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FROM ELLEN TO THE WALKING DEAD CONTROVERSY, THE STILL LONG WAY TO LGBT ACCEPTANCE ON TELEVISION


A few weeks ago, a new fandom uproar has spread through Social Networks, obviously catching my eye, always looking for a good procrastinating reason. I don't watch "The Walking Dead", I am not really into zombie apocalypses, but the nature of the discussion goes beyond being a fan of the show. On February 22nd, it has introduced two new characters, a couple of gay men, who shared a kiss during the episode. Long time fans, who have read the comic book the show is inspired to, already knew these characters but that hasn't avoided the explosion of a Twitter homophobic apocalypse with people complaining about a gay couple being dropped into their show, tweeting their disgust for such a choice. It looks like for some people, two men kissing can be more upsetting than zombies losing parts of their bodies and being shot between the eyes.

A little research on my part has showed a world I didn't know or, better saying, I had avoided as an ally who can't bite her tongue in front of such stupidity. While I thought "Glee" had been enough of a turning point on TV, introducing teen trans-homosexual characters and big issues like youth suicide, it looks like there are still big controversies surrounding the choice to tell LGBT stories. Truth to be told, another great show is under the radar at the moment, ABC Family's "The Fosters". Its sin? Showing a gay kiss by "too young" characters, two 13 years old sharing their first kiss. Here I must ask, how old were you when you shared your first kiss? I was 13 as many others and we have seen many teens kissing on TV, so what's the difference?

This kind of backlash can be recognized as one of the reasons many writers avoid introducing LGBT stories in their shows, they make history with their achievements but they can face terrible destinies. The most famous example, the first in American TV history, is "Ellen". The sitcom aired from 1994 to 1998 and starred Ellen DeGeneres who played the role of a neurotic book shop owner dealing with friends, family and daily life problems. It had fairly good ratings till, in 1997, in an attempt to refresh the storyline, writers decided to make the main character come out as gay in an iconic two-part episode "The Puppy Episode". Needless to say, the show, including its leading actress Ellen DeGeneres who came out herself not long after, faced an incredible media exposure. Such controversy even led ABC to place a PARENTAL ADVISORY at the beginning of every episode. Making TV history was not free of charge, the show didn't last long after and Ellen DeGeneres faced three years away from the business, too much of a burden to be hired for a role.
Controversial or not, "Ellen" makes way for gay characters on TV, a couple of months later a new show will shift the air around LGBT talking: "Will & Grace", with two leading gay characters in its storyline, it remains on air for 8 years. In those years, even American Vice President Joe Biden expressed his approval for gay marriage, mentioning "Will & Grace" for slowly changing people's view of LGBT people and breaking a taboo.

Considering the issues discussed at moment, though, it is quite obvious we can't stop working for equality. The real problem is not, anymore, the presence of gay characters on TV but how they are accepted by the public and the way audience can easily pour their dissent on Social Media. Homophobic slurs and outspoken disgust come from a society in need to be educated about acceptance and bullying, a society who easily hides behind a screen. After 17 years, there are many other taboos to break and we need many more people like Ellen ready to make the history of equality and a lot less of them avoiding the issue. After all, Television is a powerful mean for spreading news, fashions and trends, why not education?
 

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