For everyone who has ever had the privilege of watching television, going to the movies and of late having access to the online streaming sites – we can unanimously agree that pop culture has influenced all of us to some extent.
What we see is what we learn, and everything that we see growing up, and even after that makes their way into our subconscious and stay there, mildly influencing who we become as a person. That is why stalking and harassment in the name of love has long been considered as a commonplace practice in Indian culture, and not a sexual harassment.
Pop culture influences the mind-set of the society, and the one issue that is perhaps closes to being affected by what people “think” and “say”, is the LGBTQ culture. And for so long, they had such a lack of representation, or completely wrong representation of the LGBTQ community.
Source: Marvel Studios
Representation matters – there is no finite number of times one can emphasize this. We have seen how true it is first hand with the blockbuster movie of 2017, Black Panther. The first all-black superhero movie, that too from a franchise like Marvel, broke grounds and records and people’s hearts as well, but in a nice way.
And although not quite as much as there should be, the western world have certainly gone a few steps forward in representing the LGBT culture than it was a few years back.
And the person who ignited the fire back in the 90’s, and is till date bearing the torch for that movement is Ellen DeGeneres. Her coming out story shook America, and her show was cancelled by the channel. But she is where she is now – one of the world’s favourite human beings, a Presidential Medal of Freedom awardee and happily married to her lovely wife Portia de Rossi.
Source: AFP/Getty Images via Fortune
The ceremony and both the President’s and Ellen’s speeches were quite tear-jerkers, for us and for them as well.
For the male counterparts, it was most probably Neil Patrick Harris who did the same. But the names were few back then. It changed in the last few years, especially with the online streaming sites like Netflix and Prime Video.
Orange is the New Black on Netflix and Transparent on Prime Video did a pretty good job representing transgender people. Laverne Cox’s Sophia Burset is not only loved by one and all, but she is also the first openly transgender person to get a Primetime Emmy nomination. The show stars other LGBT characters as well.
Comic books and movies form a big part of the pop-nerd culture, and there too one can see developments, though not too many. Marvel’s Ice Man and DC’s Bat Girl are two of the most popular out-gay people in the comic world.
Source: Marvel Comics
There are many more who are canonically queer – like Valkyrie and Korg, both of whom we saw in Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok, DC’s Wonder Woman and even her mother Hippolyta, and most certainly, Deadpool. Actor Ryan Reynolds has publicly announced his much beloved character to be quite pansexual in preference.
A special mention should go to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and one of TV’s most iconic couples – Willow and Tara.
Source: Screencap-paradise via Fanpop
Coming to the sit-coms, perhaps the most-run and most-seen show of all time, F.R.I.E.N.D.S. had the first lesbian wedding of network television, when Ross’s ex-wife Carol marry her partner Susan. Will & Grace is another show people loved, where Will and Jack are gay, and Karen’s bisexuality is implied.
Source: Getty Images
Since the last decade, a bunch of shows – both on television and on the streaming sites have followed footsteps. One of the most prominent ones is Brooklyn Nine Nine, with a cast as diverse as it gets. Captain Raymond Holt is NYPD’s first gay black captain. Hard-as-nails detective Rosa Diaz later declares she is bisexual, which corresponds with the actor Stephanie Beatriz’s own coming out, much like Ellen did on her show Ellen back in 1997.
The fact that Beatriz did not face the same consequences as Ellen, shows us how far we have come, but also how far we can go.
The movies have been getting better as well. While there are movies like Moonlight and Brokeback Mountain that kind of break your heart, there are light-hearted movies as well, which might be poignant but do not come with the sadness of the earlier ones – Call Me By Your Name, Shelter, Love Simon, The Way He Looks and Beautiful Thing among many.
Source: Taste of Cinema
Things have not quite been the same in India. There have been very few mentions of LGBT characters or culture, let alone representation, in mainstream Indian movies. Kapoor and Sons, Bombay Talkies and Margarita with a Straw, along with Deepa Mehta’s legendary movie Fire being the only few that got it right.
Source: After Ellen
But times are changing, like they always do, and we can hope that there will come a day when lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and every other form of gender and sexuality can simply exist in the popular culture without needing to be ‘represented.