Tuesday, March 31, 2015

'Empire' Strikes Back at Homophobia


It’s been a few weeks now since the finale of Empire’s inaugural season, but I can’t get it out of mind.  The blockbuster Fox series, which shattered records for increased ratings as the show progressed, awaits a boatload of well-deserved Emmys.  Arguably, Empire is the best non-cable show over the past several years, and its surging popularity transcends race, gender and sexual orientations—as there is something for everyone in this explosively intense drama whose 60 minutes zip by in a flash.
Empire co-creators Lee Daniels (L.) and Danny Strong
So popular is Empire that American Idol, the TV ratings leader board king year in and year out, has strategically hitched onto Empire’s streaking horses.  Empire, unless the script lapses into “crazy land”—the bane of many formerly successful TV shows—should be around for a long stretch.
That apparently was not the mindset of the producers and the network when they signed on for merely 12 episodes.  Believing that Empire would be one and done, the powers that be had the principal character, Lucious Lyon (played wonderfully by Terrence Howard) dying of ALS.  When the over-the-top ratings numbers shocked the network bigwigs (the premiere in January drew 9.9 million viewers, the finale just under 13 million), Empire had miraculously found a cure for ALS to keep the character going.  Not really; it had been a misdiagnosis all along.

What’s not to like about the show? It has a solid, original sound track even if hip-hop is not your favorite musical genre.  Most musical performances are as riveting as they are rhythmic.  The show boasts the best actress on television, in my opinion, with Taraji P. Henson as the none-too-shy and complicated Cookie Lyon, the estranged ex-con wife of the powerhouse hip-hop record label (Empire Entertainment) mogul Lucious Lyon, the family’s patriarch. 
It has an openly gay co-creator in Lee Daniels who had directed such films as Shadowboxer, Precious and The Paperboy, and a gifted award-winning co-creator Danny Strong who won honors for political TV movies Recount and Game Change.

There is a talented, almost exclusively African-American cast including a core ensemble of exceptional actors, a recurring cast, and guest stars who appear along the way. 
It also showcases a gay character (Jamal Lyon played by now openly gay Jussie Smollett) who is not merely an accessory in the series that some shows do to check off a box; instead, he is among the central characters whose tense, dramatic storyline helps attract those millions of viewers.

The show unapologetically portrays the gritty hard truths of the sometimes messy world of hip-hop: money, greed, sex, infidelity, drugs, revenge, murder, and turf battles in an urban setting.   And it deals with homosexuality from both ends in a bold and provocative way.
What I like most about Empire besides Cookie (who doesn’t?) is how the script deals with the gay Jamal character.  As the middle son in the Lyon clan, and a favorite of Cookie’s, Jamal possesses an abundance of musical talent in both writing and vocally that he inherited from his father Lucious. 

But when Jamal as a small tyke donned his mother’s scarf and high heels and sashayed with her handbag inside their home, the intensely homophobic Lucious picked up the boy and threw him into a metal trash can outside—a horrific scene repeated a few times as a flashback during the season.  This violent act was abhorred by Cookie, who always knew he was different but vowed to have his back, no matter.
...[Empire] deals with homosexuality from both ends in a bold and provocative way.

To be fair, when it comes to homophobia, African-Americans as a group do not corner the market.  But it is common among many church-going black folks and that characterization rightly or wrongly was brought to the surface during the battles for marriage equality. 

Homophobia as in the case of misogyny is a powerful element in the hip-hop culture.  To that end, the fictional Empire world weaves that aspect of reality into the show’s plot with skill and sensitivity.
“Attacking homophobia was in my original pitch to Lee,” says co-creator Danny Strong in an interview with The Daily Beast. “Where I said the hip-hop mogul is going to have a gay son who is incredibly talented who should be the one who takes over the empire, but he hates him because he’s gay. And unflinchingly attack homophobia in this mainstream piece of material.”

Smollett who plays the gay character found out that his own personal life was being examined and he had to answer the inevitable questions.  He finally came out as Empire was in high gear, which added more texture to the show’s success.
“One thing I was hoping was that young people who think they’re gay or know they’re gay at that age will watch Jamal and watch Empire and they’ll see Lucious and they’ll see that Lucious is wrong and Jamal is right, and it will make them comfortable with themselves and who they are,” says Strong.  “Maybe they’ll not have to go through the struggle that some people did who didn’t have role models like that.”

