Jun 23, 2016

What's Gay about "Married with Children"

One day in 1988, I was at the gym in West Hollywood, and I saw someone wearing a t-shirt reading "Married...with Children Fan Club."

I knew about Married...with Children.  On Sunday nights, my roommate Derek and I always watched the beefcake-heavy: 21 Jump Street and Werewolf  on the fledgling Fox network, but we turned the tv off when the "Love and Marriage" theme song began.

Who wanted to watch a tv show that praised the heterosexual nuclear family?

Big mistake.  Married skewered the institution.

Al (Ed O'Neill) and Peggy (Katey Sagal) are a middle-aged married couple who hate each other.  Sexually voracious Peggy keeps trying to trick, cajole, or berate Al into having sex with her, but he isn't interested (although he likes women in general).

In the first season plot arc, Al and Peggy have fun trying to destroy a naive newly married couple, Marcy (Amanda Bearse) and Steve (David Garrison).  They're like George and Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, except their tactic is criticizing wives and husbands, respectively, and it works!  The couple soon divorces, and Marcy hooks up with metrosexual boytoy Boomererson (Ted McGinley).

 Other episodes involve problems with the kids, the promiscuous teenage Kelly (Christina Applegate) and the rowdy preteen Bud (David Faustino) -- soon a nerdy teenager.

No significant buddy-bonding, although Peggy and Marcy and Al and Boomererson come close.

Lots of beefcake -- Kelly had lots of shirtless, muscular boyfriends, such as Dan Gauthier, and in later seasons, Bud began to muscle-up big time.

Gay people appear only once.

Yet Married -- at least in its early years, before the downward spiral of Seasons 7-10 -- artfully revealed the flimsy foundation of the "fade out kiss," the myth of universal heterosexual destiny.  In the heart of the Reagan-Bush Era of conservative retrenchment, that was worth any number of "old friend visits and turns out to be gay" episodes.

Amanda Bearse came out in real life in 1993, and the rest of the cast are strong gay allies.

Katey Sagal and Christina Applegate have made public statements supporting gay marriage.

Ed O'Neill now stars in Modern Family, as the patriarch of a family that includes a gay son and son-in-law.

David Faustino played gay characters in Get Your Stuff (2000) and in Killer Bud (2001), and in Ten Attitudes (2001), he played "himself," not gay but on the gay dating circuit (for a sleazy reason). He also played "himself" in the webseries Star-Ving (along with buddy Corin Nemec).  See his post here.

He's currently in talks with producers about a Married spin-off, with Bud as an adult, married...with children.