Saturday, May 20, 2017

Thoughts on the Will & Grace Revival...

After 11 years in the re-run/box set  wilderness, they are coming back.

It apparently stems from the very positive reaction  to the mini-episode  the cast came together to film in the run-up  to the 2016  U.S. election.  Hmmm.. Okay.  This could go one of two ways.  It will either be brilliant  or  a complete bore, no middle ground there.

 Lets  talk about the big pink elephant in the room for a moment.  The idea that  as a television series  Will & Grace was "groundbreaking".    

The LGBT Community's  relationship  with  Will & Grace has always been "complicated".    As a prime time TV network sitcom,  yes... Will & Grace  was one of the first to feature gay lead characters.  But let's be very clear here,  Will & Grace was not a show about Gay  people.  It was a very funny sitcom about four  people  who were for all practical purposes, married to each other, (Will/Grace and Jack/Karen)   but would never, ever have sex.

Critics of the show love to point out that the series never addressed any of the  real issues that the LGBTQ community faced.  HIV,  hate crimes,  trans issues, etc.,  were pretty much non-existent in the  make believe New York world of  Will Truman and Grace Adler.   This criticism while true,  misses  the real reasons why Will & Grace was a good thing a decade ago, and may just be a great thing to be bringing back now.

To my LGBTQ fiends here is the thing we need to remember.   Will & Grace was never meant  for us.

It was always meant for, well... Your Mom.  And My Mom, and her friends and their friends . People for whom watching shows like "Queer as Folk".or "The L Word", or more recently, "Looking" would have been both really unlikely and highly traumatizing.   But instead  there were these very funny, somewhat endearing  and yes relatively harmless characters who charmed their way into their homes once a week.

I would wager serious money that many of us have heard Straight friends and family members actually cite watching Will & Grace as evidence of their support and acceptance of LGBT rights. As silly as that may seem on the surface;  (I once wrote that Will & Grace had about as much to do with American LGBT experience, as The Cosby Show did to the African American experience.) The fact is, Will & Grace did make a difference, and yes, it did have a real impact.

For many Americans, Gay people simply didn't exist as part of their world. Their problems and struggles were completely removed from their frame of reference. Then suddenly there was Will and Jack, in their homes every Thursday night. Commenting on hot guys, making gay culture references, and turning hateful stereotypes into the butt of gentle jokes. For those Americans, Will & Grace dispelled some of the mystery, and a great deal of the fear, that for them, surrounded "The Gays".

I know this first hand. Once back in late 2009 , I was sitting a a flight from Washington D.C. to London. The woman seated next to me asked what was the reason for my trip. I explained I was going to visit my fiancee  who lived in London.

She  asked would my wife be moving to America after we were married, I explained that because of the Defense of Marriage Act, I couldn't sponsor him to live in the United States. She then exclaimed excitedly how she remembered a Will & Grace episode where Grace had to marry Will's Canadian boyfriend ( played by Taye Diggs) to prevent him from being deported, and she thought it was just  "terrible that people  would have to do that just to be together."  She then went on to say how before having seen that episode,  the issue would have never even occurred to her.

That is who Will & Grace was for.  That woman sitting next to me on the plane.  Who was able to connect the  the dots between a funny TV show, and someone she was meeting in real life.    It's  also why now  just may be the perfect time for the show to come back.

Since the 2016 Presidential election,  there has been a spike in hate crimes against minority groups in the U.S.     A recent story in Slate Magazine detailed  the alarming rise in attacks against LGBTQ Americans,  where  often the attacker(s) cite the victory of Donald Trump as justification for their actions

Chris Ball, a Canadian film producer who lives in Calgary, was watching the election results pour in on Tuesday at a bar in Santa Monica, California, stunned with disbelief. Ball told Calgary Metro that as the outcome became clear, the atmosphere became tense and volatile, with other patrons yelling anti-gay slurs at him. “We got a new president, you f**king faggots,” one Trump supporter reportedly said. After the altercation, Ball was jumped while attempting to walk to his car, and the attackers smashed a beer bottle over his head. He blacked out after his skull slammed against the pavement.

So it just may be  time bring back  "that nice Will Truman and funny Jack McFarland"  to once again  get people who are not bigots, but for whom the issues  are just not that visible, to  "connect the dots."    If you wouldn't want your favorite TV sitcom character to get gay bashed or have their civil rights taken away,  it just might just make you less tolerant of it happening to people in your own neighborhood. 

As for the for rest of us,  there will undoubtedly be some funny Trump jokes, and  after all,  we all know the show was really about Jack and Karen anyway.

Welcome back Kids...

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