The Lose-Lose Queer (Or How Reality Shows Cast Queers)

For a long time, I have been obsessed with competition reality shows of the likes of Survivor, Big Brother, The Amazing Race, etc. As a super fan, I read forums, follow live feeds, and spend an inappropriate amount of time posting my opinions on people I will probably never meet.

My favorite part is just to see who gets cast. It’s always been a dream of mine to get cast on one of these shows and play the game. Of course, the cast list is always a “diverse” group of characters that mostly represent stereotypes of specific regions, persons, or groups in the United States.

For instance, take this season of Survivor and the archetypes they represent: divorced mother, black couple, farmers, city-slickers, firemen, and twins. Unfortunately, after 29 seasons of watching Survivor, you can almost guess what type of people are going to get cast, as they need to fill every possible role that is centered on the great “melting pot” America is believed to be.

So, of course, I had to find out who the queers were.

This season, the queer couple consists of two males, both of whom work in New York City on Broadway, one known for being in Spiderman: The Musical. Both very religious, Josh and Reed have been together for two years and continue to remain abstinent until they decide to marry. A pretty interesting dynamic, considering Josh has not been “out” for that long to anyone, including his family.

Right when the cast list gets posted, I go to see what everyone else on my favorite Survivor forum thinks. Lo and behold, the first comments about Josh and Reed are that they are “too gay” and they should cast some “real people” instead of Broadway caricatures.

THIS is what is problematic when casting queer characters, and it is partly the way that casting directors choose to cast queer characters, but also the way different members of the queer community react. In this instance, the poster chose to not like the casting choice of Josh and Reed because they are “too gay” and that he, as another Survivor super fan, would never be cast because he is “not flaming”.

There are two sides to the coin. On one hand, casting directors DO choose the more out and proud homosexuals rather than ones that would be considered SAG (or a straight acting gay (or queer)). You can see this casting choice evident in almost every season of Survivor, Big Brother, or Amazing Race. So, these queers who do not fit into that casting mold resent that part of the queer community for making things inaccessible to them or presenting a singular image of a queer person (white gay man between 25-40).

However, this resentment can be especially deadly. The ones who are cannot fit into this specific reality casting mold usually maintain the privileges associated with being straight, or have an easier time fitting into the mainstream world because they can more easily integrate themselves. Without recognizing those special privileges they attain by being able to masque their queerness, they run the risk of using similar arguments to WASP men and women (i.e. Why did the black girl get hired over me, because she’s BLACK? Why is the flamboyant queer getting cast over me, because s/he’s FLAMBOYANT?).

On the other hand, the casting directors really do have the choice of who they want to appear on these shows. They are the ones that get to pick what is the one (or two) queer people to appear on the show, usually picking a white or white-appearing male. So, if there is really anyone to throw their resentment at, it should NOT be towards they very openly queer individuals that get cast for being open, rather, should be the show’s casting and creative directors who develop the story lines in the show.

So here’s the deal, fellow super fan. Yes, you probably will have a harder time getting cast because you maintain what many queers like to call “passing privilege”, because you can pass for being straight. No, you should not assert that these queers are better or worse than you because they are more open. Yes, you can and should be mad at casting directors for focusing on a very safe and conservative image of the queer community because it is what America is used to.

Whenever reality shows cast, there’s always the “Lose-Lose queer”, because whether you cast someone very codified as queer or someone who maintains strong passing privilege, someone in the community is going to be mad. But don’t be mad at different members of the queer community, how about being mad at casting for almost always casting JUST ONE QUEER PERSON (just one black, just one disabled, etc.)

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