Warning: This story contains spoilers.
In the wake of the shocking, juicy white lotus finale on Sunday, social media was flooded with awesome memes, mostly featuring the iconic Jennifer Coolidge.
What social media hasn’t been inundated with, however, is the uproar over the show’s use of a variety of age-old gay tropes — from the Evil Queen and sad dyke/psycho to the “bury your gays” trope, or the offense of gay characters, in the end.
Instead, critics rave about its “brilliant,” “chef’s TV kiss,” and “sensational second season” (with some pointing out yet other tropes, like the “whore with a heart of gold”). They also mourned Tanya and eagerly awaited another season, her hopefully with more Portia outfits to laugh about.
And though such threadbare LGBTQ plot points have vexed critics in the very recent past, including with Eve killing And House of the Dragonboth invoked the “bury your gays” trope — barely anyone seemed triggered white lotus. Perhaps that’s because they were primed by the season 1 finale, which also saw Armond (Murray Bartlett), as the “gay depraved,” killed off, prompting only a modicum of outcry over the Reddit thread called “a cliché that must die. ”
Likewise, the criticisms are muted this time around. On Twitter, “brown queer artist/activist” and filmmaker Leo Herrera called on his 35,000+ combined followers to “talk about the series’ use of gay tropes” recently, not getting much traction.
“I really don’t want to be a grouch, because I really enjoyed the show,” Herrera tells Yahoo Entertainment. “But I’m… a little surprised there hasn’t been more talk about this.”
Also, he says, “I don’t want to be the ‘angry brown dude’…but something we need to be aware of is that some of these white gay showrunners may believe we’ve outgrown certain stereotypes or tropes — which brings issues of race and privilege.” ”.
On Facebook, some of this writer’s acquaintances played off, with one calling White a “lazy writer,” adding, “It’s sickening to portray gay men as predatory, drug addicted, transgressive, and dirty before killing them. It’s typical of the old Hollywood textbook to kill off morally corrupt gay characters, if you know your film history… yet BOTH SEASONS of White Lotus build on the tired old trope.
Her white lotus In the Reddit thread, meanwhile, one viewer asked, “What gay men have Mike White fucked to always make them tragic and vicious and stereotypical?” This prompted some to agree, including one who noted, “The thing is, gay villains are actually a thing … We still want representation, so obviously it’s a double-edged sword and it’s impossible to please.” the entire public”. But most come in defense of White.
So what does it give?
First, some background on gay tropes
GLAAD calls gay tropes “harmful and jaded,” and recent examples have helped stoke the old rage about how LGBTQ characters are so often killed off in TV dramas — a tradition that actually stems from the 1934-1968 Motion Picture Production Code, also known as the Hays Code, a series of self-imposed industry guidelines that banned (along with nudity, lustful kissing, and more) on-screen homosexual depictions. This prompted filmmakers to sidestep the rules of making sure any even vaguely gay character was tragic, lonely, doomed, or evil.
The topic was explored in the 1996 documentary The celluloid wardrobe, based on the historical book by Vito Russo. And, noted a 2017 Lawyer article, “Although the code was eliminated in 1968, its shorthand persists in film and television in the form of tropes that are dangerous to representation, such as the forcible killing of queer characters, the depraved or promiscuous bisexual, the sissy villain , and worst of all: the complete erasure of queer existence.
“I think the problem with tropes is whether they’re the only things out there,” Cathy Renna, director of communications for the National LGBTQ Task Force, tells Yahoo Entertainment. “But like any other subset of people, as we start to get more diverse and broadly represented, they become… well, OK, some queer people are like that,” noting that murderous yacht owner Quentin is obviously a funny dramatization.
But Renna, a longtime publicist in the queer community, shares a “vivid memory” of discussing the new show Will & Grace with a reporter put off by Jack’s rustling temper. “I said, you know, if you talk to 10 gay men and ask what they think, three will love him, three will hate him, and four will be just like him,” he recalls. “Stereotypes exist for a reason.”
Now, in 2022, “we live in a culture where people are watching [at gay White Lotus characters] and shrug… People don’t take it as an offense. It’s campy. But again, she adds, “if that was all there was on TV, that would be more of a problem.”
