Norm Breaking in Television Essay
Norm Breaking in Television
Most sociologists claimed that there is so much deviance in television. In the recent years, there is a trend of breaking every social norm from the folkways beliefs to the taboo issues that is deeply rooted in our society.
A wide array of television shows reflected deviance on the traditional beliefs and practices of the conventional society. From MTV that features shows like Jackass and Punk’d, even the serious drama shows like CSI and Law and Order also cater deviance to the general public. Various types of programs such as South Park also focus on the dysfunctional side of the society.
Deviance is the current definition of TV entertainment. The shows offer new themes and concepts to render the audience a new variety of television experience. The networks hold the same idea and formulate shows that offer deviance to attract viewership.
Some of the inherent norms in the society are no longer true and are no longer applicable to the contemporary society. The shows and television networks’ motives are either to break the traditional norms or reflect the real present state of the society.
Will & Grace
Will & Grace is a popular Emmy Award-winning television programs that was originally broadcasted by NBC in 1998 until the later years of 2006. The show was shot in a studio with real audience in New York and focused on the life story of the gay lawyer, Will Turman who is living with his best friend Grace Adler, which is a straight Jewish woman who owns an interior design firm. The TV series also featured close friends of Will and Grace including Karen Walker who is a rich socialite and Jack McFarland who is an aspiring gay actor.
Will & Grace is the first television program that showcases homosexuals as the main characters. It is also one of the most successful TV series despite the initial criticisms on it about the portrayal of gay people. The TV series become a staple primetime series of NBC. Through-out the eight years of the television sitcom, it won 16 Emmy Awards out of the 83 nominations it received (“Awards for ‘Will & Grace’”).
In 1998, when the show was aired, was the same year that the United States underwent vital court rulings and Supreme Court decisions that were dealing with homosexuals and same sex relationships. Despite the political backdrop pertaining to the queer issues of homosexuality, the TV series Will & Grace offered humorous representations of the characters who are having gender-related and sexuality issues. The TV series could have been widely criticized if it was aired earlier by the various religious and conservative sectors (Gairola).
The popularity of the sitcom has the tendency to shape public’s opinions and perceptions on gayness and it was evident on the numerous Emmy Awards it has received throughout its eight-year run. Critics repeatedly cited the
The TV series was subjected to extreme competition against the ratings, airing at the same time with Ally McBeal starring Calista Flockhart. The birth of the TV series truly raised some eyebrows for openly discussing gay men. Surprisingly, criticisms were only made but no advertisers’ defection and pull-out of sponsorship due to religious constraints on the TV series. Instead, the TV series gathered overwhelming reviews and high ratings because it is beautifully crafted (Jacobs).
Deviance in Will & Grace
Will & Grace is a sitcom that is intended for middle class citizens, however, the impact of the show attract viewers from various age groups. Will & Grace, a sitcom after Ellen featured gayness and how the life of gay men goes and how friendship and relationships are established between two individuals of opposite sex without physical and sexual attraction.
The television show reflects deviance as it portrayed gayness. The popularity of the TV series Will & Grace can be attributed to its humorous approach in dealing with the sensitive issue of gender and sexuality which is gayness. All kinds of viewers enjoy the comedic-approach of Will & Grace in the queer issue. But the representation of the TV series on gay men are confined in the terms upper middle-class men that is only few in the real population residing in the metropolis (Gairola).
There are two representations of gay men in history. Will represents the covert gay man that is not too proud of his sexuality but does not deny it either. Will is the gay that is not totally in the mainstream. Will is man-looking with deviant sexual preferences. Jack, on the other hand, is the typical and flamboyant gay. His role in the series is the aspiring gay actor who has an unstable job. His job description always changes though he wants to be a gay actor. He is the type who is so out with his sexuality. He is the stereotypical representation of the gay population.
Certain episodes attract viewers, even those who are not really fond of queer programs to watch Will & Grace. In an episode entitled “Acting Out”, Jack and Will appear in NBC’s Today Show to protest on the pulling out of the gay kiss from a sitcom episode. Impulsively, Will grabbed Jack and French-kisses him. This episode is based on the real episode in NBC’s Today Show (Gairola).
Jack’s role is quite difficult which depicts the progressive and stereotypical role of gayness. There is this certain episode when he told his mother that he is gay. His mother reminisces and agrees that there were clues and signs that show his homosexuality. For instance, Jack has always been fond of the rhyme “Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub”. Jack also wears his mother high heels. Though coming out stories are not always like that. There might be an effect on the youth watching the TV series. Gay representations in Will & Grace are often exaggerated and centered on Jack’s femininity and perkiness and Will’s composure, bourgeois and materialism. (Gairola).
Another episode which clearly represents gayness is when a handsome tenant moved in to the building and Will and Grace tried to attract his attention. Their same sexual orientation baffles their relationship. Will tried to establish a male-to-male bond, while Grace tries to flirt with the tenant (Gairola).
The representation of the homosexuals in Will & Grace explores and goes beyond the stereotypical representations of the gay men. The program featured both representations of gays in the contemporary society – one, the flamboyant and proud gay in the personality of Jack McFarland; and the closeted gay representation of gayness as played by Will Turman.
“Awards for Will & Grace”. 2008. IMDb. 20 November 2008 <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0157246/awards>.
Gairola, Rahul. 2001. “Watching with Ambivalence”. PopMatters.com. 20 November 2008 <http://www.popmatters.com/tv/reviews/w/will-and-grace.html>.
Jacobs, A.J. 2008. “When Gay Men Happen To Straight Women”. Entertainment Weekly and Time Inc. 20 November 2008 <http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,285408,00.html>.