We Can Do Better Than Fire Island
C’mon Logo, we’re better than this.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve seen or at least heard about the trailer for our gay network’s latest trash reality TV concept, Fire Island. New York gays have always known about Fire Island—the destination, not the show. Located on a little strip off Long Island, it’s been the preferred summer getaway for tristate area gays for decades. Now, Logo is looking to share New York’s little secret with the rest of America.
The trailer, dubbed “Six Men, One House”, offers up two minutes of shirtless, fit gay men dancing in clubs, drinking, making out and fighting. This is the Real Housewives of Orange County with taut pecs and short shorts.
It’s always great to see more gay programming on the airwaves, but is this the type we need?
When I first heard about the show, I raced to YouTube to watch the trailer and started wincing before I pressed play. I expected to get upset because of a lack of diversity. I was pleasantly surprised to see the cast anchored by one black gay man, Khasan, who, according to the trailer, is the one responsible for booking the house and selecting the gaggle of gays who tagged along with him for the summer. Diversity? Check. It’s all the other stuff that’s the problem.
We’re living in Trump times, less than a month removed from Trump rolling back protections for trans students in public schools. Rumor has it he and his evil VP Mike Pence have more anti-gay goodies rolled up their sleeves. So, yeah, we need to stay visible to remind them that we deserve equal rights. But this? This trashy reality show, which effectively perpetuates every possible gay stereotype in under two minutes (impressive) is not the answer. (Side note: See SNL’s hilarious lesbian interpretation, Cherry Grove.)
I know what you’re thinking. I haven’t even seen a full episode yet so how can I jump to conclusions so quickly. That’s a valid point but when it comes to reality shows, there isn’t much depth. If anything, the trailers are crafted from the best moments the show has to offer. The Fire Island trailer doesn’t offer anything I haven’t seen before at my neighborhood gay bar.
And truth be told, we all should have stopped depending on Logo to represent us a long time ago. Yes, there’s RuPaul’s Drag Race, which is currently at the peak of its success and even won an Emmy. But that’s RuPaul’s brainchild and even that show is moving on to VH1 to get more exposure. Other than Drag Race and its infinite number of spin-offs, Logo leans heavily on the syndicated sitcoms of yesteryear (Golden Girls, anyone?). And when it does aim for new original content, the channel turns out droll like Finding Prince Charming.
As a community, we’re looking for content that recognizes LGBTQ people as whole human beings—complex characters or real people with thoughts that extend beyond where we’re going to party tonight or which guy to message on Grindr. We are not one-dimensional, but when shows like Fire island guide the gay cultural conversation, it’s hard to convince outsiders otherwise.
The great thing about Moonlight’s success was that it offered a layered look at gay life in America. And clearly, there was an audience waiting to see and embrace that story. If anything, it showed that we’re worthy of higher quality content, and that content will be well-received when it’s created.
Fire Island seems to go after the low-hanging fruit. Instead of going back to square one for innovative, daring, thought-provoking portrayals of gay men and women in fiction and nonfiction, Logo has adapted the Real World formula. Take a group of “friends”, toss them into a house for a period of time and watch them get drunk, fight and sleep together. Cultural advancement means nothing in the face of ratings.
In 2017, I think we’re past this. We should demand more because we deserve more. If you decide to watch this in April, you’re sending a message to Logo that they should keep developing this type of programming. And you’re sending a message to your LGBTQ peers that this is the best we can do. I beg to differ.