Mike White (who was unavailable to speak to Yahoo Entertainment) acknowledged his own use of tropes in a media Q&A provided by the show’s publicist. “There’s a trend in cultural criticism right now that tropes are inherently bad,” he said. “’Stay away from this, it’s problematic because it’s an old trope.’ As a creative person, if I tried to create something that was completely free of troubling tropes, I don’t know what I would write. [Laughs] I thought, ‘Let’s embrace the classic tropes, but with a twist.’”
Additionally, White, who is bisexual and whose father is a gay activist, spoke again with Terri Gross on NPR recently, telling her, “The whole season of the show is … getting into a certain, like, constellation.” of tropes and try to, like, play with those tropes in a way that hopefully feels fresh.
Because the fans have White’s back
Looks like he made it – or at least got a ride. On that Reddit thread, one commenter notes, “I’m pretty sure Mike White is bisexual and his father is gay. So, I think he’s doing it with sensitivity in mind…”
Writer, cultural critic, podcast host and white lotus enthusiast Evan Ross Katz, meanwhile, has embraced each storyline and tells Yahoo Entertainment that he “wasn’t bothered” by any of the tropes when it was pointed out to him.
“I couldn’t be bothered by anything Mike White would ever do. I just trust her voice, her vision, and her ability to deliver on her vision,” says Katz, 33. “I didn’t observe any of these tropes, at least not something I was aware of, because…there were so so many new versions of things I’ve never seen explored on TV or in the movies about queerness These ‘evil gays’, as they’ve been called, I’ve never really seen explored.
As for the “bury your gays” trope, Katz believes White’s handling of it was “a subversion.”
“You had this incredibly beloved queer figure [Tanya] who’s the one burying gays – and in this case, gays are bad. They are literally killers! So we had to sacrifice gays to keep the gay queen.” He even questions the modern existence of the “bury your gays” trope.
“I think it’s wonderful that we can let gays die White lotus. … They are evil and gay people should be able to die,” he explains. “The idea of ’bury your gays’ was when we sat down at the table, it was taken suddenly. But nowadays, sure, Quentin dies. But Valentina lived”.
As for Coolidge’s part, when asked by Variety, “How does it feel to be a gay icon who ends up killing a group of ‘high end gays’ who plotted to kill her?” she said, “Gay men can be spiteful, but mostly they’re the good guys in a lot of movies I’ve seen. But Mike White made these guys some kind of evil people, very corrupt and soulless. He said to me, “You end up being taken by this group of… well, let’s just say they’re evil gays.” I was so fascinated, I was so fascinated. You know, Tanya isn’t over them, but she’s finally being appreciated and she’s finally enjoying this horrible journey.
Back on Facebook, Don Robinder, 59, former longtime sales manager of now-defunct LGBTQ nightlife magazine Next, he called the ending “absolute perfection”.
“I worked at an LGBTQ magazine in New York for 24 years, came of age growing up on a small farm in Pennsylvania – and also during the AIDS epidemic and Reagan – I moved to New York at age 26, I devoured all movies dealing with gay representation/expressions and witnessed the inclusion of LGBTQ characters in mainstream television and movies. And with white lotus, and under Mike White’s portrayal of the best/worst of all his characters, the tropes didn’t make me angry,” he tells Yahoo Entertainment. “That said, I would love to see a future season where an LGBTQIA character serves as a moral compass amidst a cast of broken players.”
Herrera tells Yahoo Entertainment that he believes the lack of hype — and the overwhelming support for the show, from all angles — “speaks to the quality of the show.”
He continues, “The show is so good, and we get into our soap operas and let our guard down … to some of the nuanced conversations. We can do these [tropes] ours, but we just need to be truly aware of their former existence and examine where they fit into the current media landscape.
Additionally, he acknowledges that the audience’s perspective is very important. “A bad gay and a sad lesbian are going to affect an older queer, a younger queer, an older straight person very differently. … Younger gays may not be aware of these tropes at all – and older gays may not want to complain anymore and just be happy to have something juicy to watch.