As part of the opening of the Outfest LA LGBT Film Festival, TV super-producer Bryan Fuller was handed the Outfest Achievement Award. That was partly due to the homoerotic edge he gave to Hannibal and most particularly the very gay aspects of the recent American Gods – which included what has been described as the most explicit gay sex scene ever put on TV. However, he used his speech to talk about how for over a decade he had to face a succession of Hollywood forces ‘hetwashing’ characters on the shows he worked on before he got to American Gods.
He said, “The first show I created was called Dead Like Me. And it was about a young woman named George who was dead and becomes a grim reaper. As a proud homosexual, I wanted to represent queer characters. George’s father was gay. And as a product of a gay person who bred despite better instincts, George’s life was a greater miracle, and that she lost it so young, an even greater tragedy. Mandy Patinkin’s monologue would write itself. Except it didn’t. The studio and the showrunner made the character straight, and I was powerless to stop them.”
It wasn’t just a one-off either, as in his next show, Wonderfalls, he wanted to include a lesbian character who would, “discover she got pregnant when she scissor sisters her girlfriend after she had sex with her ex-husband. It would write itself. Except it didn’t. We couldn’t show lesbians kiss, much less imply they had sex, much less scissor sister sex with semen.”
The problems continued when he was brefly a producer on Heroes, which he says got, “het-washed after the actor’s management threatened to pull him from the show if he – the character, not the actor – were gay. The character became straight, and the actor came out as gay.”
(It’s likely this was Thomas Dekker’s management, who were apparently concerned that him playing a gay character on Heroes would affect his role as a young John Connor in TV’s Terminator spin-off, The Sarah Connor Chronicles).
Fuller added that Pushing Daises was probably “gayest thing I’ve ever done,” although it almost perversely didn’t have any gay characters. He added, “Most wouldn’t know how gay Pushing Daisies was, because the gay was never sexualized; it was simply queer.” He added that it was, “systemically gay, aesthetically gay, but not narratively gay.”
However, he’s well aware that as “a proud homosexual,” it was, “still a failure to represent.”
While Hannibal did have lesbian characters, Fuller still had issues with gay representation. There may have been a homoerotic edge between Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham, but it couldn’t go too far. He notes that, “There was almost a kiss before he fell into the sea with the man he loved,” but that it wasn’t ultimately allowed.
However with lesbian characters, he says that in Hollywood, “Lesbians have always been easier to cover than gay men – frightened middle America and heterosexuals assume since there’s no penis, there’s no penetration. That’s somehow less terrifying for them. Like a penis is the only thing you can poke with.”
He’s very pleased though that with American Gods, saying, “Fourteen years after being powerless to keep the first gay character I created from turning straight, I got to be part of telling Salim’s story. Salim is a gay Muslim immigrant. He comes from a part of the world that tosses homosexuals from rooftops because of God. His story is about a demi-god giving a man permission to be himself and to enjoy sex and allow himself to be made love to. Telling Salim’s story isn’t the gayest thing I’ve ever done on TV; it’s the most human.”