'Will & Grace' And Gays: The Thrill Has Been Long Gone
Sunday, May 14, 2006
"Will Truman's job isn't to promote tolerance or cure HIV or lobby Washington on behalf of transgender youth; it's to provide the tenuous fabric that binds the new Mercedes S-Class to Diet Coke."
-- Doug Wright,
"Will & Grace: Was It Good for the Gays?,"
the Advocate, May 9
On the death of "Will & Grace," which will end its eight-season run Thursday night on NBC, the mind seems to have erased most of the clip reel. The gayest among us now profess to have shirked duty and stopped watching a couple of seasons ago.
Whether one needed him to be the gay Rob Petrie or the gay George Jefferson, there is very little about Will Truman (played by Eric McCormack) to recall, and even less about Debra Messing's Grace Adler. It looked like they were having fun, and not much else. It certainly worked as a sitcom, verging on Lucylike prat (e.g., Grace's water-balloon falsie bra disaster in an early episode), but soon the memories blur into a swish-boom-bah of martinis and hugs and ceaseless stunt appearances by the likes of Cher, Matt Damon and Madonna. It's been a huge hit, even overseas, but Will and Grace turned out to be rather boring people, and when you think about it, they turned out to be the exact same person.
For years, some viewers held on to the idea that the show was an example of pure progress in the way American culture views homosexuals. This turned out to be "Will & Grace's" burden to bear, and it discarded it happily.
Instead, using one of those incalculable Lenny and Squiggy formulas that wrest zeitgeist and laughs away from title characters, "Will & Grace" will be better remembered for Jack McFarland (Sean Hayes) and boozy Karen Walker (Megan Mullally), the auxiliaries.
Will and Grace's barbs were no match for the full set of Wusthof cutlery wielded by Jack and Karen, whose surreal banter and insults defined the show. Despite a variety of accolades and awards presented over the years at gay rights and media-watchdog fundraising dinners -- where "Will & Grace" was praised for its groundbreaking courage and supposed heavy lifting on the front lines of the culture war -- its lasting imprint on actual gay people may be in its flawless demonstration of the cutting quip.
* * *
The point, then, was to get away from "gay" and veer into more universal subjects on which everyone could enjoy a good bite -- for example, the immigration debate. "Will & Grace" taught America much more about another kind of platonic love that dares not speak its name, that of a filthy rich addict and her devoted Central American housekeeper (Shelley Morrison as the beatific but surly Rosario Salazar). Their love is, of course, expressed as contempt.
Karen: This one's gonna be spooning seviche out of a bucket on a dusty soccer field back in Chimichangaville!