PJ and I have been watching a marathon of Fox’s Playing it Straight on t.v. today. This reality series puts a young woman named Jackie on a ranch with 14 men. She initially thinks it’s a straight up (pun intended) dating show like The Bachelor (this year’s bachelor is totally HOT, but I won’t watch that show regardless), but she soon learns that some of the men are gay. If she ends up with a gay guy at the end of the series, he gets $1 million; if she selects a straight guy, they split the million.

These kinds of reality shows (Gay, Straight, or Taken is another one) really anger me. While many of the gay contestants who are on these shows claim that they’re doing it to prove that gay people are everywhere and you can’t always tell who’s gay and who’s straight, it’s nevertheless bad for gay people, in my opinion.

First, it’s the gay men who are depicted as playing the game just to get the money. We’re the greedy ones. Of course the straight men are also playing for money, but they’re consistently discussed as in it for the potential relationship and not just the cash. (PJ just told me that one of the straight men just confessed that he’s in it for the cash, but I still don’t think that’s how the show depicts the straight men overall.)

Furthermore, it’s the gay men playing straight that are the liars and deceivers; they’re the ones who have to apologize when they’re kicked off for hurting the woman by lying to her, for just wanting the cash.

And finally, it really bugs me that these shows force gay men back into the closet, even if just temporarily. The guy who got kicked off the episode of Playing it Straight that was just on had a departure confessional in which he explains that he’s glad he got kicked off because he didn’t like lying to Jackie’s face and he has a boyfriend with whom he’s in love. It bothers me that these shows force the gay men to deny their partners/boyfriends just like society at large has forced these denials for so long. At least pick single gay men to be on the dating reality show. (One of the gay guys just made the comparison to being in the closet and how uncomfortable he was going back in for the show. But just because the contestants see my complaints too doesn’t mean that the complaints aren’t legitimate.)

Boy Meets Boy is the only reality show I’ve seen that forced straight men into these roles — they had to lie, deceive, and closet themselves in order to stay on the show and not get eliminated. My problem with that show was that it was “our” first dating show, and so I thought it should just be the gay bachelor. Give us a little sexy romance without the straights having to be the focus. But reality t.v. (even Bravo) can’t handle a gay show about and for gay men, so they have to add straights to it. James nevertheless ended up picking a gay guy at the end (the adorable Wes) even though it was clear that they had no chemistry and it was solely to make sure that he didn’t pick a straight guy (Franklin). And I suppose I’m a bit of a hypocrite for kind of liking that show and disliking the straight versions. But oh well. More straight men should have to play it gay. We have to play it straight so frequently, even in our supposedly gay-friendly culture of 2007. I want more hot straight men making out with hot gays guys for a million dollars! (Gay-for-pays do it and a lot more all the time–supposedly–in gay porn; why can’t they do it for reality t.v. too?! Though, to be honest, I’m not sure I believe in “gay-for-pay.” I’m pretty sure I couldn’t be straight-for-pay…)

I also have to applaud MTV for their inclusion of gay people on their dating shows. Even Singled Out had a gay episode or two — and that’s from eons ago. Recent shows like Next and Exposed have included gay contestants. And these shows let their gays be gay (or lesbian). They are gay dating shows, and I like that. It’s good to see the young ‘uns getting a chance to be on t.v. as openly gay people. Of course, most of the gay men they have on their are little more than stereotypes, but I shouldn’t complain about everything or I’ll start to look like an old crank!

Playing it Straight wasn’t a successful reality program. It was canceled after three episodes, and Fox is only now showing them all on FX (I think that’s the channel we’re watching). Maybe that means America agrees with me. Stop playing it straight; be out and proud and just say no to straight-for-pay reality t.v.!

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