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The gay best friend has become a TV cliche, but Richard Swerdlow embraces the role.
By Richard Swerdlow
I get around.
Every network has at least one program with me as a character. I'm in too many movies to count. In chick lit novels and fashion magazines, I'm essential in the life of every hip modern woman.
Yes, I'm the gay best friend. And I've thinking about the GBF and his role in our culture.
Somehow, gay men have gone from being victims of discrimination, ridicule and violence to being celebrated as the sassy sidekick. In TV shows and movies, the leading female dishes, shops and cries on the buff shoulder of her gay best friend.
We may have flawless taste in footwear, but being the gay best friend is not as easy as it looks. Part therapist, part personal stylist, we must be up on the latest manicure colors, stay calm in a hair emergency and be on standby as the escort to any event, from opera galas to leather fetish street fairs. GBFs use our accessorizing powers for good and not evil. It's a lot of responsibility.
But bring it on. I am totally ready to go to the ballet because your husband wants to stay home and watch the game. In fact, the GBF has become such a cultural icon that "How to find a gay best friend" is a popular Google search.
But GBFs on TV don't really capture this unique relationship. It isn't all shoes, shows and shopping - some of the deepest connections I've had have been as a GBF. I've seen friends through divorce, widowhood, cancer. In the end, being a gay best friend isn't about being gay. It's about being a best friend through whatever life brings, whether it's cosmopolitans or chemotherapy.
Though I love our dynamic duo -- I'm Tonto to your Lone Ranger, I'm Ethel to your Lucy -- I'm ready for my close-up. I hope we've reached a point where I star in my own show, and I don't need to play the supporting role. There are more gay characters on TV than ever but too often they remain that cleaned up cliche, a gay Charlie Chan or Aunt Jemimah.
But not to worry. I don't plan on giving up my gay best friend role soon. Friendship is good for everyone, gay or straight. And without me, who would you go shopping with for shoes?
With a Perspective, I'm Richard Swerdlow.
Richard Swerdlow works for the San Francisco Unified School District.