Television, Film, and Minority Sexuality
As sexually explicit as the visual media have become, they have generally had a very poor track record in their portrayals of certain sexual behaviors, such as same-sex behavior, and certain minorities, such as the elderly, the disabled, and racial and ethnic minorities. Today popular shows such as Six Feet Under, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and the L Word help lesbian and gay men become more mainstream on television.
Unfortunately, the sexual lives of ethnic and racial minorities have historically been neglected by the major media. African Americans complained for many years that television and movies tend to portray them as criminals, drug pushers, or pimps; only recently have black actors begun appearing in stable television roles and sitcoms. African American filmmakers such as Spike Lee continue to release movies showing African American sexual life from the African American perspective, and the popularity of black film stars such as Will Smith, Denzel Washington, and Jamie Foxx have broken the barriers and encouraged movies with African American romantic leads.
Although the roles for African Americans have improved, today other minorities, such as Asian Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans, are less common, and they are rarely portrayed as romantic leads. Even in films that feature minority populations, such as Dances with Wolves and The Last of the Mohicans, a white actor plays the romantic lead. Can you even think of a movie (outside of kung fu movies) in which an Asian man is the romantic lead?
Some progress has been made, however. The Golden Girls is a classic sitcom that showed that older women also have sexual desires, make sexual jokes, and engage in sexual behaviors. So although there have been a few steps in the right direction, we are still a long way from seeing a representative sample of realistic portrayals of minority sexuality in movies and television.