Indeed, Smollett’s character Jamal stands up to Lucious, challenges a homophobic rap artist on stage with an intense dueling duet, and emerges as the successor to run Empire Entertainment at season’s end.  The good guy has won—at least for now. Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Arts Collective at HCC Presents 'Eat the Runt'


Imagine having a voice in selecting the cast of a play.  As an audience member of Eat the Runt, which will run for three consecutive weekends at the Arts Collective (AC) at Howard Community College (HCC), you will have the opportunity to do just that.  #hocoarts

The casts of 'Eat the Runt': Photo by JilliAnne McCarty
Members of the audience who show up early are invited to vote on the cast for a particular performance.  Each actor, under the direction of veteran director and Arts Collective producing artistic director Susan G. Kramer, will play multiple roles with no regards to race, ethnicity or gender. 
The rules of the voting as well as the incentives to participate are shown on the Arts Collective website.

According to Kramer, the play by Avery Croszier includes a stellar cast of eight actors poised to take on the challenge each performance (in various roles) featuring HCC students, alumni and guest artists, as well as the work of the best professional designers in the area. 

Eat the Runt is billed as “an outrageous, delicious comic satire that can go in countless, mind-blowing directions.  A seemingly innocent job interview slowly spirals into chaos as jealousy, desire, and deception collide. When the truth is revealed, only the strongest will survive.”
Kramer noted, “The central relationships among the cast of characters could include lesbian, gay, or heterosexual entanglements depending on the cast chosen... some combinations will make sense, while others may plunge the play into the absurd. To quote the playwright, Avery Crozier, ‘but sometimes the greatest discoveries are accidents. This one's waiting to happen. Every night..”

“Casting nightmares drove me to write Eat the Runt, a play that’s recast every night,” explains Crozier. “Quite often, playwrights write fascinating and specific physical descriptions of characters that make the play impossible to cast - especially if it is going to first be presented in a small theater.
“So I’ve stopped writing plays like that. In Eat the Runt, I decided to create roles that any talented actor could play, regardless of age, ethnicity, or gender. This is not a play in which appearance doesn't matter. It is, in fact, almost entirely about appearance and identity, but is designed to give the director flexibility to cast the best actors available without regard to physical type. Or to choose physical types that heighten the excitement of the situations on stage.”

Crozier adds, “The play is set in an art museum, a wonderful arena for exploring ethnicity, gender, and cultural issues of representation. It’s based on a series of interviews I had for a job at a large encyclopedic museum, a job I was pretty certain I did not want.

“On the airplane I fantasized about sabotaging myself with each interviewer so that they'd reject me before I was put in the embarrassing position of rejecting the job. Ultimately, I opted to behave myself, but on stage I could be much bolder than in real life. In the play, the character Merritt lives out my fantasy, and manifests increasingly strange and contradictory behavior with each interview. My challenge was to figure out why Merritt would go to such extremes, which pushed the play into the realm of impersonation and lying. So it became meta-theatre, a play about acting.”

Eat the Runt runs three weekends: April 17 - May 3 in HCC’s Studio Theatre, with performances on Fridays, and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 3 p.m.  The theater is located at HCC, Horowitz Center Studio Theatre, 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia, MD 21044. 

Seating is limited so that purchasing tickets early is encouraged.  Individual tickets are $15 for general admission, $12 for seniors (60+) and military, and $10 for all students with identification.  The play is not recommended for children under age 14.  Tickets may be purchased through the Box Office at 443-518-1500 or online. 

Come early so you can play the part of an actual casting director.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Extraordinary 'Laramie Project' at CCBC

The tragedy of gay 21 year-old college student Matthew Shepard’s brutal murder at the hands of two young men in Laramie, Wyoming in October 1998 still pains most decent people.  Hatred by those whose lot in life is to hate was symbolized by the repulsive protests at Matthew’s funeral by the Westboro Baptist Church led by hater-in-chief Fred Phelps.
Cast of CCBC's The Laramie Project  Photo: Leo Heppner
However, through the tireless efforts of Matthew’s family, particularly his mother Judy, and numerous activists, some good came of the heartbreak in that it helped spark the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act signed by President Obama 11 years after Matthew’s murder.  #hocoarts
A group of people from the New York City-based Tectonic Theater Project led by its artistic director and playwright Moisés Kaufman traveled to Laramie over the course of the next year to conduct a couple of hundred interviews of the town’s denizens in an exhausting effort to chronicle the impact the murder had on Laramie as well as themselves.  As a result, numerous performances of a play based on these interviews have been presented around the country. 

