Some gay people get married, have 2.5 kids and move to the suburbs to live happily ever after. Some gay people are all-American and eager for marriage and children.
And some gay people hate that.
That’s hard for some straight people to understand. Not all gay people are domestic like Mitch and Cam from Modern Family. Some gay people are queer. Radical. Loud. Non-conforming. And not interested in monogamous long-term relationships.
That’s what the producers of Serial, This American Life and S-Town don’t understand.
You’ve probably heard of the first two – who hasn’t developed their own intricate theories to prove Adnan’s innocence, or fallen asleep to the sleepy tones of Ira Glass?
But Serial producers’ new true crime podcast S-Town is rapidly gaining popularity. John B. McLemore, an eccentric watchmaker in rural Alabama, contacts producer Brian Reed in order to dish about a scandalous murder: A teenager has been killed, and the police are working with one of Alabama’s most powerful families in order to cover it up.
But soon, listeners realize that the real murder isn’t about the teenager, it’s about McLemore himself. He commits suicide in te second episode. But why? Reed shifts his attention to unraveling McLemore’s life, searching for clues as to why the man might have ended his own life. Reed approaches the topic with care and nuance, eager to find out the truth.
Until he finds out that McLemore was gay.
At that point, Reed throws all impartiality out of the window and devises his own unsupported theory for why McLemore died: He was a gay man who was always tragically searching for his one true love, and when he couldn’t find it, he took his own life.
Never mind that McLemore never expressed such sentiments. Never mind that McLemore’s friends and former hookups disagreed with Reed’s theory. Never mind that McLemore spent a lot of time cruising because he found meaning and satisfaction in hookups.
“Never mind all that,” Reed seems to say. “McLemore wanted to get married.” Reed’s only real evidence is a cowboy love song that he references every five minutes and Brokeback Mountain, which he is convinced applies to McLemore’s life.
So why is this issue important? Well, as queer people, we rarely get to tell our own stories. In films, queer secondary characters get fleeting moments and minimal character development. If a film or book centers on a gay character, then that book automatically becomes a “gay” book all about the heartache of being gay. That’s what happened with S-Town. Reed could have delved into many aspects of McLemore’s life in order to really understand the character, but he decided that McLemore’s story was a “gay” story just because McLemore was gay.
This is exhausting. Can’t TV shows, movies, books and podcasts have fleshed out gay characters who are interesting, not just gay? For example, Night Vale is an even more popular podcast whose narrator is gay and important and interesting, not just gay.