Assignment: Show your blog and explain your topic of focus to at least one potential member of your blog’s community/audience. Ask them for early feedback on your idea.
After having decided to feature the often skewed portrayal of gay men on television as a topic for my “beat blog” called Gay Gaze, I designed a basic shell of the blog with descriptive information about the blog’s purpose in the “About This Blog” section. Essentially, the blog will be a place to champion positive, atypical portrayals of gay men in the media and to point a finger at where the errant stereotypes are highlighted. I posted several pertinent, linked articles and a post of my own, and then I presented the blog to an array of people from different aspects of society. Feedback was diverse because of the differing perspectives, but some general themes emerged.
The first person I presented the blog to was a heterosexual, married female named Renay Lee who has worked and operated many years in the music performance and entertainment fields and who also hosts a music television show in Nashville, TN. Lee has many years’ experience using social media for music promotion so I felt she would have some worthwhile insight. I consulted her for her input not on content but on the look/feel of the blog and how it might appeal to the general audience. She liked the blog’s appearance, saying that it had a “professional look” and that it was “very clean and easy to navigate.” She spoke encouragingly about how the blog’s minimalist appearance made it less intimidating than if it were overly complicated or heavily laden with too much imagery. She felt this was a good approach because most or all of the posts I would be submitting to the blog would likely involve video and photographic images, which she intelligently pointed out would make the blog more visually complicated as more content is added.
Lee’s only concern was the blog’s title, suggesting that “it may limit your fan base and even prohibit some outside views.” This is a valid point, considering that the intended audience for the blog would hopefully include input from all aspects of society and not just gay men only. However, I will leave the name as it stands because the primary audience will be a gay one. Heterosexuals or other societal groups’ input is important, but the blog is primarily from and for the stance of the gay man.
A second person I consulted was Penny Rogers, another heterosexual, married female but who is also the mother of a 21-year-old gay man. I knew that Rogers has been passionate about acceptance and equal rights for gays because of her son, so I felt she would be able to offer valid input. She had plenty. In a more-than-two-page written statement, Rogers commented:
Your blog is an asset to people who are dealing with a society that puts more emphasis on being gay than should be. People have in their minds an idea about what a gay person looks like and how they act. Gay people aren’t supposed to fish, hunt, play football…they are supposed to be ‘prissy’ and wear fashion labels. This idea comes from the media. People need to be more educated on gay men. They come in all shapes, sizes, colors and education levels.
From this perspective and considering the struggles she says her gay son has had in his societal interactions in a small town, Rogers indicated that she felt it was important that a blog like Gay Gaze is developed. “With any luck, momentum over this kind of topic can build from your blog and get the attention of some television producers and the sometimes misconstrued perception of gay men can benefit from it.” (From her fingertips to God’s ears! heh)
Any preliminary evaluation of this new blog would be remiss if it didn’t include the opinion of some gay men themselves. I turned to two gay men in particular for their opinions.
Michael Turner is a gay man living in Memphis who most would consider non-stereotypical. A long-time bartender in the city, Turner is not immediately identifiable as gay and therefore has a personal opinion about how gay men look on television. His brief but compelling input about the blog was simply, “I don’t feel like representation of gay guys on television has evolved at all. They all go to the ‘fem’ side and look like ‘boy toys.’ And not all of us are ‘fem’ gays. I think the blog is a great idea and something I would be interested in reading and contributing to!”
Matthew Muelhberger is a young public relations professional in his late 20’s who works for the Disney Company in Orlando, Florida and who is apparently very enthusiastic about this topic. Muehlberger concurred with others I talked to, indicating some type of central discussion space for this topic is needful. He said, “I personally feel that definitely over time the representation of gay characters/stories have dramatically evolved for the better. But as a gay male myself, some of these “reality” shows only show a one-sided drama, and sometimes fake drama. I think it’s what people are sadly accustomed to–I mean for those who want to be entertained just for kicks and a giggle a generic laugh.”
As to design and functionality of the blog, Muelhberger had some insightful suggestions which I intend to implement. Primarily, he offered the brilliant idea of adding a timeline feature to the blog, which would chronicle in visual form major events regarding gay men on television. He suggested including events like actual on-screen kisses between two non-stereotypical gay men and even any commitment ceremonies that may have been portrayed and the pivotal appearances of the types of gay male characters on television this blog seeks to advocate . I think his idea here is smart because this type of infographic is often easier and quicker for blog readers to ingest and is typically more engaging than long, written pieces. This is an element for the blog I intend to implement soon.
An avid television-watcher, Muelberger was also helpful in suggesting a long list of television shows which do actually feature less-stereotypical gay male roles in their storylines. An attempt to locate and watch all of the shows that evidence these roles myself is formidable, so I made extensive notes as to the shows he referenced and the first-hand opinions he offered. I now have much headway for content for the blog pertaining to these characters. Much obliged, sir!
Overall, I was encouraged to see that even across the range of people I consulted for input about the blog, all of them were supportive of the idea and the possible benefits. Many heterosexuals and gays alike believe in equality in contemporary society, not only for human rights in general but also for image perpetration in the media. Equipped with this encouragement and also with some new content and design ideas, I’m now more encouraged to develop as active a blog on the topic of errant portrayal of gay men in the media as I can. Portraying all of us accurately is hugely important, and I intend to champion that on the blog!