The gay best friend is a stereotype that has been used and abused by TV shows and movies since gay became somewhat tolerable as long as they were being used as the punchline. The gay best friend is a living, walking, and breathing personification of every single stereotype that the masses have of gay people. He is a cis white male who only hangs out with girls and is overtly feminine. He knows everything about the latest fashion and if there is a makeover involved in the movie, he definitely initiated it or is part of it. He talks overwhelming with his hands, explicitly switches his waist when he walks and has one arm out at an angle. He adds nothing to the plot other than being sassy and it’s almost as if he is not acknowledged as an actual character; he lives solely as an accessory to the main character, giving them advice and never has any character development. The only time that the character is used is to uplift the main character.
The token black girl is similar. She is also a personification of all the stereotypes that non-black people (notice how I didn’t say white, anti-blackness exists in all spaces, but’s that’s another post) have for black people. Her name will be a typical “black” name. She will often use AAVE excessively and without reason. She will almost never use proper grammar and will wear clothing considered “ghetto”. She talks with her hands, knows the latest dance moves, listens to rap/hip-hop exclusively, and says things like “YAAAS girlfriend” or “You go girl!” or “You better go get your man!” which the audience will get a few laughs from.
Like the gay best friend, she only exists to uplift the main character and has no story of her own. We will never know anything about her other than the fact that she is black and sassy. She is solely an accessory, something to brandish and use. She is appropriation in human form.
“These stereotypes erase the identities of the people that are stuck in the middle of them and set the ones being stereotyped up against an unrealistic standard.”
Some people may wonder, “What’s the harm? It’s only for fun.” But in actuality, it’s not fun for everyone. Seeing these images, again and again, the minds of young children and teens morph into thinking that all of the often ignorant stereotypes are true. Only now are we starting to publically expand the idea of what the black identity truly is or what composes the gay identity. But for my generation and many others, that did not happen. I see so many women saying that they desperately want a “gay best friend” to go shopping and to talk about boys with as if all gay men want to do is gossip and buy clothes with you.
It has become routine for white girls around me to ogle and giggle when I’m ranting or being a little “sassy” like I’m only there for their own entertainment. Once they find out that I have a profound interest in politics and I won’t let them say the N-word, they start to lose interest in a friendship.
These stereotypes erase the identities of the people that are stuck in the middle of them and set the ones being stereotyped up against an unrealistic standard. For people who have never met a black person or gay person (of course black people can be gay, I’m just categorizing them for the purpose of this post), these images are their only experience of these communities, this is all that they know.
Often when they meet an actual black girl or gay man and they don’t meet their expectations, the excitement will die down as they realize that we are actual people with stories and complexities and aren’t looking for anyone to collect us up and use us as a prop.