Homosexuality is increasingly visible in the media, signifying gradual shift in attitudes towards homosexuality, according to GAUNTLETT. TV representations, especially in soap operas, have massively improved for homosexuals. Series like Queer As Folk focus on the lives of gay people without limiting characters’ identities to their sexuality. However, even in soap operas, homosexuality can be still seen as a problem. Some argue that increased representation of homosexuals is aimed at the ‘pink economy’, i.e. Homosexuals with large disposable incomes, to increase consumerism among gay people. Alternatively, GILL argues, homosexuals are presented on TV to attract straight audiences because such concepts as ‘hot lesbian’ draw upon codes of pornography. More generally, despite increased representation, gay people are desexualised by the media, as sexual activity of homosexuals is rarely shown on TV, in contrast to those of straight people.
Even Hollywood has improved representation of homosexuals. There has emerged such a genre as gay/straight romance. For example, The Object Of My Affection portrays a relationship between a straight woman and her gay neighbour. However, this marginalises the experiences of homosexuals because their relationships are not portrayed as equally important as those of straight people. In fact, homosexual characters can often be viewed as accessories to liberal and sophisticated straight characters. Furthermore, limited number of homosexual lead characters can be explained by producers’ fear to lose investment and advertisers. As a result, representation of LGBT community remains marginalised.
Although historically women used to be portrayed as home-makers and carers, representations of femininity have changed, largely due to influence of the media in shaping attitudes to women. Over the recent decades, a ‘genderquake’ happened in the society and the media, leading to women being portrayed as focused on education and careers unlike before when they were portrayed as aspiring to be housewives and mothers only. Increasing number of female lead characters in such TV series as ‘Sex and the City’ portrays women and men as equals. Liberal Feminists argue the changes are evident but are slowed down by male dominance in media ownership (2009 3/20 newspapers edited by women). Furthermore, WOLF argues media representations of femininity promote an unattainable beauty myth, by which women define self-worth, which has negative side-effects like eating disorders, as highlighted by BECKER. By contrast, GAUNTLETT argues the media present women as feminine and independent at the same time. Postmodern Feminists also note positive changes: MCROBBIE argues women in the media are presented as using their sexuality to control men. For example, The Other Woman (2014) features a lead female character who is both successful at her job and uses her sexuality to manipulate men, while staying independent.
Masculinity representations have been transformed with the emergence of magazines for men like GQ, Maxim and FHM. The focus of these magazines is male experiences and ways to improve their masculine image. The result of this was the emergence of a ‘new man’ – a caring and emotional man, who performs household chores and is a considerate lover. However, some argue that a ‘new man’ was a creation of advertisers to increase consumerism among men. WESTWOOD argues that a rise in men fashion led to a concept of a ‘metrosexual man’, i.e. Man who cares about his appearance. D.Beckham is an example how metrosexuality can be used to increase consumerism of a broad range of consumers – men and women, straight and gay people. However, the extent of should not be exaggerated because, according to RUTHERFORD, retributive masculinity is increasingly promoted by the media through ‘lads magazines’ and new media, allowing men access media content that reproduces stereotypical views of femininity and masculinity (eg. Pornography). Feminists argue this is a backlash against the rise of feminism in the media that is perceived as a threat to masculinity.
In conclusion, the media continue to play a major role in shaping the views of femininity, masculinity and sexuality. There have been positive tendencies in representation of all. However, changes of representations of masculinity and homosexuality should not be exaggerated because men start to retreat to hegemonic (i.e. Dominant/stereotypical) masculine image, while representation of homosexuals remains highly marginal.