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December 23 2006

"Why is it heroic or not insulting when an unambiguously straight character is suddenly "outed"?" someone asks Matt Roush, wondering why people are offended by the "de-gaying" of Zach on Heroes but not the by Willow's sudden transition into homosexuality on Buffy.

Matt gives a great answer.
Massive. Heroes. Spoiler.
It's funny that people say Zach was obviously gay, when, since his very first scene in the pilot, I just thought he was in love with Claire.

I guess the story behind this "inning" is that the actor is uncomfortable playing a gay character? That's the rumor anyway.

[ edited by ElectricSpaceGirl on 2006-12-22 23:50 ]
Heroes gets better ratings than Buffy did.

Right?

And it's NBC.

But they had Will and Grace.

But comic book geeks don't watch Will and Grace, gay-friendly people do.

THERE'S NO EASY ANSWER.
Electric - I'm right there with you! I always got the impression that he liked Claire. Never thought he was gay. When the head cheerleader said that it just seemed to me like a popular girl picking on an unpopular boy. So I don't see it as a de-gaying...unless the writers specifically stated he was going to be gay and I missed it..lol
I have been watching from the beginning and I didn't think he was necessarily gay. I thought it was possible, but also possible he had a crush on Claire. Teenagers call each other gay all the time. Even the gay ones. I don't like it, but they do it.

They had a point about the Willow thing. You could call the Oz relationship possible denial, but the Xander lust was definitely lust. Uncontrollable and undeniably hetero. I was fine with Willow falling for Tara, that relationship developed beautifully but making Willow absolutely gay, and subsequently attracted to Kennedy, the anti-Tara, felt wrong to me. The whole "gay now" riff never really worked for me. Bi-sexual, for sure.
It's funny that people say Zach was obviously gay, when, since his very first scene in the pilot, I just thought he was in love with Claire.

Me too! I didn't even think he was gay until he gave Claire that little speech. He seemed a little shy and introverted, sure, but that doesn't mean gay.

I've seen some anger over Zach's "de-gaying," but I don't really agree with it. In the first Buffy episode, Cordy was nothing more than a popular bitch. In the second season, she was helping the Scoobies. Character plans change.
This is disturbing to me. I would hope people would be past focusing on the sexuality of a minor character, but I guess not. I don't know what the reasons are for changing him, but I bet I don't agree with them. If it's true the actor is uncomfortable with playing gay, then he's in the wrong business. Actors have to portray people they're not like all the time, and sometimes characters make choices an actor wouldn't make. But that's just a rumor, so it might be unfair to judge the actor at this point.

What was great about how Heroes did this was that it was very understated: this character just happened to be gay, and it was a part of who he was, but it wasn't the defining thing (much like how, for most people, sexuality isn't what defines them). I liked how he was the unpopular kid, joining up with the cheerleader to try and figure out what is happening with her. But because he was gay, you knew they weren't about to play the "geek gets the girl" cliche that's so worn out (face it: it worked best with Xander and Cordy, and mainly because of the twist of Xander not really loving Cordy, but Cordy really loving Xander.:))Their relationship was touching. It saddens me that they felt they had to change this part of this character, for while it was understated, it was part of who he was.

As for Willow, heck, she was young. A lot of people don't figure out they're gay until they are older. And while Willow stated she was, "Hello? Gay now," I always felt she was more bi then gay. Willow seemed the type of person to love someone for who they are, no matter what sex they happen to be.
Xane, I disagree about Willow's feelings for Xander, I think Willow didn't like to have the people she cared about have other friendships. She was jealous of Buffy's growing relationship with Faith in much the same way she was jealous of Xander's relationships with other girls. I don't think her sexual development had reached the level of 'lust'. Certainly Vampire Willow opened the question of Willow's supressed/unrecognized ambiguously gay leanings.
Well I'd never say Willow was "unambiguously straight". That's just not correct. She was a shy, geeky type of character, and a teenager at that. Human sexuality isn't all black and white, it takes a while for most people to figure it out for themselves if they're honest about it.