The Laramie Project, as the play is titled, is derived from those direct interviews, news footage, court transcripts and other found text. It reminds audiences about the effect hatred can have on everyday people’s lives whether you’re a direct victim or not.  It isn’t about being gay or straight; it’s about hate and hate crimes.
Gritty and powerful, the play is not preachy though there is that temptation to be so.  Yet, through its message that speaks to the consequences of hate, The Laramie Project performs an invaluable service. 

The Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) to its credit made The Laramie Project a part of their Community Book Collection whereby students and faculty on three of the campuses—Essex, Dundalk and Catonsville—throughout the academic year highlight and analyze the story behind the play through classroom discussions, assignments and artwork culminating with the brilliant staging of The Laramie Project. 

Moreover, CCBC brought in Judy Shepard to speak last October, held World AIDS Week events including the displaying of the AIDS Quilt in December, the screening of the film Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine that will take place in April, and The Laramie Project’s Moisés Kaufman who is scheduled to speak on April 28-29.
The performance on March 21 at the College Community Center Theater on the Essex campus was extraordinary and impassioned.  Thanks to a moving rendition of “What Matters” by the New Wave Singers in the theater’s lobby prior to the show, the mood was set perfectly for what was to follow.

Some student productions of plays and musicals tend to have rough edges because of the performers’ inexperience in theatre.  Not this one.  Veteran director Ryan Clark, who also teaches theatre at CCBC and is an artistic associate at Baltimore’s Iron Crow Theatre, guides the young actors and staging of The Laramie Project with great skill, and the results are impressive.   
The ensemble cast showcases their talents in such a way that their futures in theatre, should they go that route, would be quite promising.  They succeed in projecting their voices exceptionally well without the need of mics while proficiently delivering their lines.

The play requires the actors to perform multiple roles and they do it expertly.  Slipping on a sweater or taking one off, donning a cap or a hat and removing them as well as other garments to create a different character, the actors seamlessly and flawlessly execute these changes. 
Director Ryan Clark... guides the young actors and staging of The Laramie Project with great skill, and the results are impressive.   
Each one effectively adjusts his or her voice inflections, mannerisms and accents to reflect a particular person being interviewed as well as being an interviewer.  And each one has a turn in delivering a powerful soliloquy, again showcasing their dramatic props and versatility.  

The characters portrayed, such as the young bicyclist who discovered Matthew’s bloodied body tied to a fence post on the outskirts of Laramie where he said he resembled a scarecrow, the policewoman who brought him in, the sheriff, the doctor tending to Matthew who died in a hospital six days after the attack, the assorted townspeople on both sides of the gay issue, the bartender at the Fireside bar where Matthew was last seen leaving with the murderers, clergy, several lesbians, Fred Phelps, the killers themselves and Matthew’s father Dennis whose testimony in court is arguably the play’s most dramatic moment—all allow the eight-person cast to delve into the various roles, and they deliver in superb fashion.
Aside from their solid acting skills, the movements of the performers under Mr. Clark’s guidance are also outstanding.  To convey scene changes, they shift about the several chairs and tables that adorn the stage with a keen sense of timing and placement.  And in true docudrama form, when a person speaks, another cast member identifies the character by name.

No one member of the cast should be singled out for their performance as they are all tremendous.  In no particular order, the ensemble includes: Ashley Saville, William Meister, Giustino Puliti, Christian Fisher, Lavonne Jones, Thomas P. Gardner, Lashay McMillan and Yakima Lich.  Take your bows; you deserve a standing ovation.
The technical elements considerably add to the play’s texture, making good use of projections on a screen upstage that presents pertinent photographs and art as well as “Moments” as the play progresses.  Scenic and lighting design by Terrie Raulie and the simple costuming by James Fasching help depict the realities contained in this play. 

This minimalism is desirable for a play like The Laramie Project. It creates an atmosphere whereby the actors are really speaking directly to the audience explaining how this tragedy impacted Laramie’s residents.  They are just ordinary people trying to make sense of a gruesome crime that had thrust their community into the spotlight.  It makes people pause to think about our society where hate still exists.
Kudos to all those associated with this outstanding presentation.  Make plans soon to see this great play that is ably directed and performed by young student actors with a skill set that soars beyond expectations. The run is ending soon.

