By Tracy Haney/Accent editor
For those who thought reality shows would only see their 15 minutes of fame – think again. On network and cable programming alike, reality television has taken over, so much so it’s spawned its own genres.
There are the classic competition-for-money shows such as “Big Brother” and “Fear Factor,” reality shows focused on love like “The Bachelor” and “Joe Millionaire,” and of course The Learning Channel’s series of reality programming; “Trading Spaces,” “While You Were Out” and “What Not to Wear.”
However, the latest trend seems to be the packaging of gay-themed reality shows thanks to Bravo’s “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and “Boy Meets Boy,” where the only real similarity is the sexual preference of its characters.
“We hear very little protest,” said Paul Paolucci, Eastern assistant sociology professor. “These (shows) are getting ratings … Homosexuality is being taken more seriously.”
And while shows like “Queer Eye” may focus on stereotypes of gay men, Paolucci said this is not the first time groups have been stereotyped in history; blacks and latinos faced similar trials when first emerging in television.
“When you have any group being brought into the mainstream the first starts are often awkward,” Paolucci said. “The thing with TV is you have to simplify things to get a large target audience.”
According to Paolucci, although shows like “Queer Eye” and “Boy meets Boy” “threaten to reinforce a stereotype” they also “open up a cultural dialogue,” which would have been unheard of before the gay rights movement.
“Stereotypes take an element of observational truths, inflame those and present them as a generalized trait,” Paolucci said. “‘(Queer Eye for the Straight Guy)’ seems to rely on stereotypes of gay men … It presents them as spokespeople of the gay community.”
Matthew Winslow, assistant professor with the psychology department, said it is reality shows in general that feed on stereotypes.
“I think reality television is almost the least real thing on TV,” Winslow said. “Any show that capitalizes on stereotypes is going to be portraying people in an unreal way.
“Nobody is going to watch a show about real life. (These shows) put real people in a very unreal situation.”
But are homosexual reality shows hurting or helping the gay community?
Pride Alliance president, Denise Roberts said, “In some ways (these shows) can be bad for the gay community … for some of the gay community it is a reality.
“It’s good to have a lot of shows like that on TV because it’s awareness,” Roberts said. “I want it to get to a point where people don’t always think (homosexuality) is negative.”
Paolucci predicts that point will come when shows highlighting the same sex preference of its characters are no longer needed.
Until then, Roberts said homosexuality “is not something (people) can turn their back to.”
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