American Vice President Joe Biden suffered some criticism when he suggested that Will & Grace helped create the massive change in how America views gays and lesbians. Jonathan Gottschall, the author of The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, strongly agrees.
Writing in Psychology Today, he reviews research showIng that regular contact with LGBT friends or family members is a better predictor of gay-friendly attitudes than gender, level of education, age, and even political or religious affiliation — "and the same seems to be true for the illusory relationships we form with fiction characters."
Gottschall says that viewers relate to TV characters (like Modern Family's gay couple, Cam and Mitchell) as though they are our real-life friends. "When we are absorbed in fiction, we form judgments about the characters exactly as we do with real people, and extend those judgments to the generalizations we make about groups. When straight viewers watch likeable gay characters on shows like Will and Grace, Modern Family, Glee, and Six Feet Under they come to root for them, to empathize with them — and this seems to shape their attitudes toward homosexuality in the real-world. Studies indicate that watching television with gay friendly themes lessens viewer prejudice, with stronger effects for more prejudiced viewers."
So let's be grateful for Cam and Mitch and all the other positive gay characters who have graced the screen in recent years. And, just for fun, here come our personal Top Ten.
Mitchell, Cameron (Modern Family)
Will (Will and Grace)
Nathan Maloney (Queer as Folk, UK)
Justin (Ugly Betty)
Marc (Ugly Betty)
Captain Jack Harkness (Torchwood)
Maxxie Oliver (Skins)
David Fisher (Six Feet Under)
Lustralboy adds: Whenever we typed "gay friendliness", iPad kept offering "gay frilliness". What's not to love?
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