Running time: Two hours and 20 minutes with an intermission.
Advisory: The play contains some profanity and is not suitable for children.

The Laramie Project’s remaining performances are at 10 a.m. March 23 and 1 p.m. March 24 in the College Community Theatre at CCBC Essex, 7201 Rossville Boulevard. Additional performances will be given at 12:45 p.m. March 26 in the Center for the Arts Theatre at CCBC Catonsville, 800 S. Rolling Road and at 12:45 p.m. March 31 in the John E. Ravekes Theatre at CCBC Dundalk, 7200 Sollers Point Road. Tickets are $8 general admission, $5 for students, seniors, and CCBC faculty, staff and alumni. Current CCBC students (with valid ID) are free. Tickets are available from the CCBC Box Office at 443-840-ARTS (2787) or online.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Silly Season is Upon Us


The time between presidential elections can be a head-shaking experience among ordinary folks.  Unfortunately, much of this interlude is filled with bizarre statements and other forms of nonsense as we endure the ridiculousness of people who simply fail to think before they speak or possess any form of filter.  This period is called the “silly season,” which challenges people’s intellect and sensibilities and where the absurd can be humorous or downright serious, if not scary. 

Comments, actions and events are so bizarre, so counter-intuitive, that your eyes roll back so far you can see the back of your brain.  Of course, not all of the silliness is related to presidential politics or politics in general, but it starts with politics and it has to begin with none other than Dr. Ben Carson.
If you hadn’t read or heard, the esteemed retired neurosurgeon from Johns Hopkins University has made some controversial anti-gay comments in the past, which raised his profile and received the sympathy and support of gay-hating tea partiers—enough so that they are encouraging him to make a presidential run.  He is considering just that. 

In an appearance on FOX “News” Carson spouted this gem:  “Marriage is between a man and a woman. No group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality, it doesn't matter what they are. They don’t get to change the definition.”
At a conference at the Illinois Family Institute, he claims marriage equality advocates are “directly attacking the relationship between God and his people.”

In his 2012 book, Carson wrote of marriage equality: “[I]f we can redefine marriage as between two men or two women or any other way based on social pressures as opposed to between a man and a woman, we will continue to redefine it in any way that we wish, which is a slippery slope with a disastrous ending, as witnessed in the dramatic fall of the Roman Empire.”
At the National Organization for Marriage’s March for Marriage gala in 2014, Carson explained how Marxists are using LGBT rights to destroy American unity and impose the “New World Order.”

And now the latest gem.  Appearing on CNN on March 4, when asked by Chris Cuomo if being gay is a choice, the highly educated physician replied, “Absolutely.”  Then he added, “Because a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight -- and when they come out, they're gay. So, did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question.”
Under intense fire, he “apologized” and vowed that the liberal gotcha press will not stop his momentum and trap him into expressing his views on homosexuality.  We’ll see.  I guarantee that even if he chooses not to run for president, he will be giving a prime time speech at the Republican National Convention and his views on LGBT folks will be a centerpiece.

I will say this in response to Carson’s theory about going into prison straight and leaving gay:  Ben Carson, a brilliant neurosurgeon, enters the Republican clown car filled with presidential hopefuls and emerges as a moron.
Carson keeps claiming he’s not homophobic.  It’s like the SAE frat boys at the University of Oklahoma who chanted racist chants over and over and claim they are not racists, that it was a mistake whereby their behavior was fueled by alcohol.  No dudes, you’re racists.  Alcohol merely removed your inhibitions to recite those ugly words; it didn’t put them in your minds.

Dr. Carson, you’re a homophobe in every sense of the word. Don’t pretend you’re not.
Ben Carson, a brilliant neurosurgeon, enters the Republican clown car filled with presidential hopefuls and emerges as a moron.

Adding to the silly season were the 47 Republican Senators (known on social media as #47traitors) who usurped the authority of the executive branch to conduct foreign policy.  Under “wunderkind” Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas who persuaded the other senators to sign off on an outlandish, condescending letter to the leadership of Iran aimed at scuttling the sensitive negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, achieved something that has been a long time waiting: it finally woke up Democrats. 

