Jan 4, 2016

The Shield: TV From the 2000s, Homophobia from the 1960s

You already know the most homophobic contemporary movie -- Chuck and Buck, the savagely homophobic "comedy" by Mike White.

Outside of Fox's animated sitcoms, TV series tend to go for erasing gay people from existence rather than excoriating them, but I found an exception.  Excoriations of gay people week after week for six years.

It's The Shield (2002-2008), a police drama set in contemporary Los Angeles.


In the real L.A. in the 2000s, there were gay police offices.  The LAPD advertised for recruits at gay pride festivals.  Police cadets got  training in LGBT issues.

But on The Shield, all of the cops are intensely homophobic.  "Queers" and "fags" drop from their lips every five seconds, along with the usual heterosexism that we find everywhere on tv.

The key character, Detective Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis)  is a blustering homophobe -- but so is everybody, so not a problem.  But he is also boorish, stupid, vulgar, racist, sexist, violent, corrupt, and unfamiliar with the concept of "due process."

Oh, he loves his wife and kids -- so much so that when they leave him and go into hiding, fearing for their safety, he pays private investigators $20,000 to track them down.  Then he bursts in and starts yelling.

I guess that's supposed to be positive?

One of his nemeses is detective "Dutch" Wagenbach (Jay Karnes), who's actually intelligent and therefore the butt of constant jokes.  He grinds my gears by offering far-out psychoanalytic interpretations of every suspect, proclaiming that he "studied criminology."

Um...criminology doesn't teach you that nonsense.

But even Dutch is a first rate homophobe.  He asks, "What do they think causes people to be queer?  Is it biological, so they can't help themselves.  And if so, should we condemn them?"

Who's condemning them, Dutch?  I suppose the writers' perception of the intended audience as homophobic.

Criminals are homophobic too -- way homophobic.

There are occasional gay characters -- swishy queens who all have AIDS.
"Are you sure he has AIDS?"
 "Just look at him."

One of the cops, Julian Lowe (Michael Jace), happens to be gay.  Completely angst-ridden, overcome by guilt: it's a terrible urge inside him that he hates and can't get rid of.

He participates in a brutal gay-bashing with his fellow cops, tries to commit suicide, then tries to become "ex gay" through prayer and sex with a woman.

Oh, and he's also being blackmailed -- Vic is threatening to reveal his gayness to the precinct, where he will certainly be fired in disgrace.

Um...anti-discrimination laws for police officers have been in place in L.A. for 30 years.

By the way, the cops are uniformly racist, too.  When a Muslim asks why he is a suspect when he hasn't done anything, he is told: "Because a group of men who look like your twin brothers killed 3,000 Americans."

Um...there are Muslim Americans....

Even though I can't find shirtless shots of the regulars, there is a lot of beefcake on the show.  Criminals -- mostly drug dealers and gang bangers, with an occasional serial killer thrown in -- are often shown lounging around shirtless or in their underwear.  Danny Pino, a drug dealer that Vic extorts and then kills, always finds a way to cover up the bulge in his black briefs.

But, really, a precinct full of racist, sexist, homophobic jerks -- who writes this stuff?

Ok, it was created by Shawn Ryan, who was born in 1966 and grew up in Chicago, and was a staff writer on Nash Bridges and Angel.   In an interview, he said that the "Boys in the Bar" episode of Cheers, in which the bargoers recoil in homophobic horror from two guys that they think are gay, influenced how he "thought about homosexuals."

Homosexuals?  Is this, like, 1973?

On The Shield, it is.

See also: Chuck and Buck.

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