This story about Billy Crystal has been making the internet rounds this week.
I thought I'd comment, mostly to post a link to this great article by Noah Michelson, executive editor of the HuffPost's Gay Voices section, who beautifully sums up the issue and articulates many of my own thoughts in reaction to Crystal's homophobia.
But first some background. Crystal appeared on a panel this past weekend in Pasadena when he was asked what it was like to play one of the first gay characters on American TV (on the ABC show "Soap" in the late 1970s) and how television's treatment of gay characters has changed since that time.
Crystal reportedly said, "There were times where I would say to [the actor who played his boyfriend], 'Bob, “I love you,' and the audience would laugh nervously, because, you know, it’s a long time ago, that I’d feel this anger. I wanted to stop the tape and go, 'What is your problem?' Because it made you sort of very self-conscious about what we were trying to do then."
So far, so good. But then Crystal started talking about recent television depictions of gay people:
"And now it’s just, I see it and I just hope people don’t abuse it and shove it in our face -- well, that sounds terrible -- to the point of it just feels like an everyday kind of thing."
Crystal then alluded to some TV shows today (such as the new show 'How To Get Away With Murder,' which contains numerous sexy man-on-man sex scenes):
"Sometimes I think, 'Ah that’s too much for me...Sometimes, it’s just pushing it a little too far for my taste and I’m not going to reveal to you which ones they are."
Michelson, in his HuffPost article, then quotes a follow-up comment from Crystal reacting to the negative feedback his comments received:
"First of all, I don't understand why there would be anything offensive that I said. When it gets too far either visually...now, that world exists because it does for the hetero world, it exists, and I don't want to see that either. But when I feel it's a cause, when I feel it's "You're going to like my lifestyle," no matter what it is, I'm going to have a problem and there were a couple of shows I went 'I couldn't watch that with somebody else." That's fine. If whoever writes it or produces it...totally get it. It's all about personal taste."
To me, this was just Crystal expressing probably what a lot of heterosexual men of his generation feel about the gays: you can exist, I just don't want to see too much of you. Or something to that effect.
But I urge you to read all of Noah Michelson's commentary, who is fair to Crystal while also calling him out for his "homophobia." Here is just a small snippet:
"I think we can all read between the lines there. Let's not forget that one of the great things about being straight is that no one is ever going to accuse you of pushing your "lifestyle" on anyone else because your "lifestyle" is already the status quo. It's everywhere! You don't have to worry about your televised kisses or -- sweet baby Jesus help us! -- sex scenes being referred to as some kind of gratuitous political statement (or a "lifestyle") because your kisses and -- sweet baby Jesus help us! -- sex scenes are fundamentally seen as normal and healthy. What other "lifestyles" could he be talking about? People in relationships with balloon animals? Vegans who refuse to stop wearing leather? Whatever they are, I'm willing to bet my 401k he isn't talking about being straight as a "lifestyle."
Now to celebrate how far American TV has truly come, I give you one of the hot gay sex scenes featured this past fall on ABC's 'How To Get Away With Murder." Enjoy!