Ceding the social media platforms, talk radio, TV interviews and other media to Republicans during the non-stop anti-Obama thrashing, Dems finally found a cause in which they could respond.  And they are correct.
Imagine Democratic Senators writing a letter to the Soviet Union’s leadership in an effort to warn them that the Senate may not approve any nuclear proliferation treaty President Reagan was negotiating.  How would have the GOP responded?   None too pleased, I would suspect.

It would be as if Republican Senators and Representatives had written the following:
Dear Osama Bin Laden,

We writing to advise you that the Navy Seals have discovered your location in Pakistan and will come to get you.  As you know, our previous dear leader President George W. Bush had to abandon his search for you at Tora Bora so that we could invade and liberate Iraq, the actual purveyors of 9/11, and create another democratic and U.S.-friendly state in the Middle East. 
Our current President Obama is much too stubborn to let things slide as Mr. Bush did.  Obama and his henchmen for some reason doggedly want to capture or kill you even though Saddam Hussein was responsible for the over 3,000 deaths on 9/11, not you.

We will do anything to keep our President from getting the credit for your demise because he is a foreign-born Socialist Muslim who hates America and a black man who is considerably smarter than us.  
We felt it as our patriotic duty, and in the name of freedom and the right to bear arms, to warn you of this diabolical plan.

Best of luck in your travels,
The Real Americans  

Indeed, it is the silly season, and alas, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Faith and Family Clash in Iron Crow’s '…Bobby Pritchard'


In its recent works, Iron Crow Theatre, Baltimore’s queer theatre company, has delved into the subject of death from different angles.  From the Jeffrey Dahmer murders in Joseph W. Ritsch’s Apartment 213 to suicide in Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis, death and its impact on others have been explored with a degree of creative artistry that is open to interpretation.  With the world premiere of The Revelation of Bobby Pritchard written by Baltimore playwright Rich Espey currently playing at The Theatre Project, audiences are given another view of death, and in this case two deaths.



From left: Sean Kelly, Heather Peacock, Dave LaSalle,
Julie Herber, Sarah Lynn Taylor and Susan Porter
Photo: Zachary Z. Handler
The intense one-act play that brings to the forefront the struggle for LGBT acceptance in a Southern town called Boiling Springs with its religious dominance forms the backdrop of a splendid performance by the six-person cast under the deft guiding hand of director Steven J. Satta.    #hocoarts

Espey’s play relies heavily on flashbacks to 40 years ago that alternate with the present and the use of symbolism, which is laced throughout. Most cast members are called upon to play dual roles reflecting the different time periods, and they do so expertly.  To underscore the connections the characters have with religion, the majority perform Church hymns during several points in the play and do so melodiously demonstrating their vocal skills.

For full review, visit MD Theatre Guide.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

'Grounded' Soars at Olney Theatre Center


Even if one entered Olney Theatre Center’s Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab without knowing anything about George Brant’s taut play Grounded, the visuals already established will tip you off that you will be in for a tense, bumpy ride.  Seated on a black swivel chair, motionless, is a slender woman in an olive drab flight suit (designed by Ivania Stack) before a group of imageless TV monitors except for gray wavy lines across the screens.  The audience is eventually in place, the lights black out for a second, and then pow!     #hocoarts
Megan Anderson as The Pilot in Grounded. 
 Photo: Clinton B Photography

The Pilot, the sole identity of the woman in the flight suit, springs to her feet from her chair and tells Brant’s poignant story of how we arrived at this point.  Megan Anderson, who recently turned in a terrific performance in Rep Stage’s The Whale and is a resident actor at Everyman, delivers the punches like a brawny fighter making use of rapidly spoken, high-octane soliloquies, often employing combat stances and macho swagger, and energetically moving about the stage with a purpose in a tour de force that is as riveting as it is outstanding. 
For full review, visit MD Theatre Guide.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Hollywood’s Journey Down the Rainbow Path


When openly gay Neil Patrick Harris strutted out on the stage of the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles to host the 87th Academy Awards, one would think that the battle for gay rights received its own statue.  After all, NPH became the first ever openly gay man to host the iconic TV special.  Not only that, but he has now hit the trifecta of award show hosting that also includes the Tony awards and Emmys.  Can the Grammys be next for the grand slam? 

