As a writer, I sometimes struggle with the concept of writing what I know—a piece of advice you have probably heard if you have taken any sort of creative writing course. That’s not to say you can’t venture outside the box to learn and write about something new, but I do find it to be a solid piece of advice. The problem is, what I know centers mostly around being a gay man in a predominately straight world. Sure, in our gay ghettos it appears our numbers are large, but in reality we’re a minority. I sometimes wonder who will read my stories and musings of gay life. The artist in me says: Who cares? Just write. The part of me that desires to make a living at my craft and wants to be the next Nicholas Sparks or J.K. Rowling says: Pander to the masses. Don’t worry; I almost always listen to the artist.
With that being said, I’ve been debating on stepping outside my comfort zone and writing a screenplay. I have a theme and something that loosely resembles a storyline. Keep in mind, I haven’t started the project (outside some outlining) and already I’m wondering if my gay themed screenplay is marketable and sellable. Again, as an artist, these shouldn’t be my primary worries—unless of course if I were actually a starving artist. I’m by no means starving; I have a day job. I know what you’re probably thinking: There are tons of gay movies out there. I agree, in fact, I’m a little bothered that Netflix knows that I like gay themed movies and movies with a strong female leads, which seems to be a plethora nowadays. I can remember when I started the process of coming out in the late ‘90s (in the Midwest) and all you could rent from Blockbusters was Philadelphia (with Tom Hanks) and The Birdcage (with Robin Williams). Gay characters in Hollywood have come a long way since then, but there is still quite a bit of ground to cover.
It appears the TV networks have stepped up to the plate with its assimilation of gay characters in sitcoms in recent years. It’s almost a challenge to find a show that doesn’t have a gay character. Today we have shows such as: Modern Family, Happy Endings, Glee, GCB, Desperate Housewives, and American Horror Story just to name a few—all featuring gay characters. I’ve even heard the argument that with all the variety of gay TV in mainstream media, networks such as HERE! and Logo are virtually becoming meaningless. But when will the movie industry step to the plate? Yes, we now have a selection of gay movies we didn’t have fifteen to twenty years ago, but many of those movies are independent films that went straight to DVD. When will we see more of our stories told on the big screen and not just feature the gay sidekick? Sure, there was the success of Brokeback Mountain and Milk — the rare exceptions with financial backing. The next time you’re browsing the gay and lesbian section, ask yourself: which one of these movies was actually shown in a theatre or not a limited release. Not many, and that is unacceptable.
Hollywood, our community can make or break a pop star. We create the newest trends. We raise property values. We have disposable income. We’re the forces behind hit TV shows and movies. Hell, we run Hollywood! We’re worthy of seeing some of OUR stories on the big screen. Don’t be afraid to invest in us. I will go confidently in the direction of my artistic vision and hopefully, in turn, you will start supporting us. I don’t want future artist worrying if their story will just be white noise in an industry where they appear to have no voice.