Gay musical weddings and TV’s tiresome camp cliches

Matthew Hemley
Matt is news editor for The Stage, having started as the newspaper’s broadcast reporter. He covers all areas of the industry in his role, but has a particular interest in musical theatre. Matt studied acting at Bretton Hall and presents a monthly theatre news round up on BBC London Radio.
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I’m gay, and I happen to like musicals. But – and this might be hard to believe – not all gay men do. My partner doesn’t like them, for example, and would probably rather go to a football match than sit through a musical. And yes, some gay men like football too.

So I’m a little dismayed at the programme Channel 4 has lined up to mark same-sex marriage becoming legal in England and Wales: Our Gay Wedding – the Musical. That’s right – a real wedding which will see two gay men singing their vows in a show that C4 also promises will feature readings being sung and ensemble numbers from the congregation.

[pullquote]To my mind it has the potential to trivialize a serious issue that will be life-changing for some gay people.[/pullquote]

I haven’t seen the programme – it's only just been announced and won’t be broadcast until March 29, the day same-sex marriage becomes legal – but I can't help feeling a little uneasy about the premise.

I realise the men involved are 100% behind the programme – indeed they have written the musical in question (one is a composer, the other a performer). But I am uneasy because I think it invites people to laugh at them – and gay people – in much the same way programmes like Big Fat Gypsy Wedding invite members of the public to laugh at the people in that show.

To my mind it has the potential to trivialize a serious issue that will be life-changing for some gay people.

If Channel 4 was showing the programme as part of a wider slate of shows on the matter – if it was one example of how a gay couple are planning to mark their commitment – then I might feel less uneasy about this programme. As it is, however, it seems that the nation will see a gay couple getting married in a way doesn’t particularly represent the reality of the situation.

The same-sex marriage legislation is meant to put gay couple on an equal footing with straight couples. Gay people want marriage to be a normal part of everyday life. But I suspect a programme in which two men singing their way through their vows will be anything but normal and is unlikely to do anything to help the gay cause.

Personally, what I would like to see is gay people represented without the camp stereotyping. And I don’t think I am alone here.

It’s not just Channel 4 that needs to do its bit. ITV can do play its part too. Last year it gave us two mincing queens in the sitcom Vicious. Now, it’s bringing us Edge of Heaven on a Friday night – and surprise surprise – that too features a gay couple who are camp clichés.

It’s boring, unimaginative, unfunny and doesn’t reflective the reality of being gay today.