“Jumping Your Bones Was Extremely Atypical For Me”
by Ben Aslinger — Bentley University
April 21, 2008 – 08:00
Many of the cast members for Brothers and Sisters said they agreed to come onboard because playwright and series creator Jon Robin Baitz was attached to the project. Baitz made a name for himself as an out gay playwright who was able to tackle thorny political issues in plays such as The Substance of Fire. This month Out magazine placed Brothers and Sisters producer Greg Berlanti (of Dawson’s Creek fame) on the cover as one of the most powerful people in Hollywood. In film and media studies, we’ve talked a lot about queer production cultures on the margins. We’ve also talked about the evidence of queer authorship in textual style and subtextual readings in film history. But we’ve talked less about how out Hollywood players represent the particularities of gay life. This clip, from the first season finale of Brothers and Sisters, illustrates one textual possibility for out producers in the beginnings of the post-network era. While acknowledging that gay people with religious values are out there, the show doesn’t turn Jason into a neoconservative caricature based on personas such as Bruce Bawer or Andrew Sullivan. Indeed, Jason’s character balances religious values with a social justice mission at a time when it seems “uncool” to believe in a higher power in GLBT cultures and people like Christopher Hitchens feel free to treat believers as dunces impeding the march of progress. Along with the ways that Queer as Folk’s Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman, The L Word’s Ilene Chaiken, and Noah’s Arc’s Patrik Ian Polk have used visual art, soundtracks, and cultural references, the trajectories that Brothers and Sisters sets its gay characters on appear possible because of producer power that has been earned largely in a transition to a post-network era. How are gay authorship and queer production cultures changing in a post-network, convergent media economy? How do such texts fare in a world of Youtube, Hulu, and online and mobile viewing? And how has the industrial climate of the post-network era changed the level of specificity with which queer audiences will be represented (and hopefully addressed)? I know I’ll stay tuned in online to find out.