Three cheers for your articles on John Goodman ["The Triumph of Normal,' "Grin and Bear It," December 19]. If the show Normal, Ohio is half as funny and illuminating as his interview, we are in store for some great, balanced entertainment. As an openly gay man, I felt a small twinge of discomfort changing the channel whenever Ellen came on; however, it simply stopped being amusing. While Queer as Folk certainly breaks some ground for gay storylines on TV, it also has its drawbacks: The characters that are actually likable are few and far between, the acting is mediocre, and you can't watch it with your mother in the room. Hopefully, Normal, Ohio will serve its purpose by showing that being gay or lesbian can be just as funny as being straight, that all gay men aren't amazingly attractive yet think with their dicks, and that all lesbians don't drive trucks. Hopefully, it will (10 what a sitcom is supposed to do: entertain us, possibly inform us, and not lecture us on the rights and wrongs of society.
Randy Corturillo, Cleveland, Ohio
Thank you for the cover story on Normal, Ohio. This had me reflect about when I was dating a young and newly out gay man from Ohio. I asked him what it was like to be in the closet during the coming-out episode of Ellen. The main thing I remember from our conversation is that he still thought Ellen went "too far." By the way, one of his favorite shows is Will & Grace. Ellen is why there is Will & Grace and Normal Ohio.
Brian Alexander, Royal Oak, Mich.
Call me heterophobic, but it bothers me that your magazine has so many fluff pieces on "gay-friendly" actors and yet doesn't ask why more gay actors aren't being cast. It's OK for straights to play gay as long as they identify as straight. The reason Normal, Ohio is being canceled is not because of homophobia. It's because Goodman is simply not believable as a gay man. In the 1920s and '30s they took white actors and painted 'em black. Now we're taking straight boys and trying to paint 'em gay.
Richard Ring, via the Internet
While your cover story about Normal Ohio raved about the mainstream portrayal of a gay dad, it failed to recognize the show's degrading treatment of women. Your reference to "Pamela, Butch's cleavage-flaunting sister" did not sufficiently describe how this character is presented as a ditsy female who needs her brother's help to get through daffy life. On the episode I watched, Pamela was considering stripping as a way to make extra money. Of course, Butch rescued Pamela by convincing her not to strip and loaning her money.
Even though I'm as happy as the next queer to see a sitcom about a "nonurban, nonfabulous gay dad," I wish it didn't sacrifice the dignity of women in the process. I hope my feminist sisters and brothers will not accept sexist portrayals of women as the consolation prize for more queer characters on TV.
Laura Newman, White Plains, N.Y.
I have tons of respect for both Bruce Vilanch and John Goodman. But for them to poke fun at the bear community was very insulting. For Vilanch to be upset that some beam find him attractive because he looks like one of us is fine. For him to look through American Grizzly magazine and have the revelation that he is not his own type is fine. But when he puts that out there in print, it seems he is completely against there even being a bear community. Maybe he should just be happy someone finds him attractive. These two gentlemen need to embrace the fact that there are always going to be people who find other people attractive because of their looks. But more important, they need to get over their obvious hang-ups about being "big guys" and keep their focus on putting out good material everybody can enjoy.
Robert Darden-Fox, via the Internet
Just read, and loved, the story on Liz Smith ["Liz Smith Tells on Herself," December 5]. She's funny and human and has obviously struggled through life making mistakes and creating successes. And yet even now, at age 77, she's beginning to realize how important it is to come out of hiding. In the words of the wonderful drag performer Coco Peru, it is important to "tell your story" in life. But what Smith subconsciously knew is that there is no timetable, as long as it's before you die!
Mark Bizzell, West Hollywood, Calif.
Liz Smith, who knew? Maybe I'm the only one who didn't, but I am delighted to be enlightened. Too few of Smith's generation share the gay portion of their lives with us. For those who wish she had shared her story earlier, I ask, "How many of our grandparents are comfortable sharing the intimacies of their lives with us?" We have so few gay experiences to learn from; we need more than Oscar Wilde and Ellen in our role model universe. Imagine how many people have witnessed Smith's lifestyle over the past 50 years and seen "another possibility." Smith is uncomfortable with labels but declares the time when she was "relentlessly heterosexual" with no discomfort at all. This is a reminder that it is not the label but how we feel about who we are and our comfort level with accepting ourselves that each of us needs to overcome. Smith and The Advocate have done a great thing by contributing to help us see that we fit into a sometimes hopelessly heterosexual world.
Laurence Plotkin, Los Angeles, Calif.
My grandfather was the pastor of the church Smith grew up attending. As a child of fundamentalist Christians, I was continually depressed because I believed myself to be subhuman and a disgrace to God. Smith's book talks candidly about the oppressive nature of the Southern Baptist Church and a desire to escape their hate-filled control. After coming out three years ago, I have realized the fallibility of Southern Baptists, the dangers of the rhetoric they spew, and the need to expose many involved in this denomination as the bigots they are!
Jon-Marc McDonald, Fort Worth, Tex.
I've always liked Smith (and still do), but she seems awfully naive when she says "things were improving" for gays and lesbians and implies that this would have happened irrespective of outing, voluntary or otherwise. Things are improving precisely because gays and lesbians--and not just celebrity ones--increasingly take a brave step every day and live openly.
I too am wary of labels and never declare "I'm gay" in my office, but I do introduce my partner as my partner and don't use "privacy" and fear of labels as a smoke screen for shame. Since when is hiding your family protecting your privacy?
Joan M. Schmidt, New York, N. Y.
I flipped out reading about my little school, Westminster Academy, in the national press, but I am not surprised that their antigay bias has brought them there ["Worst Case Scenario," December 5]. To me, the real story is not a onetime personal donation from a power couple but the everyday struggle of students like Rachel McDonough to survive and carve out an authentic identity while trapped within a forest of hostility.
If Jean Case were gay, she definitely would not make any donation whatsoever to Westminster, however, I feel she has the right to spend her personal fortune as she chooses. My hope is that Coral Ridge and Westminster will reverse their antigay rhetoric and learn to validate all their members and students. With their clout, the Cases have the opportunity to demand these changes. Many of Westminster's students would thank them for that donation.
Jim Harper, Philadelphia, Pa.
It makes me sad to see the kind of lynch-mob mentality that gay activists are taking against the Cases. These are people who have worked toward securing an all-inclusive environment on the Internet and in the business world, and the backlash that ensued as a result of their donation to Mrs. Case's alma mater is not only unfair but also rude and regrettable.
Obviously Westminster has an antigay philosophy, as do most other private religious institutions. It should be noted, however, that Jean Case appears to harbor no ill will toward the gay community and in fact supports diversity (as attested to by AOL employees). As for the unfortunate treatment Rachel McDonough received while at Westminster, I am quite certain that far too many of your readers have experienced much worse in public schools. Attacking friends and supporters for making personal choices that do not completely satisfy our goals is unforgivable.
Shane Murphrey, Baton Rouge, La.