Sometimes you see quotes from somebody and you can’t help but hope that out of context they sound a lot worse than they are. I have a feeling that’s the case with Billy Crystal, as while while speaking at a panel for the Television Critics Association on Sunday, he said of gay scenes on TV, “Sometimes I think, ‘Ah that’s too much for me. Sometimes, it’s just pushing it a little too far for my taste and I’m not going to reveal to you which ones they are.”
It seems a particularly odd thing to says both because gay scenes on US television are generally pretty tame, and because Crystal was once at the vanguard of gay representation on TV, having played one of the first gay characters on a mainstream show, as Jodie in the 1980s hit, Soap.
However the reason the above quote may be out of context is because he also said of playing a gay character back then, “There were times where I would say to [the actor who played his boyfriend], ‘Bob, “I love you,’ and the audience would laugh nervously, because, you know, it’s a long time ago, that I’d feel this anger. I wanted to stop the tape and go, ‘What is your problem?’ Because it made you sort of very self-conscious about what we were trying to do then. And now it’s just, I see it and I just hope people don’t abuse it and shove it in our face – well, that sounds terrible – to the point of it just feels like an everyday kind of thing.”
With that it appears he’s trying to rather badly explain – and perhaps a while trying to hide that he probably does have a bit of discomfort about homosexuality – that he worries we’re losing something due tendency in certain quarters of the entertainment industry to use sexuality in a somewhat sensationalist way that might increase the ‘freak show’ quality for more squeamish viewers.
However in many places that full quote has already been boiled down to just, “I hope people don’t abuse it and shove it in our face… to the point where it feels like an everyday kind of thing.” And when combined with the first quote, it makes him sound far worse than he is. I’m not saying he should be completely allowed off the hook, but as so often when the media grabs hold of a few quotes and takes them out of context, he’s been made to sound more monstrous than he actually was.
Indeed he’s already issued a clarification to THR (which also includes the full transcript of his quotes), saying, “What I meant was that whenever sex or graphic nudity of any kind (gay or straight) is gratuitous to the plot or story it becomes a little too much for my taste.”