I am happy when a same-sex couple shares some kind of intimacy on television. On the most recent episode of Nashville, closeted and conflicted character Will Lexington (Chris Carmack) kisses a man in whom he has interest. Will’s journey to self-acceptance has maybe only just begun (he does not want to jeopardize his career by coming out) but at least he is not trying to throw himself in front of trains, acting out in homophobic self-hate or getting married to women to conceal his true self. He seems to be moving slowly toward coming out, which required a lot of self-searching and bad decisions – and most of all, coming to accept himself as a gay man. Maybe coming out is coming next.
I like seeing these personal evolutions of all kinds on tv, and I am especially happy when “minority” storylines play out alongside the rest of the stories. Will’s reluctance to come out has a lot to do with believing his doing so will jeopardize his burgeoning country music career. A somewhat similar story unfolds in Empire, in which one of the characters, Jamal (Jussie Smollett), is proudly gay and out to his family, but his father – the head of an entertainment empire, doesn’t want Jamal to come out publicly (Jamal is a musician), and the father holds this over Jamal’s head (along the lines of, “If you come out, I will cut you off…”). These experiences share similarities and differences, and seeing them on television will further the case for equality – and for letting people be who they are (and see representations of that on TV).
I saw a quote from Ellen DeGeneres today that summed up my thinking exactly: “Whenever people act like gay images in the media will influence kids to be gay I want to remind them that gay children grew up with only straight people on television.” The important thing – what we need to move toward – is showing representations of all kinds of people so that all kinds of viewers can relate.
In many ways Nashville is an annoying soap opera, but I keep watching because I like Connie Britton, because I mostly like the positive changes that Hayden Panettiere’s character has undergone, because I sometimes hope there will be some kind of semi-redemptive qualities in characters like Oliver Hudson’s Jeff Fordham, and mostly because I really enjoy the music. It’s the music that has always pulled me in and kept me coming back.