Jul 2, 2018

The Sonic Drive-In Guys Are Saving a Gay Kid's Life

These are the Two Guys (their internet name) who have been starring in commercials for Sonic Drive-Ins since 2002 (with a few breaks).

They are depicted sitting in their car at various times of the day and night, various months of the year, discussing hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, corn dogs, tater tots, or ice cream concoctions. Occasionally they get out of the car.

Their patter, mostly improv, is reminiscent of the classic comedy duos such as Abott and Costello and Martin and Lewis:  the clown, played by T. J. Jadodowski (left), says something ridiculous or wears an outrageous costume, and straight man Peter Grosz (right) reacts with grumpy dismissal.

And now I'm going to say something.  Listen carefully:

They are a gay couple.

They always eat out together.  They apparently live together.  They share finances.  They mention that they've been together for many years.  They don't refer to any other relationships, or display any interest in women.

Let the screaming begin.

Screamer #1:  Why can't they be friends?  Every time two guys appear together, they aren't gay!  Straight guys go to restaurants together!

Translation:  If there is any possibility, however unlikely, that a fictional character can be read as straight, he MUST be read as straight.  We will accept characters as gay only if there is no other choice, only if our desperate attempts to read them as straight have failed.

But you can do it the other way, too.  It's how gay people survived growing up in a world that denied their existence a hundred times a day, watching tv and going to movies that shouted, over and over, that "boy meets girl is universal human experience!"  They found a fictional character and looked for evidence that would support a gay reading. 

Two guys who go to a restaurant together could be gay.

Screamer #2:  What about when they settle a disagreement with a game of Horse (basketball)? They like sports!  They can't be gay!

Translation: Gay characters must be swishy stereotypes.  The slightest reference to a masculine-coded activity requires us to read them as straight.

But gay guys play basketball.

Screamer #3: What about when T. J. mentions his ex-girlfriend Janine?  He dated a girl!  He's straight.

Translation: The slightest reference to heterosexual behavior requires us to read the character as straight.

But lots of gay men date women before they come out.  They're bowing to societal pressure, the constant "what girl do you like?" litany of high school and college.  Remember this exchange:

T. J.: The last time we ate this good, we were in college.

Peter: No, I was in college, you were in denial.

He's not in denial anymore, he's come out.

Screamer #4: What about the commercial where Jane Krakowski and Ellie Kemper, the stars of The Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt (not in character) wave at them, and they wave back.  They wave at women!  They must be straight!  

Translation:  Women are invisible to gay men, so any man who displays the slightest recognition of a woman, who says hello to a woman, who steps out of the way to avoid being plowed into by a woman, must be heterosexual.

But gay men are perfectly capable of seeing women, and of waving at famous tv stars, without being romantically interested in them.

Screamer #5:  Ok, now I've got you.  Peter Grosz is married to a woman, Debra Downing, and has a son!  Talk you way out of that one!

Translation: Heterosexuals are incapable of playing gay characters, so if the actor is straight, the character is straight.

But heterosexuals are perfectly capable of playing all sorts of characters, including gay people.

Besides, T. J. Jadodowski never mentions a wife or girlfriend in any interview.  But he does mention going on a trip to Italy with a male friend.

Screamer #6: What about when T. J. is pretending to be a car, and says "I'm going to go talk to her -- the little red coupe with the nice taillights."  He's going to flirt with a female car.  No gay guy would do that!

Translation: Gay men are incapable of playing heterosexuals, so if your character is straight, you must be straight.

But gay actors are perfectly capable of playing all sorts of characters, including straight people.  And straight cars.

There is no piece of evidence that will unequivocally "prove" that a character is gay or straight.  He doesn't actually exist.here is no single correct reading of fictional characters.  The signs are incomplete, open to interpretation.  All we know about these guys is what they say and do for a few moments in their car at a Sonic Drive-In.  We have to fill in the rest of their lives.

And it's ok to fill it in with a same-sex romance.

Many gay kids are still growing up in a society that denies their existence.  A Sonic Drive-In commercial starring the Two Guys may be trivial to us, but to them it could make all the difference.  It might be the one moment that gives them hope.

1 comment:

  1. People are still outraged at interracial couples on TV. I'm not surprised they can't read two guys who always go to a restaurant together (and in fact, that's their defining trait, since, you know, mascots) as a couple.


No comments that use abusive or vulgar language or point out that a character is Not Wearing a Sign.

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