Media Use and Sexual Identity

Authored by: Bradley J. Bond

The Routledge Handbook of Media Use and Well-Being

Print publication date:  July  2016
Online publication date:  June  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138886582
eBook ISBN: 9781315714752
Adobe ISBN: 9781317501954


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Arguably the first gay character on prime-time network television was Roger, a lunch guest of Gloria Stivic on All in the Family in 1971. Archie Bunker’s response to the knowledge of his daughter’s lunch guest was succinct and direct: “A guy who’s a fag is a queer.” Six years later, Billy Crystal would play Soap’s Jodie Dallas, the first recurring gay character on network television. The complexity of Jodie’s character would simultaneously reinforce certain stereotypes of gay men and combat others (Streitmatter, 2009). Twenty years after ABC introduced Jodie Dallas, the network would depict Ellen Morgan declaring “I’m gay” to her same-sex crush on the series Ellen. Ellen would become the first protagonist on prime-time network television to openly express her homosexuality. Roger, Jodie, and Ellen are by no means an exhaustive list of all of the gay characters to ever appear on television, but they are important markers in the evolution of a gay visibility in American media that has frequently been cited as influencing the well-being of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) audiences. This chapter will focus on the interwoven relationships between well-being, identity, and media exposure among LGB audiences, particularly youth. Adolescents are paid special attention because it is during the formative teen years that most LGB individuals explore and eventually commit to their sexualities (Savin-Williams & Diamond, 2000). Literature investigating media’s influence on heterosexuals’ attitudes toward LGB individuals will also be reviewed given the notable contribution of heterosexuals’ attitudes to LGB individuals’ well-being. Bisexual and transgender populations will be given special consideration as unique populations, before directions for future research on media and LGB sexualities are considered.

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