I've always felt that Willow's arc over the course of the show was the most natural "outing" or whatever you'd call it of any character I can think of on TV, ever. There were seeds of it planted in season three for Christ's sake.

That running gag with Vampire Willow has been my all-time favorite moment from the show since the night it aired. I totally get what the dude is trying to point out, but that's just a poor example.

Why doesn't he pick on Ellen Degeneres for the way her sitcom handled her character's coming out of the closet? That seems like a somewhat clearer choice.

I mean nobody ever supected Ellen wasn't unambiguously straight, right?

Oh, wait.
Well actually, Buffy (or Buffy and Angel) did straighten a character out. I mean, everyone and their grandma just assumed that Andrew was gay and then in "The Girl In Question", not so much anymore. So it can be done.
I'm a slasher and even I didn't think Zach was gay until this blew up - I thought, like many other people here, that he had a crush on Claire.
I think the difference is that with Willow, the change occurred as part of the character development. Whether it was done well or not is a matter open to dispute (I think it was), but it was written into the story.

The change to Zach happened outside of the show, as (apparently) a demand of the actor, and that to me seems petty and small. I have no doubt a convincing story could have been written to explain it -- she just assumed he was gay because everyone said so and he went with it to get closer to her, for example -- but the abrupt reversal is jarring.
Um... in terms of the gay issue of Zach, or rather his ambiguious sexuality, I believe it must have been talked about, and if you look at his characters myspace profile, under sexual orientation it was marked "not sure..." or something like that(dunno if it is changed now). So the intention was that Zach may explore his sexuality somewhat, who knows.

In terms of degaying.. well I don't think its a big deal, I mean as long as its a natural part of the story, but not "forced" as described in Auesillo where the manager objected(of course it is rumour...), then thats not so great. Plus in terms of bisexuality I would take Willow to be bi, but maybe earlier on her life. I have attended bisexual discussions groups, and people ahve said they found their sexuality (ie their interests in who they are attracted to) change over time, so not only is seuxality a continium between straight and gay, it is also a continuum in time as well.

[ edited by kurya on 2006-12-23 00:42 ]
I think Willow was probably bi, and the reason she never overtly acknowledged this was that she has always defined a lot of herself by her lover. I mean, in "Grave" she even says that the only thing that she had going for her was Tara's love, and she says something similar after Oz left. Once she fell in love with Tara, I think she couldn't imagine ever loving a man again, even if it's still there. That said, I know a lot of people who have followed similar trajectories; going from pretty much overtly straight to pretty much overtly gay, while having meaningful relationships with both genders. The girl I'm thinking of calls herself bi, but hasn't dated a man, to my knowledge, in years.
Why does this shite matter anymore? Seriously, leaving aside the question of why it should matter at all, EVER, let's at least acknowledge the basic, common-sense truth that sexuality is difficult (if not impossible) to quantify simply. Teenagers such as Zach (and Willow) are not finished cooking yet, and their sexuality is still in the process of developing.

Hell, I'm almost 40 and MY sexuality is still developing...

So really, why does anyone feel the need to make such a frakking big deal out of this tripe?


ETA: Props, Kurya.
I am also mystified by the importance attached to who characters sleep with or what their orientation is. I would just say that this, "... wondering why people are offended by the "de-gaying" of Zach on Heroes but not the by [sic] Willow's sudden transition into homosexuality on Buffy" isn't exactly accurate as far as the character of Willow. I remember being at the original Bronze and seeing the vituperative posts of people who said they felt betrayed, insulted, sickened (fill in the adjective) by Willow's relationship with Tara, and who took their anger out on the writers and on Joss. I wondered if they and myself had been watching the same show.

It's a titmouse in a teacup as far as I'm concerned.

[ edited by Tonya J on 2006-12-23 01:28 ]
Wait a second.

