Homosexuality and its portrayal on television has always been a controversial topic, but throughout the last couple of decades, society has slowly become more accepting. Television has slowly portrayed various kinds of same-sex relationships and contributed to the nation’s changing attitudes regarding same-sex couples and marriages. In today’s most recent hit television shows, like Modern Family and Grey’s Anatomy, we see two very happy same-sex couples. Both couples are committed to one another, live financially comfortably, and have chosen to raise a child together. Television portrays these couples similarly to heterosexual married couples, showing that LGBT relationships deserve the same rights as heterosexual couples. While these two examples of homosexuality represent happy couples, there is another hit television show that introduces a different gay character. Nashville, based on the country music industry in Nashville, Tennessee, aired in 2012. The show centers on an established country music star, Reyna James, and her rivalry with a young spitfire, up and coming artist, Juliette Barnes. While the majority of the first season is based on these two artists competing for the spotlight in Nashville’s enormous country music industry, another character’s story emerges.
Will Lexington, a young, hunky, straight artist emerges in the television show in 2013. His presence on the show begins as a fellow singer, looking for a label to sign him, much like Scarlett and Gunnar, two other characters on the show. What audience members later find out, is that Will is not in fact straight. After Will is shown trying to kiss Gunnar after a long night of drinking, all preconceived thoughts of Will are out the door. Will is shown trying to cover up his sexuality, acting overly masculine in front of other characters, and most importantly, homophobic.
Will’s past comes back to haunt him when former hook up, Brent, approaches him in a closet at a party. Will freaks out and punches Brent in the face, yelling that the two of them can never have relations. He finds himself in an arrangement with Layla, another upcoming singer at Will’s new label. As a publicity stunt, the two are told to act like a couple in front of all press. Will goes along with this in order to conceal his true identity, and to appear straight to the public. But when Will finds himself in bed with his ex Brent, he realizes that he cannot continue lying to himself and everyone around him.
Throughout the show, and in society, gay country singers are hard to find. It is not widely accepted in the industry, and that is apparent throughout the past couple seasons of Nashville. While other television shows have portrayed same-sex couples as happy and comfortable in their own skin, Nashville’s Will Lexington is facing many trials and tribulations regarding his sexuality. He is not living the happy-go-lucky lifestyle, but rather finding himself in front of a train considering suicide in the winter finale. The secrets and lies Will hides from everyone shed light on the dark side of homosexuality and the way it is still controversial in society.
As I touched on earlier, Modern Family and Grey’s Anatomy show same-sex couples that are financially stable, happy, and raising a child together. This fits into the mold of how many straight relationships are portrayed on television as well. I applaud Nashville for presenting audiences with a different story of homosexuality. As harsh as Will’s story is, it is reality to a lot of people. It is important for audiences to see the hardships endured and I think it has the ability to broaden people’s views of sexuality. There is a possibility people will be more considerate and accepting of homosexuality in our society when they see Will’s character as well.
Overall I think Nashville has done a great job of enriching the recent portrayals of homosexuality in television. While it is great to see happily committed same-sex couples on television, it is also refreshing to see another side. Will Lexington exemplifies the difficulties and hardships that many people in his position have to endure. His inner struggle with being accepted, and being himself, is beyond saddening to watch, and a struggle that should not be an issue for anyone. But in society today, this struggle is real and I think with more portrayals of homosexuality like Nashville’s, our nation’s acceptance of LGBT can continue to grow.