired, slacker-smart, Full-house referencing molecule.

But who did I hear praised as cool and awesome repeatedly and often from these heterosexual white males? Calvin.

See this is one of the main reasons that not only do I love Greek unabashedly, but I have no problems touting it as a sign of great popular culture to come. Calvin is goddamned unparalleled in youth culture. Not only is he an out-and-proud gay man who's never a stereotype, always funny, and consistently one of the best parts of the show, but he's given legitimate and equal storylines to his heterosexual counterparts. He's neither a Will nor a Jack, in that he's not a slutty gay guy (Jack) nor an often-sexless gay guy (Will). He has had three main love interests thus far on the show, each one as cute, awesome, and unique as the last, none of which were stereotypes. While Gossip Girl, for example, also features a gay character (Serena's brother, Eric), he's consistently secondary, his love life more-often-than-not serves merely as a vehicle towards larger, heterosexual drama, and Eric himself spends most episodes having to counsel Serena like a magical-gay-boy. Calvin is never a means to an end; his story is always just as important as Ashley's or Evan's or any of the other secondary (read: not Cappie, Casey or Rusty) character's.

This episode in particular, called "Isn't It Bromantic," focused on a fledgling relationship between Calvin and Grant, a fellow Omega Chi whose just started the long process of coming out. Sure it's a bit convenient that Calvin just happened to end up rooming with the one other gay guy at Omega Chi (besides possibly Marco*), but I just loved the way that this allowed Calvin and Grant to play slapstick romantic comedy in the best Sandra Bullock/Hugh Grant kind of way. And giving equal play to this type of goofiness, and not turning Calvin and his love life into either a source of cheap punchlines nor an angst fest, makes Greek damn near unparalleled.

Which brings me back to the horde of hormones with which I watched this week's episode. In a week that also brought us news that the California Supreme Court refused to overturn Proposition 8, it was unbelievably heartening to watch them laugh and enjoy the awkward antics on screen, and to be able to identify with Calvin without making them feel like there masculinity was in question. These aren't uber-liberal, politically correct, NPR-listening, birkenstock wearing activists, either. These were just normal guys, who could apolitically enjoy the story of two different individuals falling for each other. And it was kind of awesome.

*Although the Marco-angle allowed for a few cheap gay jokes about shoe collections and clean finger nails, it's also what keeps this show seeming real and not like it's trying to make some grand political point. Even if I am.


Kelly said...

That's something that earns Brothers & Sisters extra points in my book as well: Kevin's love story gets as much focus (and sometimes more) than that of each of his straight siblings and he never plays into stereotypes while also not ignoring what's behind them.

Id also like to give props to the (generally un-props-worthy) Shondaland writers who've given Callie's newfound lesbionic ways even more screentime than the fascinating Christina/Owen hookup has gotten.

And while he was definitely the most ignored supporting player in the show (though that may be because he was boring), Calvin has Jack McPhee (of Dawson's Creek) to thank for pioneering the manly gay frat boy on TV role.

Let's also not lose sight of the short-lived Wonderland, which featured one of the most human and intricately layered lesbian characters I've ever seen; Ugly Betty's Marc St. James (though stereotypical in a sort of genuine-feeling sense) is consistently one of TV's most interesting and engaging characters; WILLOW & TARA, 'nough said; Marshall's crush on a straight boy was a piece de resistence of the first season of United States of Tara, far more than his sister's dreary love story; even Desperate Housewives' Andrew is an incredibly responsible portrayal of a modern gay man. And I honestly believe that Adam Lambert would have made the finals of American Idol even if he'd come out publicly.

Hollywood is moving in the right direction (even if it is leaving the rest of the state behind).

Kelly said...

oops, make that "wonderfalls" (wonderland is an amusement park in toronto; and, as far as I know, boasts no particularly engaging lesbian characters) .