Lesbians are way more accepted than gay men.

"Two dudes kissing = BLECH! VOMIT! GROSS! DISGUSTING! APPALLING! GODLESS! ANTI-BUSH!

Two women kissing = BONERS."

- America
I really wouldn't describe Willow as "suddenly" outed. As others have mentioned, it happened slowly over a fairly lengthy period of time.
The creators' intent with the character was pretty explicitly stated, although on screen it wasn't explicit at all. (Relevant part is the last paragraph on the linked page, next two on the next -- it's interesting to note that Kring says he hadn't told the actor yet, and this interview was clearly after filming had started.)
Nice response by Roush.

Djungelurban mentioned Andrew as a presumptively gay character thorughout most of his arc who suddenly got "inned" in "The Girl in Question." I know there's been a lot of talk about that, and I was bothered by it at first, but on the second watching I had a different take. I think Andrew didn't so much change his sexuality as he did his persona. The trope on Andrew, especially in Buffy season 7 is that he was the storyteller always framing his actions within a story and himself as a particular character. If you look at how he presents himself in the Angel episode "Damage" he appears as Sherlock Holmes. In "The Girl in Question" he has become James Bond. I think his real sexuality is still in question. Maybe we'll learn more in Season 8.

Do people really think Zander wasn't in love with Cordy? I thought he was. The thing with Willow seemed to me youth, hormones and history, but not a repudiation of his feelings for Cordy.
So really, why does anyone feel the need to make such a frakking big deal out of this tripe?


Happy news. No one is interested.
Joss picks flowers. 2 comments.
Joss pillages a village. 534 comments.

Also NBC really dropped the ball on this issue, it was not their finest moment.
I have missed the first two episodes, but he always came off as a fussy, sensitive guy with some defense issues, but was definitely pining for Bu- ... Claire. Zach was supposed to be gay? *kicks his gaydar* It's on the fritz again.

In a totally unrelated note, posts should go entirely purple when His Purpleness signs in. Because, hey, it'd rock.
How is nobody flipping out about Gay Justin on Ugly Betty?

That's the real controversy.
Thanx for the props Haunt. And Ocular, my gaydar has been defective since I joined the queer club. Got the toaster, but didn't get the gaydar...I think they ran out. And theZeppo, nice post about how lesbians(especially if they are hot), are tolerated, but two guys holding hands or *gasp* kissing... it is still very much of a big deal... grand society we live in. I guess what I found with Willow was that there felt like a natural transition, and as I say over and over again, she was natural, she felt real, and so did Tara, so it was about two characters NOT two lesbians.

In terms of big deal on the queer issue, for the execs, Will and grace was targetted towards a specific audiance. You wouldn't have many regular heterosexual guys watching that show. With heroes, its targeted to a broad demographic(diverse cast), but I am sure its targeted towardds the ehterosexual guys somewhat, and to have a gay character, a gay peripheral character, a sexually ambiguous peripheral character has a chance of alientating a percentage of the audiance, then it is considered risky. I mean in a simialr vein, Fox was disappointed by Firefly's viewing audiance, b/c they expected mostly guys to watch it, but a lot of women responded favourably to the show.

And in queer side of the tv issue things, well like other minority groups, people yearn to see themselves represented somewhat in the movies and television. You read ciomplains a lot of the time of how there arent enough south asian, or east asian characters, or positive black, latino characters(less of a case now I think), and for queers, relatible characters who are NOT stereotypes. Which is one of the reasons why I didnt watch Will and grace... I am not a fan of cher and madonna, I am not much of a fan of musicals, my fashion sense is nil zero, negative even, and I cant decorate for shit. So that show does not appeal or satisfy me at all beyond a few episodes.

[ edited by kurya on 2006-12-23 05:13 ]
Interesting assumption by Matt Roush that sexuality is two mutually exclusive categories.

