Discussing films like The Green Mile or The Matrix, director Spike Lee (The 25th Hour, Do the Right Thing) argued that a troubling trope was emerging in American cinema. Lee argued that African-American actors were too often portrayed as “Super-Duper Magical Negroes” who existed only to serve the white, male protagonist. It’s hard to argue with Lee’s assessment, particularly with The Green Mile in which the gentle giant figure of Michael Clarke Duncan magically cures Tom Hanks’s bladder infection, but can’t save himself from the electric chair.
The admittedly less extreme version for female protagonists is the “Gay Best Friend” — the sassy, encouraging and ever-gleeful companion every girl dreams of: they can talk about boys and clothes without any of the jealousy or competition that might come from a female friend.
The problem with the “gay friend” trope is that, like the Magical Negro, there’s a point at which the character becomes more of a cartoon than a real person. The “gay friend” rarely seems to have any concerns of his own: he’s a shoppin’, show tune singin’ ball of sunshine/crying shoulder. Sure, every now and then they’ll throw in a sad storyline where some jock …
… calls him the “F” word, but a spa day can cure those blues right up!
After all, shouldn’t Gay Friend be more worried about who’s going to ask you to Prom than whether or not he’ll be able to go at all? Is Gay Friend concerned about whether he’ll ever be able to come out to his parents, or if the government will allow him to marry, visit his significant other in the hospital or serve in the military? Of course not! He just wants to go for mani-pedis and talk about Lady Gaga!
The series of hilarious internet shorts called — what else? — “Sassy Gay Friend” encapsulate nearly all of the stereotypical benefits of having a helpful homo in your life. They’re great (particularly the Hamlet one), but it seems too many girls are taking these portrayals as fact rather than farce.
While bromances may still be under suspicion, Teen Vogue discusses the way in which “The Gay Friend” has become the hot accessory for young girls and women within the past couple of years, particularly in lieu of shows like Sex and the City (Carrie/Stanford), Glee (Mercedes/Kurt) or Gossip Girl (Jenny/Eric). Sure, women and gay men are often seen as natural friends, and it’s tempting to view this trend as a sign that homosexuality is becoming more accepted by society.
But the bottom line is that no one should be treated like an accessory. Yeah, I have “gay friends,” but it’s not as though I picked one out at the store so that he could really jazz up the interior of my pink Jeep or the living room in my plastic Dream House. We talk more about Mikhail Bakhtin than Marc Jacobs. The idea that girls are somehow recruiting gay men to be their friends because Kurt on Glee is just so gosh-darned huggable is really rather ridiculous — even disgusting.
But what do you think? Is this a sign that homosexuality is becoming more and more acceptable — both in the media and in society, or are “the gays” becoming an appalling accessory for fashionable girls and women?