There's no denying the fact that LGBT representation in popular media is lacking. Although this can be attributed to several different complex societal factors, one troubling and reoccurring symptom of this homophobia is TV and movie studios preventing the inclusion of an LGB character, despite the fact that the creators/scriptwriters specifically envision the characters as LGB. Here are 5 examples of this depressing bigotry.
Note: This only includes LGB because I don't know of studios blocking any characters from being transgender. Not saying that this hasn't happened before, just that I don't know of any examples.
1. Jillian Holtzmann from Ghostbusters (Sony)
img credit: daiypopgifs.tumblr.com
The item that inspired this list and the most recent example. When asked directly if the main character of Holtzmann is gay, Director Paul Feig nodded and commented, "I hate to be coy about it. But when you’re dealing with the studios and that kind of thing… "
Though the fact that Holtzmann is interested in women is implied when she flirts with fellow female character Erin (played by Kristen Wiig), the fact that it is never explicitly stated is because of pushback from the studio.
2. Spencer Reid from Criminal Minds (CBS)
img credit: sarah-nade.tumblr.com
In a series of now-deleted tweets, show creator Jeff Davis wrote, "Fun fact for Criminal Minds fans. I was originally planning for Reid to be bi. That got shut down by 4th episode with his crush on JJ." For anyone reading who has never seen this show, JJ is a female character who Reid is stated to have a crush on, though nothing romantic ever happens between them.
When people started tweeting that Reid liking JJ wouldn't cancel out potential bisexuality, Davis went on to tweet, "To clarify: I know what bisexual is. I'm a gay man myself. I got push back from the powers that be." Aka CBS execs nipped that idea in the bud and ordered Reid to be strictly heterosexual.
This is just a guess and could be very wrong, but based on Davis' "got shut down by the 4th episode with his crush on JJ" and the fact that the Reid/JJ crush lasted one episode and was then never mentioned again, I'm willing to bet money that he pitched the idea for a male love interest and the studio told him no and that he needed to shoehorn in the JJ crush to reassure viewers that Reid likes girls (because it was ambiguous before this point).
It's also worth noting that Jeff Davis left working on Criminal Minds after only one season, choosing instead to focus his time and talent on his new show Teen Wolf on MTV. When asked at Comic Con if he ever got pushback from MTV against having LGBT characters, he said no and that it was one of the reasons why he enjoyed writing for the network so much. Oh, the shade.
3. Merlin/Arthur from Merlin (BBC)
img credit: samecoin.tumblr.com
The relationship between Merlin and Arthur is one that took queerbaiting to the extreme. Anyone who has seen this show knows that it truly blurred the line between platonic love and romantic love. There were sexual innuendos galore, there was unnecessary lingering eyesex in nearly episode, the two risked their lives for each other countless times, and [spoiler] the show concluded with Arthur literally dying in Merlin's arms as Merlin cried and begged him "stay with me."
Though queerbaiting for the sole intention of attracting viewers is a problem plaguing many modern tv shows, this seems to be one case where the queerbaiting was a result of the BBC not allowing a romantic relationship between Merlin and Arthur, and the writers rebelling by adding as much subtext as humanly possible. In the season 5 DVD commentary, creator Julian Murphy implied that the Merlin/Arthur relationship had to stay strictly platonic since "it's a family show." Obviously a homosexual relationship would scar children, amirite?
None of this stopped Murphy from making it clear that he saw Merlin and Arthur as more than just friends, stating, "We did, very genuinely, think of the episode as a love story between two men." At another part in the commentary, when Arthur gives a character his royal seal to give to his [Arthur's] wife, Murphy jokes, "That's the last vestige of his heterosexu- I mean, sorry, that's the last vestige of his marriage!"
In order to understand the next bit of Murphy's commentary, you have to understand the plotline of the show. The show revolves around main character Merlin, who is born with magic and who has to hide it, because magic is illegal and anyone caught using magic will be executed. Arthur is the prince (and later, king) who enforces the anti-magic laws, but he spends the entire series struggling with his morals and whether he actually agrees with the mistreatment of sorcerers. He's been taught by his father his whole life growing up that anyone who uses magic is evil, so his bias against magic is one that runs deep.
You can probably see where this is going. Murphy teased the idea that magic in the show is a metaphor for homosexuality, and it really doesn't seem that far-fetched. Merlin repeats several times throughout the series "I was born with it" in reference to magic, which could possibly mirror gay people who are BornThisWay.mp3 and who don't have a choice in who they love. Plus, given the history of gay people being mistreated, persecuted, executed, and excluded from society if their secret is revealed, the metaphor thing really
doesn't seem like a stretch.
4. Wade Wilson from Deadpool (Fox)
img credit: mynewplaidpants.com
Although the character of Wade is canonically pansexual in the comics, the film adaptation shows Wade having a heterosexual relationship with a female love interest and never really addresses his sexuality. There are several hints throughout the film (like Wade being pegged, or talking about his ass being "Main Street") that could be interpreted as references to Wade's pansexuality, but it can also be argued that these are just being played off as jokes and nothing serious is meant by them.
Ryan Reynolds, who plays Wade Wilson, gave an interview to Variety where he said he wants Wade to have a boyfriend in the sequel. The interesting part came right after, when he added, “I certainly wouldn’t be the guy standing in the way of that.”
Though he isn't directly stating it, there seems to be the implication that some higher-up somewhere is the one who's stopping Wade from having a boyfriend in the movies or, at the very least, stoping him from being openly pansexual. Not surprising in the slightest, but still disappointing.
5. Jim/Plato from Rebel Without A Cause (Warner Bros)
img credit: queerty.com
In the original script for the 1955 film, there was a gay kiss between Jim (played by James Dean) and Plato (played by Sal Mineo). Warner Bros. nixed the idea straight away and, as Vanity Fair writes, "While vetting the Rebel script, Warner honcho Steve Trilling made it clear - in writing - that a kiss between Dean and Mineo would not be tolerated." A Production Code officer had also written in a memo to Jack L. Warner [head of Warner Bros], “It is of course vital that there be no inference of a questionable or homosexual relationship between Plato and Jim.” The Jim/Plato relationship was one that was very troubling to the studio executives, and one which violated their censorship laws.
This didn't stop the film from throwing in subtle hints that the character of Plato was gay, with the most telling one being a glossy poster of heartthrob actor Alan Ladd hung in Plato's locker. Mineo, before his death, also frequently bragged that he played the first gay teenager in film.
Though there were rumors for years that openly gay Mineo and openly bisexual Dean were having a fling in real life during filming and that this is the reason Plato and Jim have so much sexual tension on screen, that's not quite the entire truth. As stated before, the scriptwriters originally included a gay kiss. When the scriptwriters were denied the gay kiss and warned to have no overt homosexual elements, they told Mineo and Dean that their acting would have to be subtle and be present in the subtext. Dean and Mineo took this to heart, with Dean even instructing Mineo, “Look at me the way I look at Natalie [Dean's on-screen heterosexual love interest].”
The final product of the film seemed to have met the studio execs' demands and they were comfortable enough with the Jim/Plato relationship to greenlight the film's release. However, to many modern viewers who are watching the film through a new lens and from a fresh perspective, there is still very strong, noticeable tension between Jim and Plato.
Do you know of any more cases where an LGBT character or relationship was cut out of a TV show or film because the studio banned it? If so, let me know in the comments. This stuff is so fascinating to me :)