This is no small feat given the audience numbers that each of these major shows attract bring tons of advertising dollars to the networks.  Therefore, it behooves the shows’ producers to put on stage someone whom the TV audiences will accept and enjoy.  And they seem to have no problem with the multi-talented and popular gay man, Harris.
But do these accomplishments signal the end of homophobia in Hollywood?  Over the years there had been a homophobic mindset in some of the producers and decision-makers in the film and TV industries causing numerous LGBT performers to remain in the closet lest their careers be in peril. 

Homophobia like racism or misogyny is a state of mind, an attitude, that just doesn’t simply turn on and off like a switch.  To fully eradicate these attitudes, succeeding progressive generations will likely be less and less bigoted, so in the long run, the prognosis is good.
Unquestionably, there has been a huge amount of progress regarding attitudes towards LGBT folks in Hollywood (film and TV) with an increasing number of LGBT characters on TV shows, in particular, and more being employed.  This is following a national trend towards LGBT acceptance.  But we’re not there yet.

“People are what they are, believe what they believe, and I think most open-minded heteros have evolved over the last 40 years,” a straight, long-time Hollywood-based comedy writer, told me through an email interview, whom I will name “Frank” for this piece. 
“There have always been gays and lesbians in Hollywood,” he says.  “Face it, any business that regularly employs choreographers, dress designers, set decorators, hairdressers, and makeup people, will have gays in it.  So unlike many businesses, the movie industry has had gays, working side by side with straight folk.”

Frank points out that in the 70s, they were mostly closeted. “They were there, we knew who they were, for the most part, but they weren't talking about it.  When it came to writers and directors, I will say that gays were few and far between - again, people were in the closet, so I am assuming there were gay writers (other than Bruce Villanch) out there. But I didn't know any myself. Was this homophobia, or was it a different cultural phenomenon?”

“Ellen’s personal life met up with her character. Dramatic series had gay characters. The world was changing.”

The emergence of West Hollywood as a city in 1984 helped push acceptance. “Suddenly, everyone paid attention to a place, which was mostly known for its bar scene,” explains Frank.

“Gays in WeHo were out of the closet, not just gay businesses and bars, but gay politicians, city councilmen and mayors. There was a city where the rights of the gay community mattered. A city adjacent to Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and West L.A. - places where people in the industry lived and worked. I can’t prove that this created change in the industry, but I don't see how it couldn’t. The Pride parade was on local cable TV. The gay national religious holiday - Halloween - was celebrated on Santa Monica Blvd. with mixed crowds, again on TV.  This causes greater acceptance.”
Frank also credits the producers who inserted gay characters on such TV shows in the 1990’s as MTV’s Real World as agents for change and in particular, the saga of an AIDS-stricken cast member in San Francisco.  “Pedro Zamora, a man living with AIDS, and AIDS activist, became a national symbol. An entire generation, through the proxies of the assortment of people in that show, not only saw someone gay, but someone who lived and loved in the face of the disease which people still feared.”

He also recalls talking with Norman Lear later in the decade regarding the increase in gay writers.  “The change was noticeable,” Frank said. “Ellen’s personal life met up with her character. Dramatic series had gay characters. The world was changing.”

Shows like Survivor, in its first season with gay Richard Hatch as a star, was huge.  As was Will & Grace and now Glee, which Frank characterized as the “gayest show ever” and ironic that it is on FOX.  Now shows like Modern Family and Empire make good use of gay characters.
He explains that Neil Patrick Harris came out in the middle of the run of How I Met Your Mother.  “The amazing thing about that is that his character could best be described as a ‘rampant heterosexual’ - a man whose life revolved around sex with women. Nobody commented about the fact that a gay actor was playing that role; people were able to separate the character on TV from the actor who played it. This is a massive advance in the world.”

Frank states, “If TV is the great enlightened arena of entertainment, movies are its more timid cousin. Look, it’s not because of homophobia; the only phobia movie studios have is losing money. Unfortunately, there are many countries around the world which practice institutionalized homophobia. Not little ones - Russia, China, India, the continent of Africa. We may have to wait a while before studios will risk a gay version of Sylvester Stallone starring in a major action picture.”

Progress, to be sure, but the rainbow path still has its bumps.  A recent Williams Institute survey of SAG-AFTRA members indicates there are still issues regarding homophobia and transphobia within the entertainment industry. Read the results here.