Will & Grace- joyful return or rehash of dated representation?

Our newest Curator, Dónal wonders if the announced return of Will and Grace really is a cause for celebration?


Winter is coming…the nights are getting cold, you are eating those few extra biscuits for warmth as you snuggle up to with the latest ‘must watch’ gritty Drama on Netflix.  This is the time that we all want comfort. We have on our favourite cosy jumper so it’s reasonable to say we might want our favourite TV shows on as well, just for extra little bit of comfort.

On that note it is time to announce the return of the 90’s/00’s classic sitcom Will & Grace. Airing first in 1998 Will & Grace followed lives of Will Truman (Eric McCormack), Grace Adler (Debra Messing) and their friends Jack McFarland (Sean Hayes) and Karen Walker (Megan Mullaly). Will and Grace were friends from childhood who were living together in apartment in New York city. Will was a homosexual lawyer and Grace a Jewish interior designer who at one point in her life held a torch for Will. The comedy gold was often brought to the show by flamboyantly loud actor Jack and often drunk socialite and Grace’s receptionist Karen.

I was a bit of a late comer to Will & Grace. In my teenage years when the show was huge and Kylie Minogue was back in the charts with her gold hot pants I was beginning to come to terms with my sexuality and due to having quite a lot of exposure to very effeminate gay men I struggled with the show. It was this ignorance and dislike for the show without actually ever watching that made me miss out on the fact that is was extremely funny. It was when I had my first boyfriend and I was extremely keen to be on his good side that I felt it was worth figuring out just why the hell he was so obsessed with dropping one liners from the show (mainly from Karen). I won’t lie as soon as the first ‘Karen-ism’ was dropped I was now hooked to the character but I still found myself struggling with the character of Jack and his overly camp demeanour as that is what I, for numerous reasons, found myself not wanting to be and fighting very hard against. I desperately wanted to be seen as a man who is gay and not someone who is gay and also a man. Yes, he provided humour. Yes, he was refreshing to Will’s straight laced character but I couldn’t help but watch him and think “It is 2009, are we not past this?”.

So, there in lies my reluctance with the return of the show. I am sure I will tune in and laugh just like I did back in 2009 and also cringe just like I did back in 2009. There is no doubt in my mind that Hayes and Mullaly make a great double act but I cannot hide my discomfort. Though (not to purposely quote Carrie Bradshaw) I cannot help but wonder, am I uncomfortable with this out of shame or embarrassment? Should I be standing with solidarity with Jack and shouting “Yes. I am queer. I am here and you should get damn well used to it” or do I think “This could be an undoing of the good work carried out by more refreshing representations of LGBT characters in recent years”?

I was a bit of a late comer to Will & Grace. In my teenage years when the show was huge and Kylie Minogue was back in the charts with her gold hot pants I was beginning to come to terms with my sexuality and due to having quite a lot of exposure to very effeminate gay men I struggled with the show.

If I can think for a second of some of the biggest LGBT themed movies of recent years. Milk, Pride and Stonewall. They have all focused on the fight we had and the triumphs we have overcome. Did we really go through all that to see a man flounce around a TV set singing Cher songs? Some of us would say “Hell yes” and then some would join me in a cringe fest. I will always live and let live and be who you want to be but I know growing up I would have much preferred to have watched a character like Connor Walsh (Jack Falahee) in How to Get Away with Murder going out there being a normal 19 year old student who just so happens to be gay than a camp cliché.

Should I be standing with solidarity with Jack and shouting “Yes. I am queer. I am here and you should get damn well used to it” or do I think “This could be an undoing of the good work carried out by more refreshing representations of LGBT characters in recent years”?

I think for now I should do my best to reserve judgement for whether this is a good idea or not and live in hope that this does not set us back 20 years in terms of media representation.

Follow Dónal on Twitter (@simplydonal)

3 thoughts on “Will & Grace- joyful return or rehash of dated representation?

  1. Why is it we attack camp from all sides: the MASC4MASC hegemony on the one hand and the ostensibly ‘queer’ intelligentsia on the other? What happens when our (uncritical) normative movement ascribes certain gendered characteristics as positive affect and others as negative? Is the cringe reaction to camp a form of internalised homophobia? Is the cringe a form of queer progress? Is Jack’s ‘flamboyance’, as Isabella pointed out, a historical artifact no longer ‘useful’ (if we are to make our community utilitarian) or is it a strategy that continues to inform queer affect (performance, desire, intimacy, gender roles) within our increasingly diversified communities? This article uncritically dismisses the lived *importance* of camp and femininity within contemporary queer cultures.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Chase. Thank you for your comment. This was in no way designed to be an attack. I hope it came across that my issue with the flamboyance of the character was purely down to my insecurity of my sexuality at the original time of the show airing.

      Like

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