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The Quarrels of the Common Man

By Eric Hunter · February 4th, 1999 · Gay & Lesbian Issues
Do you identify with television characters? Come on. Admit it. Maybe just a little bit?

I know I do. When my boyfriend wants to tease me, he likes to call me Felicity. While I will admit that is one of my favorite newer shows, I actually identify more with Will. You know, the casually handsome, gay lawyer who lives with his straight, interior decorator best friend on the TV show Will & Grace.

I have to be honest, though. As I am sure you have figured out, I am gay. But much to my chagrin, I'm not TV good-looking. I am actually a pretty regular-looking guy. And I am not, and would never want to be, a lawyer. I work at a men's fashion magazine. Until recently, I did live with my straight, female best friend who is a magazine editor, not an interior decorator. And though we no longer live together, we still talk on the telephone every day and see each other several times a week.

OK. On the surface, my connection to Will might be a stretch. But on a more personal level, I feel like I know him very well. And as we already established, it's not because of his looks or his profession. One thing that endears the character to me is his finish-the-other's-sentence, do-you-remember-the-time-we relationship with Grace.

(That is a topic for another column.)

The main reason I identify so strongly with Will is that he is such an everyday guy. Considering my attachment, strange as it might be, to this television character, it probably isn't surprising that I have been following all the publicity that Will & Grace has been getting since its debut. It seems there are quite a few people who don't think Will is "gay enough." These critics ask why Will hasn't had an on-screen boyfriend or kiss.

The great thing about Will & Grace is that while it prominently features a gay character, the story lines don't deal with coming out or the struggles that gay characters usually are left to work through on television. Instead, Will has spent most of his time on the show so far doing the things most people, gay and straight, do living everyday life.

Not so long ago, I probably would have jumped on the Will & Grace critics' bandwagon. These days, I find myself wondering when we are going to make up our minds. Ellen was too gay. Now Will is not gay enough. What's next?

In the Jan. 19 issue of The Advocate, Eric McCormack, the actor who plays Will Truman, said, "Will represents a large slab of the gay community that doesn't get shown enough. To some people it's not as colorful to think your brother or your neighbor or your doctor could be gay. It's more interesting to have wacky drag queens. But there are a lot of Wills out there. It's insane to expect us to represent everyone's issues. Will can only represent who he is."

In the gay and lesbian community, we often talk about embracing the diversity within our own ranks -- the extraordinary and the ordinary. To a certain degree, I wonder, even though we are equally critical when it happens, if we haven't become used to being represented by extreme stereotypes. It's as if many of us aren't sure how to handle a less sensational portrayal of our lives.

I for one will be very happy when the simple act of living my life ceases to be a political statement. In my own way, I welcome the opportunity to spend even just a half an hour with my TV friends who serve as a weekly reminder that times and, thankfully, attitudes are changing.



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