Gay Characters in Prime Time Television: The Gay Angel

Unlike the members of other minority groups, homosexuals can hide or “pass” in a straight-dominated world to avoid public hostility. Because of the reluctance of many gay individuals to publicize their status, visual media including film and television came to play an important role in shaping most Americans’ views about gay people and gay identity during the twentieth century. It was the media that explored and communicated who homosexuals were and how they related to society. Since the 1960s, television has been the main medium through which the American public learned about this minority group. Because television shows are the products of so many forces, historical shifts and fluctuations in their content and themes provide important indicators of shifts and fluctuations in American society and culture. This thesis will examine the representation of gay male characters, same-sex relationships, and gay themes in three of these American television series: Soap, which ran from 1977 to 1981, Dynasty, which lasted from 1981 until 1989 (with a reunion miniseries in 1991), and Dawson’s Creek, airing from 1998 to 2003. This thesis will argue that these representations shifted over time from a heterocentric understanding of homosexuality to a more homocentric view of the gay identity and the mores of the gay community.