I’m Selina, Awards Circuit’s queer Girl Friday for everything LGBTQIA+ in television! Each week, I take a closer look at network TV through the rainbow lenses. It’s still in the early days of the fall TV season, with most shows still getting back to business. Luckily, “Will & Grace” is raring to go, tackling ageism in the gay community and the new generation of queer kids who don’t know their herstory. “Star Trek: Discovery” also caught my eye as it introduced one of their first (canon) gay main characters in the franchise.
“Will & Grace” was all about dating for Will and Jack, who went out to a local gay bar and were shocked to discover they’d become daddies to the men they were trying to hit on. While Jack was rebuked for being “too old” for the guys he approached, Will was seen as News Reporter Hot (the weirdest but rather accurate description of Eric McCormack’s perfect body). Jack hurries over for help from Karen, who promptly pulls out botox and Spanx and magnets for his neck rolls, turning the man into a walking statue. Jack’s struggles to remain relevant and wanted in the gay dating scene point to the very real habit of younger gay men dismissing older men, with the exception of a specific dating niche. Daddies–older, distinguished looking men– are one of the few roles an older gay man is relegated to by the new guard. Jack’s struggle was an exaggerated but achingly true criticism of the LGBTQIA+ community’s obsession with youth.
Meanwhile, Will hits it off with a 23-year-old, whom he promptly invites over for a date. Things continue to go a little downhill, as Will realizes how much easier it’s been for the youngest generation of LGBTQIA+ kids. Will had a coming out horror story, while his date had parties thrown in honor of his sexuality. Worse still, Will’s date believed that the world was now safe for LGBTQIA+ people, noting queer youth’s tendency to put activism on the back burner. (The bit where he called the famous Stonewall protests “Stonehenge” was the low note for me, though Will took as much issue with his date’s dismissal of Madonna.)
So Will schools him, ending his lecture on queer herstory with a lecture about fighting for the community and honoring those who fought and died for our right to walk down the street holding our partner’s hand. The speech stood as a clear rallying cry to fight complacency before what rights we’ve secured are taken away again. Also, Madonna forever.
Out in the final frontier, things are still coming together–or, in Michael’s case, falling apart– for “Star Trek: Discovery.” The former First Officer has been branded as the root cause for the Federation’s War with the Klingons. The show has a cinematic vibe, with impressive CGI and special effects makeup for a network series. Still, it’s decidedly more dramatic and disheartening than the usual “Star Trek” fare, which is loved in part for its optimistic, inclusive ideology.
The sole shining light, rainbow lenses wise, was Anthony Rapp (“Rent”), who has been introduced as Lt. Paul Stamets, an astromycologist who’s creating a new way to travel. His character is short with people but highly intelligent and idealistic, traits commonly shared with many “Star Trek” characters (Spock, Sarek, Captain Jean-Luc Picard on an off day, etc.). Stamets and his husband, played by Wilson Cruz, have already been announced as “Star Trek’s” first canonically queer couple, with sources already revealing their relationship won’t be hidden or merely hinted at.
Rapp, best known for being part of the original cast of “Rent,” is one of the most recognizable queer men in the industry: his appearance is a clear reminder that Star Trek is still, and always has been, for everyone. Rapp told OUT this week he’s “honored” to play the first gay “Star Trek” character, continuing:
It’s an honor. It’s also been a long time coming. Star Trek has always been progressive—apparently there were conversations over the years about having gay characters, but it just didn’t happen. But what I’m really proud of is, like everything with Star Trek’s diversity, there are no arrows pointing to it, no big neon sign flashing, no story line about what it’s like to be a gay character on the ship. It just is. That, to me, is part of the evolution as well.
Rapp points out that representation is more than being “the first LGBTQIA+ to…,” a nuance not always talked about in terms of representation. Storylines relating specifically to LGBTQIA+ struggles are important, and so is being Regular Joe who also has a boyfriend. Evolving the conversation until we are more than “the Gay Guy” is a triumph, and “Star Trek: Discovery” is already delivering.