Karen Ocamb

Showtime's 'Shameless' Gay Character Says Being Gay is a 'Choice'

Filed By Karen Ocamb | January 11, 2011 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: cameron monaghan, chosen family, coming out of the closet, gossip, interview

The Wrap has an interview with 17 year old Cameron Monaghan Cameron-Monaghan-.jpgwho plays a gay teenager on the new Showtime series "Shameless." The hour-long Sunday night drama, produced by John Wells, takes a gritty look at a near-poverty working class family, with wonderful actor William Macy playing the alcoholic father.

Monaghan told The Wrap:

There are a lot of gay teens out there watching for gay characters and looking for role models and people they can relate to, so I definitely think there's a responsibility there....I'm happy to represent the gay community, especially with such a strong, likable, relatable character like Ian, who really is the anti-stereotype. He goes against the [common perception] of a gay teenager in just about every way, in that he's tough and strong, not flamboyant, and he's involved in the military with ROTC training. It's definitely cool playing a part like that.

In the interview, Monaghan talks about his character's difficulty coming out to his family and especially his older brother Lip, played by Jeremy Allen White. But in discussing the "It Gets Better" campaign that offers encouragement to LGBT teens at risk for suicide, Monaghan suggests that his character considers his sexual orientation a "choice":

Ian is one of those tough, strong guys who will tell u [sic], 'accept yourself and don't take crap from anybody.' There's a scene with his brother where Ian very passionately tells him, 'This is my choice. The guy I'm with isn't putting pressure on me. In fact, it's quite the opposite. I'm buying just as much stuff for him and this is my choice and who I am and you have to accept that.

On the other hand, his "choice" could mean the person with whom he is having an affair - his Muslim boss who is married to a white fundamentalist type - the couple has two children. See the trailer (below) for the confrontation between the two brothers over the relationship.

Interestingly, Monaghan seems both smart and savvy, while at the same time using some of the very language he apparently doesn't realize is associated with the stereotypes he shuns - specifically the use of the term "homosexuals" instead of "gays" or the acronym LGBT:

All the campaigns for acceptance of gays are continuing this paradigm shift in how we think, but there's certainly still a stigma. Hollywood is one of the most accepting places of homosexuals and yet, it's still tough for a lot of people to come out. They don't want to be stereotyped and they don't want to be treated differently or viewed in a different light.

I missed the pilot Sunday night at 10:00pm, but if The Wrap's review is any measure, this show will soon become a "must-see," probably propelling Monaghan to stardom and greater social responsibility.

The reviewer writes:

The show more than lived up to its title, as "Shameless" is one of the craziest shows I've ever seen. Imagine a raunchier "Arrested Development" as written by Charles Bukowski....

Aside from its raw energy, the most promising aspect of the series has to be the complicated relationship between brothers Lip and Ian. Monaghan delivers one of the most realistic depictions of a gay teen ever seen on television. He's a fully-realized character with plenty of dimensions that help us understand what he's going through. Meanwhile, White delivers my favorite performance in the pilot as he struggles to come to terms with his brother's sexuality.

"Shameless" trailer:

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It seems as though the "choice" referred to is not the character's sexual orientation but rather who the character has chosen to be involved with.

Vast Variety | January 11, 2011 1:38 PM

I've seen the pilot and the "choice" he is talking about is definitely about his choice of partner, not his orientation. Right before he makes this remark in the scene, his brother all but accuses him of prostituting himself to Kesh. Ian is trying to make it clear to Lip that he isn't just being used by Kesh.

From my reading, it seems he's describing the relationship as a choice, not his sexuality.

He's talking about his relationship, not his sexuality. Ian is easily empowered and comfortable with his sexuality. He's possibly even a better example of today's gay teen than the original Shameless. The character is absolutely a positive portrayal (in context) for the GLBT world.

I have always felt my sexuality (queer and gay) is a choice and I'm completely comfortable with portrayal of a character holding similar beliefs. Why must media present a PC uniformity of belief that doesn't exist in the real world?

Spoiler Alert: I've watched the original british series and to say that Ian is completely comfortable with his gayness is entirely incorrect. He never comes out to his father, hides it from the rest of the family for years and makes an effort to not appear "gay" to other people. It takes him five seasons to finally accept his gayness in a positive way. The pilot episode is the beginning of his journey but he has a lot of stuff to go through before his character begins to embody a modern gay men (if there is such a thing). Even then, he never actually dates anyone after Kash - it's just fling after secret fling until finally everyone's figured it out and then he falls in love and dates a GIRL.

To call Ian lovable (he really isn't at all until he grows up a bit) and not stereotypical (the closet, anyone?) makes me think the quoted article's author hasn't watched the british series and therefore is speaking out of his ass.