I liked Willow's character development a lot. It was definitely not a sudden outing, and it was done with a dedication to character and realism that is a hallmark of BtVS and the kind of thing most tv doesn't seem to want to be bothered with.

Lesbianism still faces a double standard-- on the one hand two women kissing is used to attract viewers, but on the other hand storylines actually exploring a relationship between two women are still uncommon on most shows. Kisses between women go up on network tv during sweeps but then most often the relationship disappears or loses prominence in the plot afterwards:
http://www.afterellen.com/TV/2006/2/sweeps.html

BtVS was a notable exception to this.

It'll take time, and more unfortunate mis-steps I'm sure, before being gay is just one trait of a complex character. And before TV Guide commentators buy a clue and figure out that what gender a character sleeps with in one season doesn't define who they might sleep with in subsequent seasons.
kurya, you're kinda awesome.

good postage.
Um, Sunfire, I think you're picking on the wrong person. I think the person who sent the question in is the one you have issues with. Roush doesn't talk about two mutually exclusive categories, he actually talks about a "spectrum".

Sorry if I'm wrong, but I think your points about Roush and TV Guide commentators may have been misdirected, just wanted to try and get that straightened out (and that unfortunate pun brings us full circle).
I'm with Haunt: "Hell, I'm almost 40 and MY sexuality is still developing...". Sexuality for some people is simply not cut and dried.

And I am very pleased that there isn't a fuss about gay Justin (though I worry that the people who mind about that sort of thing have just not got all those subtle hints yet...)
Well actually, Buffy (or Buffy and Angel) did straighten a character out. I mean, everyone and their grandma just assumed that Andrew was gay and then in "The Girl In Question", not so much anymore. So it can be done.


That is SO not true. That whole 'dating two Italian ladies' was just part of Andrew's desperate try to be suave and butch. It was all a cover and just makes him seem even gayer. I love Andrew.
Very impressed with Roush's response.

There's a few posts here wondering why the character's sexuality is at issue - and I don't think that IS the issue here. The issue here is that the creators wanted the character to be gay - and for some reason (the network, the actor, some other queer-phobic force) the character will no longer be gay.

If the character was never supposed to be gay, fine. But he was.

If he was supposed to be straight and the network asked for him to be turned gay - well apart from the fact that we'd be living in an entirely different world - that would be the reverse of the current issue.

The original question to Roush claiming that Willow was never meant to be gay and suddenly became gay is completely misguided - especially as Whedon planned to have either Willow or Xander discover their homosexuality over the course of the series.

I go back to the start of my post - very impressed with Roush's response.
Andrew and those two italian goddesses were prowling for italian boys. The three of 'em. And you all know it.
Regarding Andrew + his girls -- originally that scene was written for Michelle, and it was Dawn + two hunky men.

And theZeppo, nice post about how lesbians(especially if they are hot), are tolerated, but two guys holding hands or *gasp* kissing... it is still very much of a big deal... grand society we live in.

Quoting that for truth. Whilst FOX would have been all on board with Kaylee and Inara making with the smoochies (*cough* Fast Lane), give Simon and Badger some lovin' and they would burn you at the stake.

The only show I can think of from memory which included a homosexual character in a relationship in a show which wasn't Queer As Folk or Will and Grace was 'Six Feet Under' (which is still one of the best drama series in the last few years). And that was on cable.

American TV I find deeply troubling from that perspective. I think the FCC would have a fit if they saw UK TV.

[ edited by gossi on 2006-12-23 15:41 ]
Moley75 said: " (though I worry that the people who mind about that sort of thing have just not got all those subtle hints yet...)",
but I think that the people who would mind aren't watching Ugly Betty!
Regarding Andrew: I agree with chickenbird and The Zeppo. There is something 'safe' in the threesome (I know some men think that it is very macho going out with two women, but I see it as a sign that the guy needs a beard and the girls need company). I think I would interpret Dawn with two hunky men the same way; it wouldn't be necessarily 'three-some' but probably more likely 'group-date'.
Re Andrew: Add me to the list of never for a moment thinking he was supposed to have changed his sexuality. Whether we are talking about him dressing up and going out with two beautiful women or claiming to be whatever percentage more masculine/manly, I found his actions to very in keeping with the character he had always been...including being gay. (For totally different reasons I do think I would have found Dawn going out with a couple hulks kind of disturbing, though.)

