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Daily Beast Article Highlights Double Standard in Coverage of Age Different Relationships

Over the past few years I’ve become a fan of the British actor and writer Stephen Fry. From his old sketch comedy show with Hugh Laurie, to his TV travelogue of America, to his thoughtful web presence Mr. Fry brings intelligence and humor to the all of his projects. Though I’ve known Fry was gay I didn’t know much about his personal life. This week he and his partner Elliott Spencer announced their engagement. With Spencer being 30 year’s Fry’s junior a fury of speculation and insinuation flared up among the media and on social networks. Of course, for those of us who’ve been in age different relationships this is not surprising, but it certainly is disheartening. I empathize with both men for what amounts to public harassment.

Interestingly, on Friday the Daily Beast posted a wonderful commentary by Samantha Allen about the double standard in the way May to December relationships are covered in the media and in the general consciousness entitled Freaking Out about Age Gaps in Gay Relationships is Homophobic. It is well argued reflection on and refutation of the tropes and stereotypes found in discussion of gay men in age different relationships. I recommend you take a look.

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In The Media: Live From New York!

Depictions of gay intergenerational relationships aren’t very common in the media. So when I come across one, I really sit up and take notice. Over the past few seasons Saturday Night Live has started airing a series of digital shorts along with their regular live sketches. These shorts are then featured on their website. A few months ago my partner and I saw the one called Andy’s Dad when it aired during the show. The whole time we were cracking up, but at the same time there was a stinging recognition of the way we’re perceived and the way our families feel about our relationship.

The digital short featured the host of that night’s episode, Jonah Hill, and one of the cast regulars, Andy. At the beginning the Jonah interrupts Andy during a costume fitting and tells him theirs something they need to talk about. A few minutes later they sit down to coffee and the cast member asks him what’s up. The host goes on to explain that after meeting Andy’s family at a recent diner he and Andy’s father began to see each other and they are really hitting it off. As the host explains the relationship the couple is shown in a series of flashbacks that show their relationship developing. For the most part the relationship is played quite seriously; it is the reaction of Andy, and the audience’s empathy with him, that is really played for laughs.

Absurdity or confounded expectations are often the roots of comedy. Certainly the unexpectedness of an intergenerational gay relationship is a part of that here. But the fact that a young man may become romantically involved with a friend’s father and then reveal that to him directly really amps up the absurdity. It even seems that Andy wasn’t aware of his own father’s homosexuality. The sketch plays on its audience’s own fears about not wanting to know about their parents’ sex lives; and even worse, what they might found out if they did know.

After seeing the short I wondered a bit if I should be offended. Did the writers of SNL unfairly use a relationship similar to my own solely for humor? After some thought I decided it didn’t really bug me. As I said, it was more the situation rather than the relationship that was the source of humor. I’m curious though if any of the straight people watching the program stopped to consider what an age disparate relationship would really be like. Both my partner and I agreed that his sons probably wouldn’t have found the sketch as funny as we did.

To see the video follow this link.

What do you think of the short? Do you think it’s funny or offensive?