"On the other hand, many gay characters are still tucked into supporting and sometimes bewildering roles on television – like Olivia Wilde's Thirteen on "House", who has by turns been lesbian, bisexual, straight, self-destructive, confused and determined.In the movies, "Brokeback Mountain" sparked exactly zero major studio attempts to tap that audience with something similar.On the one hand, gay people have fought their way to far greater acceptance than anyone could have imagined 40 years ago, when the "Stonewall riots" in Greenwich Village helped blast a movement out of the closet.On the other hand, large numbers of Americans still are uncomfortable about gays, as "Bruno" illustrates once again, and because "mainstream" movie and television producers depend on patronage from a mass audience, they desperately don't want to alienate some measurable percentage of the population just by subject matter.Even a movie as well-made and well-reviewed as "Brokeback Mountain" undoubtedly lost potential viewers who just felt uncomfortable about Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhall kissing.The sexuality of Jon Voight's Joe Buck was a major theme in the dark "Midnight Cowboy," as was his relationship with Dustin Hoffman's Ratso Rizzo. "Midnight Cowboy" won an Oscar. The next year the dark "Boys in the Band" became a movie, though neither movie portrayed being gay as anything like comfortable.By 1980, Hollywood was still most comfortable having a major gay character be a demented psychokiller like the one in Al Pacino's "Cruising."n 1991 Gus Van Sant had a good-sized hit with the modest-sized movie "My Own Private Idaho", wherein Keanu Reeves and the late River Phoenix struggled with honesty about their sexuality.Robert De Niro's character in "This Boy's Life" (1993) still sneers to a young Leonardo DiCaprio that one of the other boys "plays for the pink team."Perhaps the most encouraging movie sign yet was last year's "Milk", with Sean Penn playing Harvey Milk as a man who was gay, but was also a whole lot of other things. Just like most gay people.
Meanwhile, in lead roles, Ellen DeGeneres made weeks of headlines when it became clear she was going to "come out" as her sitcom rolled to a close. Would America ever accept a gay woman sitcom lead character, it was fervently asked?But Ellen is now hosting a very successful daily talk show on which, surprise, her sexual orientation is rarely more than a passing reference.Like Rosie O'Donnell, Ellen has proven that if you have interesting guests and something valuable or funny to say, the audience won't much care whom you sleep with.
So the train is rolling, and rolling in the right direction. But for all the talk of television and Hollywood as agents of the "liberal media", they don't seem inclined to run their train much faster or slower than the rest of the country's".