The stereotypical “gay best friend” has become a trope of almost every rom-com – think Rupert Everett in My Best Friend’s Wedding or Stanford Blanch in Sex and The City. These characters very rarely stray from the sassy best friend whose sole purpose is to provide comic relief and relationship advice. Even recent shows such as Girls have failed to avoid this stereotypical trap (although Lena Dunham’s creation is problematic in a whole host of ways).
Unfortunately, this stereotypical “gay best friend” has made its way from our screens into our lives. Thanks to exposure to these one-dimensional characters from films and TV, we as a society have started to desire our very own gay best friend. Don’t be mistaken though, this desire is for the stereotype only: white, handsome, sassy, ready to help you with any fashion emergency and equipped with all manner of relationship advice, without you ever having to listen to any of their problems in return. Whilst “I wish I had a gay best friend” may seem like a harmless sentence to say, it is actually incredibly dismissive and upholds the idea that every sexuality that isn’t heterosexual is only allowed to exist as long as it “fits into” the straight world.
This desire for a gay best friend could possibly stem from a woman wanting a non-threatening male figure in their life, without having to fear that they will be overpowered or abused. A male who they can trust to get drunk with and wear whatever they want with. Or possibly, it could stem from woman wanting a close male friend without the risk of romantic feelings developing. However, playing into this stereotype and continuing to portray it in the media is very counterproductive to the LGBT+ movement. Upholding this stereotype may seem like a way of representing more gay characters in media. Instead, it is misrepresentative, and only creates a small pocket of space for gay men to exist in real life.
These characters are often written by heterosexual writers, and by writing these one-dimensional characters, they are not actually representing gay men. What’s worse, we are denying gay men the right to be heard, and excluding them from plot lines that exist only for straight characters, such as falling in and out of love and having professional developments and family troubles. From the characters we’re presented with it would seem almost inconceivable that a gay man can have interests that extend outside the realms of fashion and gossiping.
Having a gay best friend isn’t something you should inspire to gain, instead you should want a best friend who is kind and enhances your life merely by being present in it. Friendships shouldn’t discriminate, and if your best friend happens to also identify as gay, then cool, but this shouldn’t be the defining feature of your friendship. Whilst many rom-coms of years gone by may be nostalgic classics, moving forward, it’s important that we see a wider representation of LGBT+ characters in the media, where each character is fully fledged and exists in their own right.