Just be Gay, It's Fine (Ep. 39 - The Cosby Show)

This week's guest is Terrence Moss, who learned to dream big when he saw characters achieving great things on The Jeffersons and The Cosby Show. Obviously, looking to the Cosby Show for inspiration these days can feel problematic, given what we've been learning about its creator. But is it possible to separate the man from his work? After all, for folks like Terrence, Cosby was about more than just one man. It was about envisioning a better world. And then envisioning your place in it.

You can catch Terrence most Monday nights at Rage in West Hollywood, performing and just hanging out as part of Musical Mondays, a musical theater-themed bar night. At Musical Mondays, they don't just show a bunch of clips on the monitors. Oh no. Instead, when certain numbers come on, a loosely-organized troupe of devotees lip-syncs and dances along with them, turning the bar into a sort of Broadway flashmob. It is both the strangest and the most wonderful thing you'll ever see. And it's where Terrence and I met, years ago -- in an environment where so many people are acting strangely with such dedication and regularity that it almost seems normal. Almost.

For my recommendation this week, check out Will and Grace -- yes, I know, you've already seen it. Many times. But I hope you can take a look at it from a slightly different perspective. One of the things that made The Cosby Show so amazing was that it presented an idealized world, where racial strife and barriers were dismantled, where equality was the most ordinary, unremarkable, achievable thing in the world. 

And that's what I want you to keep in mind when you watch Will and Grace -- and if you need a place to dive back in, I suggest season 4, episodes 9 and 10, "Moveable Feast," in which the characters have to race from one disastrous family function to another over Thanksgiving. Throughout the episode, they all have to deal with various silly sitcommy problem that need resolving, but being gay isn't one of them.

When Will and Grace premiered, I remember queers complaining that the show made us seem so ordinary and unremarkable. There were no radical fairies, the sex was sanitized to the point that it was nonexistent, and everyone's homosexuality seemed to exist in a world where it had ceased to be shocking.

But that's not necessarily a bad thing. Back in 1998, it took a real stretch of the imagination think that being queer could ever be so safe, so tolerated, so celebrated. But of course, once the show was beamed into millions of homes across the country, you didn't have to imagine anymore. You could see it every week, a half hour at a time, no matter where or who you were. And the more we saw it on TV, the more we saw it in real life.

Parisian Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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