Gay Actors Are Coming Out in a “New” Way

June is Gay Pride Month, so everybody’s talkin’ about gay people. Yesterday the New York Observer took a look at the business of outing celebrities (while slyly suggesting that Gossip Girl star Chase Crawford might indeed be in a glass closet himself). Today Entertainment Weekly shared a sneak peak at this week’s cover story, which focuses on "the new art" of coming out. On the cover are popular TV actors like Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Jane Lynch, Zachary Quinto, Neil Patrick Harris, and Jim Parsons, as well as comedian Wanda Sykes and Bravo’s Andy Cohen. But is this a rising trend or just a puffy trend piece?

It’s true that we’ve come a very long way from when Ellen DeGeneres came out fifteen years ago, which truly ushered in a new age in which LGBTQ actors (and, hell, normal people) were seen in a completely different light. For a community still struggling with the impact of HIV/AIDS and continued discrimination, DeGeneres and her show’s treatment of her sexuality was groundbreaking—displaying it matter-of-factly and as a normal thing rather than something to be terrified of or find revolting. While her show was cancelled soon after, she bounced right back and is today a much-loved TV personality. And her coming out certainly inspired others to do the same. As EW says on its site:

Even if it’s accomplished in a subordinate clause or a passing reference, coming out casually is, in its way, as activist as DeGeneres’ Time cover, although few of these actors would probably choose to label themselves as such. The current vibe for discussing one’s sexuality is almost defiantly mellow: This is part of who I am, I don’t consider it a big deal or a crisis, and if you do, that’s not my problem. It may sound like a shrug, but it shouldn’t be mistaken for indifference. By daring anyone to overreact, the newest generation of gay public figures is making a clear statement that there is a “new normal” — and it consists of being plainspoken, clear, and truthful about who you are.

But, are people being plainspoken, clear, and truthful? Jim Parsons made headlines when his sexuality was revealed in a New York Times profile last month, but it was buried in the end of piece. Is it not a big deal that someone on a high-rated show is gay and has kept it mostly hidden from his audience for years? EW also brings up T.R. Knight’s name, but you may remember that he was outed after gossipy rumors about his sexuality circulated online following a on-set fight in which his Grey’s Anatomy co-star Isaiah Washington called him a "faggot." 

And what can we say about the fact that there are still no major film actors who are open and out? Isn’t it still clear that an actor’s sexuality impacts his or her career? Of the eight celebrities on the magazine’s cover, only three have recently played or are currently playing gay characters on TV. (Neil Patrick Harris, for example, has been playing a womanizing sleazeball for years.) In an industry in which most gay characters are reserved for straight actors (actors who are then lauded with awards for bravely portraying those who are generally doomed), I ask this question: Should we reward a handful of people who treat their sexuality with a casual shrug, or should we ask for more? After all, there are still people who every day struggle with their sexuality, often keeping it hidden from friends and loved ones out of fear. Whether you want to admit it or not, coming out is still sort of a big deal.

‘Saturday Night Live’ Verdict: Well Played, Taylor Swift

Well, wasn’t that an upset! Last night, all signs were pointing to The Wanda Sykes Show over Taylor Swift’s double duty on Saturday Night Live for comedic relief. It seemed like a no-brainer, really. Sykes has a nichey store of acerbic, self-deprecating jokes well-designed to court goodwill in post-Bush America. And last night, she was also assisted by the delightful Mary-Lynn Rajskub, who works full-time at 24, but remains revered for her quirky cameos. Still, somehow the world flipped upside down. Unfortunately Sykes found herself thin with jokes. Meanwhile, Swift pulled off an SNL coup so top-notch that had it even been an on-day for Sykes, she still would’ve shined.

In Taylor Swift’s valiant SNL victory, there’s a simple lesson: Listening to cats yowl may make for better music than hers, but try as hard as you may, you’ll invariably warm up to Swift. Resistance is futile and is, honestly, just as outmoded as jokes about that night she rose to international prominence. Aplomb and a sense of humor may make her an unlikely candidate for one of the more impressive guest stars to feature on the middling sketch show. Well played, Swift. Well played. A couple of her finest moments follow.

‘The Wanda Sykes Show’ Offers Reprieve From Taylor Swift-Led ‘SNL’

Although we’re still a half-day away from Taylor Swift‘s two-pronged Saturday Night Live assault of blandness, it wouldn’t be entirely premature to assume that tonight’s episode, so darn full of Swift as it is, to bring out the narcoleptic in all of us. And if the evening turns out one of those decidedly Kristen Wiig-lite episodes, we may just lapse into a coma. Which could be avoided by switching over to Fox. Once home to MADtv and occasionally, reruns of V.I.P., the scattershot network is filling its Saturday late night slot with The Wanda Sykes Show. If this variety show is even remotely as sharp as Sykes’ stand-up, channel changers lingering on SNL for an elusive chuckle may find themselves with a high-spirited new option.

Although Sykes tells the New York Times about embarking on a TV project that botched one of her previous projects, “It wasn’t just Fox I was leery about. It was the whole thing of: ‘Do I really want to get back in there? I know how hard it is to launch a show. Do I want to spend that much energy, and everything is just left up to them?'” Whether The Wanda Sykes Show lasts only a couple episodes or becomes a cornerstone of Fox’s Saturday night line-up, Sykes’ off-color humor will at least provide a colorful contrast to Swift’s “stunned deer” brand of theatrics.

Nevertheless, it’ll follow well on the heels of last month’s I’ma Be Me on HBO which featured sensitive discussions of death panels and everyone’s expectations of Michelle Obama. Below, Sykes offers a not too far-fetched theory about Rush Limbaugh at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.