The Big Gay Kiss Off

Why is same-sex smooching still so taboo on TV?

Amid news that British Prime Minister David Cameron wants to save the children by banning images of same-sex couples kissing on television in the U.K. (before the nine o’clock hour), we had to wonder what exactly he’s protecting kids from seeing anyway? On an average day on TV – both in the U.S. and across the pond – viewers can tune into popular networks to see sexy bedroom scenes, murder, violence and reality hijinks (a.k.a. heterosexuals behaving badly). So what’s the big deal about showing a same-sex couple snogging in the light of day?

Apparently, plenty.

The kiss heard ’round the world on Fox TV’s Glee caused a bit of a stir when it was finally shown this year. Pro-family groups (and SNL alum Victoria Jackson) argued that children will get the wrong idea about morality by seeing two nice guys…in a relationship…show affection…with one another, while gay activists praised the moment, saying it was a long time coming (talk about foreplay). For anyone to somehow suggest that same-sex kissing isn’t appropriate for kids is as good as saying being gay is somehow wrong. It doesn’t take much to read between the lines.

But this is also nothing new. Same-sex situations on shows like thirtysomething, L.A. Law and others over the years caused some advertisers to recoil and certain audiences to, at first, freak out – before eventually coming around to what wasn’t all that controversial in the first place.

In some ways, television networks deserve some credit in showcasing honest portrayals of LGBT characters in some of our favorite shows, like today’s hits Glee, Modern Family, Brothers and Sisters, Grey’s Anatomy and others this season. Over the years, TV has had a hand in introducing new story lines and characters that may not have fit into the idea of what’s “normal” at the time (All in the Family‘s cross-dressing Beverly, for example). And that makes for not only good art, but also great social commentary.

But when a head of government steps up to say that these genuine depictions of gay life are somehow dangerous – in 2011, no less – it’s time to start reevaluating what gets banned and what gets a pass. On any afternoon one can switch on MTV to see a parade of half-naked women lying prostrate to any number of male rockers and rappers (with no concern over what these depictions may be doing to our young people’s perceptions about feminine and masculine identity). But a gay kiss is a scandal? Please! We live in the Internet age when hardcore pornography is a click away, which is all the more reason why holding gay content until after dark on the boob tube seems more than a little preposterous.

To show just how ridiculous Cameron and other moral policemen are being, we’ve created a list of scenarios that can currently be seen on TV, and are much raunchier than a simple same-sex kiss could ever be.

Skins, an MTV show that originated in the U.K., showcases high school kids immersed in a world of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll (and the same-sex sequences are by far the tamest).

On Cougar Town, Courtney Cox’s character is seen administering oral sex to her date.

Hung is about a well-endowed teacher who moonlights as a prostitute.

Nip/Tuck is in reruns with its parade of sex and surgery.

Desperate Housewives has tasted practically every mortal sin – from sex to adultery, greed and murder (and sometimes within a single episode). The women on this show do more bed hopping than the Serta sheep.

Speaking of housewives, the Real Housewives of (insert place name here), are the poster children for bad taste. Not only do they cat fight, but they showcase a new breed of reality star that gets famous simply for being famous and behaving oh-so badly.

The Jersey Shore is loaded with one-night stands and sloppy sex between mostly intoxicated cast members.

And the sex- and violence-infused list goes on. It’s not that we would want to necessarily see anyone pull the plug on these shows because they may dislike the content, but we think the same goes for gay content. That’s why we hope politicians and other civic leaders catch up with their constituencies. Not only are gay characters here and queer on TV, but they’re also poised for progress in real life, too.

Seeing a same-sex smooch shouldn’t be such a big deal – at all – when you consider that, like any art form, TV, movies and music reflect our times and our lives. And in the real-world, heterosexuality isn’t the exclusive way of life just as it shouldn’t be on a television show that seeks to mirror life; there are many other alternative (and compelling) stories to tell. Writers, directors and producers would be remiss to overlook that. And people like Cameron are foolish to think that making gay seem taboo is anything about antiquated.