A half century ago gay men and lesbians were all but invisible in the media and, in turn, popular culture. With the lesbian and gay liberation movement came a profoundly new sense of homosexual community and empowerment and the emergence of gay people onto the media's stage. And yet even as the mass media have been shifting the terms of our public conversation toward a greater acknowledgment of diversity, does the emerging "visibility" of gay men and women do justice to the complexity and variety of their experience? Or is gay identity manipulated and contrived by media that are unwilling-and perhaps unable-to fully comprehend and honor it? While positive representations of gays and lesbians are a cautious step in the right direction, media expert Larry Gross argues that the entertainment and news media betray a lingering inability to break free from proscribed limitations in order to embrace the complex reality of gay identity.
While noting major advances, like the opening of the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookstore-the first gay bookstore in the country-or the rise of The Advocate from small newsletter to influential national paper, Gross takes the measure of somewhat more ambiguous milestones, like the first lesbian kiss on television or the first gay character in a newspaper comic strip.
Larry Gross is Sol Worth Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of Contested Closets: The Politics and Ethics of Outing, editor of Image Ethics: The Moral Rights of Subjects in Photographs, Film, and Television and On the Margins of Art Worlds, and coeditor (with the late James Woods) of The Columbia Reader on Lesbians and Gay Men in Media, Society, and Politics.
Preface: Up from Invisibility Sources 1. The Mediated Society Mass Media and American Society Television as the Mainstream Sexual Minorities and the Media Subversion and Resistance 2: Coming Out and Coming Together The Homosexual in Midcentury America Giving Voice to the Voiceless Provoking Concern The Voice Gets Louder Coming Out in the Nation's Living Rooms 3: Stonewall and Beyond Homo Nest Raided, Queen Bees Stinging Mad Turning Their Condition into Politics Expressing Outrage Talking Back to the Media 4: At the Movies A Queer Feeling Every Time I Look at You "Show Me a Happy Homosexual and I'll Show You a Gay Corpse" Friedkin Delivers Gay Corpses Getting the Word Out Gay Films for Straight Audiences Universal or Particular? 5: Television Takes Over New Medium, Old Message No Sex, Please, We're Queer 6: AIDS and the Media Rumors of a "Gay Cancer" Circling the Wagons Natural Squeamishness Media Activism in a Crisis 7: Journalism's Closet Opens Burying and Marrying All the News Not Fit to Print The Grey Lady Goes Gay Coming Out in the Newsroom 8: Breaking the Code of Silence Naming Names Outing the Pentagon Kinda Ask, Sorta Tell 9: Hollywood Under Pressure AIDS Victims and Villains A Kinder, Gentler Hollywood Queering the Straight Text 10: Hollywood's Gay Nineties "I feel pretty and witty and... Hey!" Still Villainous After All These Years Sad Young Men Some of My Best Friends Are Celibate 11: Beyond Prime Time Adam and Steve and Phil and Oprah The Tongue-Tied Public Square Getting Over the Rainbow Locker-room Closets 12: Morning Papers, Afternoon Soaps Coming Out in the Comics You're the First Person I've Ever Told 13: Old Stories and New Technologies The Good Parts 14: A Niche of Our Own Movement to Market Are We Being Served? 15: Facing the Future Visibility and Its Discontents Looking Backward Somewhere There's a Place for Us