This has to be the strangest trend in TV: networks enjoying huge hit shows with positive gay characters...who are then forced back into the closet. First, it was the adorable gay kid on "Ugly Betty." He's clearly, confidently, supremely gay in every single moment he's on screen, but suddenly ABC and the show's creators are insisting everyone is "stereotyping" the kid and that he's not gay. Uh-huh. Here's my post on that.
Now NBC is shoving a character on "Heroes" back in the closet. The sweet, sensitive best friend of the cheerleader was conceived as gay by the show's creators and portrayed as gay in a positive, thoughtful manner, right up to the "Homecoming" episode where he kinda, sorta came out to the cheerleader. But now NBC is insisting that the character ISN'T gay after all. John Aravosis of Americablog pointed me to this terrific article by AfterElton.com that details the whole controversy. Anyone watching the show would have assumed he was gay (though the slight fudging on homecoming night made me wonder if they were going to -- annoyingly -- have him just be "sensitive" and in love with the cheerleader) but AfterElton details the MySpace page set up by NBC that makes explicit that he is obviously gay, thanks to favorite movies like "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" and so on. AfterElton even posts an email from the creator of "Heroes" admitting he intended the character to be gay but has pulled back after pressure from the network.
The truly odd part of all this is that it's happened to the two biggest hits of the fall -- "Heroes" and "Ugly Betty." Both shows featured proudly gay characters (in their way), both shows enjoyed critical acclaim, big ratings -- and neither of them had sparked a moment's worth of controversy for having those gay characters. At least not until they decided to be ashamed of those gay characters. What's next? A spinoff from "Will & Grace" featuring Jack...and his wife and kids?