Nov 25, 2014

Veronica's Closet: How Not to Play a Gay Character

In the 1990s, TV writers didn't know what to do with their gay characters.

They knew what gay men were: men who were really women.  Men who were interested in show tunes and chick flicks and skin care products, who used their hands when they talked, who secretly wore dresses.  And who men.

  But what to do with them?

Veronica's Closet (1997-2000) took a novel approach: how about a gay man who doesn't know he's gay?  He'll have the show tunes and skin care products, but claim to be straight!  Won't that be hilarious?

It wasn't hilarious at all.

The show aired after Seinfeld, and starred Kirstie Allie, formerly of Cheers, so it became popular.

Veronica ran a clothing company designed to increase women's chances of romance (modeled after Victoria's Secret).

Her staff included:
1. Olive (Kathy Najimy), whose job was undefined.
2. Underwear model turned publicist Perry (Dan Cortese, top photo).
3. Uptight marketing manager and token black guy Leo (Daryl Mitchell).
4. Secretary Josh (Wallace Langham).

Josh started out as feminine-coded, working as a secretary for a women's underwear company.  And the feminine traits piled on, week after week. Not only show tunes and skin care products, but pink handkerchiefs, demitasse, a worry over getting fat, a female best friend, no interest in sports, a girly car, hints at drag. For heaven's sake, his middle name was Nicole!

Therefore he must be gay.  The entire cast acted as if he was gay, asking his advice on skin care products and trying to fix him up with men  When he protested that he was straight, they smiled knowingly.

"Wait," I wanted to ask, "Has Josh ever expressed the slightest interest in men?

"No, never," Veronica might answer.

"Has he ever expressed any interest in women?"

"Yes, often.  He's been shown having sex with women.  He had a girlfriend, nearly got married. But what does that have to do with it?  He's feminine, so he's gay."

Near the end of the series, Josh finally gave and admitted that he was, I mean gay.

He reluctantly gave up his heterosexual romances and began dating a guy, not because he was interested, but because that's what, I mean gay men do, right?


The cast doesn't have a great record on gay rights.  Kathy Najimy is bisexual. Kirstie Allie is not a gay ally

Wallace Langham, who played Josh, turned out to be rather homophobic also.  In 2000 he beat up a gay tabloid reporter while using anti-gay slurs.  He was sentenced to 450 hours of community service for LGBT charities.