Re Willow: My friend who is watching BtVS totally unspoiled is up to the end of S3. She said she thought that Willow did not love Oz as much or in the same way that Oz loved her. She got the feeling that Willow was complimented and cared about Oz, but did not think that she was as viscerally in love with Oz as he was with her. Something was missing and she thought Willow was going to move on at some point as she grew up. I did not say anything but thought it was a very interesting take from someone who had no idea what was going to happen next.

I always thought Willow was bisexual but also sensitive to what other people think. There is a lot of judgment floating around out there concerning claims of bisexuality being a way to deny you are actually homosexual etc.. It always seemed to me that Willow was a little too defensive on that whole score and that in some ways she was still not comfortable with her sexuality. Her first discussion with Kennedy seemed to confirm that.

"Two dudes kissing = BLECH! VOMIT! GROSS! DISGUSTING! APPALLING! GODLESS! ANTI-BUSH!

Two women kissing = BONERS."

- America


Correction: American Men which also equals American TV ;-)
TheZeppo, good postage yourself, going for 3 italian boys... hehe , well I think for him its entirely possible he is bi, so he could really be a ladies man(well with his awkward and geeky manner the ladies would have to be into geekiness). And someone noted how bisexuals get a bad rap for being seen as an invalid sexuality, because it is transitory. That is so true, one of the things we discussed in the bi discussion group, b/c bi's stradle both straight and gay worlds, and are sneered at for being able to be "safe". Ironically enough, it would be much simpler to assume people are just attracted to people, whether same gender or different, and not worry about boxed labels of gay/straight/bi etc. Of course, since when are things simple in this world.

And Gossi, what bad slash have you been reading??? Simon and Badger?? Badger is totally beneath his station, in terms of class and character. Come on if Simon is going to be smooching any guy it would be Mal.
I do not agree with "de-gaying" at all. TV needs all the gay male characters it can get.Hollywood needs to realise men are not the only TV viewers out there. And that there is a large audience,a lot of men included, that do like to see men kissing.

You would think by now when Buffy is mentioned in relation to gay/bi characters they could mention Angel and Spike. I do think Andrew is totally gay.
TheZeppo and kurya definitely have some great things to say on this thread, esp. about the weird thing in the States where girls kissing is supposed to be hot for men, but men kissing changes the results of elections. I don't get it myself. It's really too bad that there are no gay characters on Heroes at the moment, or on BSG, for that matter (following the other link on this page to the Out.com article), because, as kurya says, there ought to be strong, proud characters in every ethnicity, religion, nationality, etc., not just comic relief stereotypes.

And kurya, you are so right, Simon and Badger would be just so wrong for exactly the reasons you give! (Badger and Mingo or Fanty -- yes, that I could see!) But Simon always did set off my gaydar, and at the end of Serenity I just kind of thought, "Huh, I guess he's bi." Like Willow! ;-)

Also agreeing that, IMO, Andrew in TGIQ was the gay friend of those two young ladies, not their date. Not to mention, it looks like Season 8 is going to show us that some of the information given in TGIQ was not entirely true, lol.
"Why is it heroic or not insulting when an unambiguously straight character is suddenly "outed"?" someone asks Matt Roush, wondering why people are offended by the "de-gaying" of Zach on Heroes but not the by Willow's sudden transition into homosexuality on Buffy.


I've got a better question, why do we have to wait so long for the next episode of Heroes?

I am entirely dismissing the issue as until we reach the point in time that a persons sexuality means nothing then there are always going to be problems, who's with me?

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