Auckland’s Big Gay Out is always an interesting time to watch New Zealand media further push the GLBT stereotype to Kiwi folk back home at their TVs, but one mainstream news show did us proud, nearly!
By ANDY BOREHAM
Mainstream media flock to Auckland’s Big Gay Out — New Zealand’s most popular annual GLBT event — to photograph drag queens and nearly naked men, fulfilling the common stereotype that the gay community is a bunch of people who dress as women and fuck 24/7.
Television news shows are probably the more powerful pushers of stereotypes as they pan their cameras almost exclusively to colourful drag queens and toned men wearing very little (often just underwear and often including bondage gear).
To the uninitiated, this pushes the powerful stereotype of GLBT people to those who don’t know better. To us, we all know that only a small percentage are drag queens, only a few are confident enough to waltz around nearly naked, and just a handful identify as sexual fetishists.
In reality, and perhaps not as interestingly, the most common sight at Big Gay Out, and indeed at any GLBT event, is people that look just like everyone else.
But we can always count on mainstream media to push popular stereotypes. 3News wins the award for Most Stereotypical GLBT Newscast for this year’s Big Gay Out, with almost every shot featuring people that couldn’t be called ‘normal’ by mainstream society. Drag queens, sexual fetishists, buffed men (the male physique is nearly never celebrated outside of the context of sport), and so on.
Heterosexual is the norm: we are the ‘other’. In order for us to appear in mainstream media we need to keep that rule in mind, or else don’t expect to be featured in a news clip on Big Gay Out. How confusing for the ‘average New Zealander’ would it be if we looked just like them?!
The media love stereotypes because they ring true with the ‘average New Zealander’ who doesn’t know any better. Case in point: the widely circulated image of Prime Minister John Key posing with some of the drag queens from Caluzzi. When the ‘average New Zealander’ sees this image it fits in with their concepts of what it is to be gay (gay men want to be women) and doesn’t cause any stress or confusion.
One News, however, almost tackled the concept of stereotypes, and that’s why they win my award for Best GLBT Newscast for Big Gay Out 2012. The piece starts as to be expected—“Barely there outfits, and some beautifully put-together ‘ladies’”—but soon acknowledges, nearly, that this imagery isn’t quite as accurate as they’d like you to believe back home in Timaru: “[…] stereotypical punters are few and far between.” The story cuts to a very ‘normal’ looking woman who explains further: “I think we’re moving away from those stereotypes, as people come to accept that it’s really not a big deal”. Ka pai! Of course they then cut back to the obligatory stereotypical images, but it was a start!
While it is an extremely important issue within our communities, unfortunately HIV/AIDS is also a powerful stereotype of gay men. Both mainstream TV news networks pushed the HIV/AIDS card, but it was based on recent news that one in 15 gay/bi men in Auckland have HIV.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not at all saying that we should all aim to be ‘normal’ and that being stereotypical is a bad thing (see my piece on the term ‘straight-acting’), but I find it really interesting how stereotypes are pushed and how groups of people are represented based on the popular idea of what they’re like. Even I’m guilty of pushing the stereotype: I often use stereotypical imagery on GLBT event postering because it’s such a strong stereotype that GLBT people notice it straight away, whether they identify with it or not.
I look forward to next year’s Big Gay Out to see if mainstream media keep going in the direction One News started heading in this year, or if it’s back to 3News’ treatment style again.
In other news, did anyone else find it slightly weird that so many were going insane for photos with Prime Minister John Key? I made the image to the right, which I think sums up the situation nicely. 🙂
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