chapter  5
20 Pages

‘We’re not all so obvious’: masculinity and queer (in)visibility in American network television of the 1970s JOE WLODARZ

While the era of ‘relevant’ television in American network TV has been widely praised (and closely analyzed) because of its engagement with issues of gender, race, and class identity in the tumultuous 1970s, less attention has been paid to the period’s exploitation and examination of homosexuality.1 On the heels of Stonewall and amidst the expanding gay liberation movement, network television in the 1970s also ‘came out’ to varying degrees and in unpredictable ways. Indeed, the emergence of denotatively gay and lesbian characters in the late 1960s and early 1970s marks a significant shift in what Lynne Joyrich (2001) has called the ‘epistemology of the console.’2 Although connotatively queer characters, such as Paul Lynde’s Uncle Arthur on Bewitched (ABC, 1964-72), continued to inhabit the margins of the home screen, seventies television (and American media in general) often reveled in the epistemological promise of gay and lesbian visibility and open declarations of homosexual identity. Emblematic of this post-Stonewall moment, Time magazine’s first cover story on homosexuality appeared in late 1969, proclaiming ‘The Homosexual: Newly Visible, Newly Understood’ (Foster 1969).