TIME-SLOT: Wednesdays, 9.30 pm
What can a Christian do with an immensely funny, insightful comedy – that parodies the life of a homosexual window dresser? Well, not over-react for a start. Beautiful People built on the one thing Christians have in common with the gay community: rejection.
Beautiful People is a BBC comedy that follows the travails of “… a slightly fey school boy in humdrum Redding.” Simon Noonan is an effeminate, artistic child who struggles to fit into his stolid, working class suburb. Above all, he dreams of exchanging his peculiar family – a brassy mother, a fermenting father, a loose sister and a blind auntie – for some far away, fabulous fashion set. Each episode his best friend Kyle (a boy who demands to be known as ‘Kylie’) decry their style-deficient surroundings and engage in a familiar mantra:
Simon: “When we are older we are going to get out of Redding – and where will we be?
Simon: “And who will we live amongst?”
Kylie: “The beautiful people.”
Beautiful People is based on the childhood memoirs of writer Simon Doonan. It is something of a gay icon show but it makes it to Auntie by way of a fairly familiar Hollywood bridge. In many mainstream gay storylines, like In & Out and My Best Friend’s Wedding, ‘gay’ is taken to reflect a particularly developed attitude towards fashion, music, dance, style – in fact anything but sexuality. It’s a big omission given that the series is based on the lives of two fourteen year old boys, however the result is a fairly camp but safe comedy regarding family relationships.
Christians can quite rightly wince at another production lending so much sympathy and glamour to a lifestyle that deliberately rejects God’s idea of masculinity. However, if the series can be paired from its origins, there are some good things to note. To begin with, Simon clearly comes from a supportive family that is more interested in their son’s emotional well-being than making him conform to mainstream ideas of manhood. Andy (dad) reminds Debbie (mum):
“We said we’d do things different to our parents and we have. I won’t bully my son into being something he’s not.”
Ultimately the child-character Simon Doonan discovers that the ‘beautiful people’ he hopes to fill his life with are already there in his misfit but supportive family. In that respect Beautiful People is a tongue-in-cheek reminder of what a positive effect parents can have on their children’s lives, even if they struggle with their own.
More importantly, the comedy of the series centres on the difficulty people have when their life-direction is pilloried by the mainstream. Seen this way, it would have been just as easy to remove the ‘gay’ Simon and substitute a ‘Christian’ Josh with very little difference to the outcome. The potential for fish-out-of-water humour is just as high, as is the sympathy. Simon is mocked by his school-mates, so is Josh. Simon is interested in things that seem peculiar for people his age, likewise Josh. Simon’s behaviour is disturbing and ‘unnatural’ to his parents, again Josh. Interestingly the advice offered by the real Simon Doonan for gays coping with parents who can’t accept their choices is just as appropriate for Christians in similar situations:
“At some point you have to stop looking to [your parents] to give you little gold stars – and they’ll respect you for that.”
Which just goes to show that Christians have a very real ability to understand the social struggles that gays go through in their attempts to find themselves, even if they can’t approve of their choice. We know what it is like to be aliens in this world, longing to finally live amongst similarly minded ‘beautiful people’. The only difference is that while the gay community struggles to carve a place for itself in this world, Christians know such efforts will always disappoint. Only the next world will deliver a fabulous existence.