The american version so far has kept exactly on script, but the original Ian was not a ROTC member. He was an aimless partier with no interest in school or other meaningful activities.

The part I dislike about the american version the most is the censoring of all the slurs. The show is called Shameless for a reason - they absolutely feel no shame with their behavior (save a few characters) and swearing is big part of that identity. It kind of takes the edge out of the show, imo.

Regan DuCasse | January 11, 2011 3:25 PM

I watched the pilot, and I've worked on the set of that show twice.
The gay kid's older brother is admonishing him on his choice of partner. Essentially because the partner is married with kids, and the gay kid assures and corrects his brother on who is using who and the calculus of being involved with the man in the first place.

They had another scene together when the older brother asked who his first BF was. And he admitted that it was a butch jock in their high school.
I know that the original British series didn't have the family so involved with anyone who was of color as friends and used a lot of derogatory language to describe the blacks, and Arabs and Pakistanis in their midst.

This American version is a little more PC than that. But in a way, still doesn't ring true considering the class of these people and their location.
Whites of that class don't mix so casually and intimately with blacks of the same in Chicago. It's one of the most racially and culturally divided cities in America. If they're trying to say this family is different, then that's not very clear and maybe it should be.

I have a friend who used to say this same thing and actually argued that it is more powerful to approach it as a choice rather than something you have no control over. I always liked that.

I just hate the idea that the straight-acting gay TV character is the best "type" of "gay". Nothing wrong with a queeny role model.

Regan DuCasse | January 11, 2011 9:36 PM

Who says this kid is the best? And Kurt on Glee is unabashedly the fashion plate queen you're looking for. He's also a nice kid who sings like an angel. And the actor that plays him really IS gay.

Can't win them all.

I have to agree with the others about this character being a "good gay". In fact from what Regan says, it sounds like they made him especially straight-acting for an American audience.

Um, no. Have you seen the British one? Set in Manchester on a council estate. Its not so much that he is straight-acting (whatever that means) but that he is a poor kid growing up in subsidized housing and has some common sense and street smarts that have kept him alive for 15 years.

I find it refreshing that a tv show would portray a young gay man struggling with a bigoted family. This happens all the time and should be acknowledged and shown. That struggle is indicative of a LOT of people's experience and that story needs to be told.

Well, I hear gays in the military are in fashion right now. Go Showtime.

Justin Denton | January 12, 2011 7:13 AM

I'm kind of tired of the hysteria that seems to happen whenever anyone seems to suggest that there may be some "choice" involved in being gay. I think it is absurd that we are forcing every straight person who dares mention gay people to use the exactly-right-wording or be branded a homophobe. It's a little bit of yelling "wolf:" when the real homophobes show up, we will have been whining about the little stuff for so long, no one is going to care anymore.

In this example, it is not at all clear that the person meant to say that sexual orientation is a choice. More often, I think it is a slip-of-the-tongue, and an unfamiliarity with the official gay dogma.

More importantly, while sexual orientation is not a choice, whether to come out, whether to embrace one's identity, whether to enter or remain in a relationship, whether to get involved in a community, these are all choices, and they should be. I hate to think that my entire life is preordained and fated just because I'm gay. I also hate the implication of the born-not-choice narrative: I was born that way, I can't help it, feel sorry for me. I understand the apparent political need for this kind of narrative, but in the long run, I think abandoning any sense of agency cannot be good.

He was talking about the character of choosing to date / screw his muslim shop-owning boss.

The first episode was almost the exact same storyline from the British show that has been own for some 5 years now.

Ian's character is complex- and is not as gay as we think if the original's script is to be followed.

If the show is still on in 5 years in the US, I guess we'll be having angry conversations about whether Ian is really gay, bisexual, or have they given fuel to the fire of the ex-gays.

The UK version is brilliant by the way. But we get lots of skin from Justin Chatwin in the US version- so I guess its a toss-up.

I can't wait to see the show. I've seen the previews and it looks really good.

Sonnie Swenston | January 18, 2011 10:55 AM

My nine-year+ ex was a "LUG" (lesbian until graduation... and then some time beyond). It broke my heart when she broke up with me in 1982 because it was time for her to explore being with men. She soon found one to love -- one who friends said reminded her of me -- and who she's still with.

But in her case there was a choice to be with me, another woman, when we fell in love, and I like to think that she has been a better, more complete and open-minded person through her life as a result.

I find it irresponsible to refer to an anti-stereotypical gay character as realistic just because he isn't flamboyant. The truth is its becoming a trend to make masculine gay characters as a gimmick when gay men in general are really a mixture of both.