Feb 17, 2017

Growing Pains

The homophobic rants of Growing Pains star Kirk Cameron may lead you to believe that the TGIF sitcom  (1985-92) was exceptionally homophobic.  But it wasn't.

It aired next to programs I liked -- Who's the Boss or Head of the Class -- so I watched a few episodes here and there. Standard TGIF premise: affluent suburban family, psychiatrist Dad, newspaper columnist Mom, and their three kids: teen operator Mike (Kirk Cameron), feminist Carol, and practical jokester Ben.  In the last seasons they added two more kids to up the cuteness quotient: Chrissy  and Luke (a young Leonardo DiCaprio).

Like all TGIF sitcoms, Growing Pains was set in a gay-free world.  In one episode, Dad reacts in horror at the thought that Mike might be...you know, but no one ever said The Word.

But there was a strong homoromantic subtext between Mike and his best friend with the unfortunate name Boner (presumably the writers were unaware of the contemporary dirty meaning, and intended us to think of the old meaning, "mistake").  Boner was played by Andrew Koenig (son of Walter Koenig of Star Trek), who was reputedly gay in real life.

Kirk Cameron's conservative religious beliefs forbade many beefcake shots, so most of the teen idol attention fell on the stream of hunky guest stars, including K. C. Martel, Matthew Perry, and Brad Pitt, and in later seasons, on Jeremy Miller (Ben).

When Jeremy was 14, he began receiving letters from a violently obsessed fan, describing lurid fantasies of rape and murder, even giving the dates he intended to carry out his threats. Jeremy was not informed of the letters, and was astonished to discover that the heightened security on the set was for his protection.

The ensuing publicity gave Growing Pains a undeserved sordid reputation.

Today Kirk Cameron acts in fundamentalist Christian movies and makes anti-gay rants.  Jeremy Miller became a professional chef, but still acts on occasion.   No word on whether he is a gay ally or not, but he has kept silent while fellow Growing Pain stars Allan Thicke and Tracey Gold have issued condemnations of Kirk's homophobia.

See also: Alan Thicke.

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