QUEER VOICES

Here's How 'Murphy Brown' Educated Viewers On Gay History In 1994

One episode of the CBS series showed how queer people have always been present through the ages, whether straight people knew it or not.

Thirty years ago, “Murphy Brown” set a precedent in terms of its portrayal of women in the workforce. The CBS series, which debuted in 1988, also boasted a forward-thinking approach to LGBTQ issues, Seattle-based writer Matt Baume has found. 

In the latest installment of his “Culture Cruise” video series, Baume breaks down a 1994 “Murphy Brown” episode called “The Anchorman.” The show previously featured an LGBTQ-centric storyline in a 1992 episode titled “Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are.” But by comparison, “The Anchorman” offered viewers a “heaping dose of gay lovers, queer history and wanton singing of show tunes” at a time when the television landscape was considerably less LGBTQ inclusive than it is today, Baume said.  

“The Anchorman” follows Brown’s TV station co-worker Jim Dial (played by Charles Kimbrough), as he decides to buy a neighborhood watering hole and redesign it to resemble the London pubs of his youth. It’s only when Jim’s co-workers drop by their pal’s new establishment that he discovers he has inadvertently opened a gay bar. 

As Baume explains, “The Anchorman” breaks away from other TV depictions of LGBTQ life at the time because it was focused on a place rather than a specific character or person. The episode also winks at gay men throughout history, including author Christopher Isherwood, playwright Tennessee Williams and former Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank. In doing so, Baume told HuffPost, “The Anchorman” becomes “an opportunity to learn about just how many queer folks there are around in [viewers’] day-to-day lives and also that gays have always been present throughout history whether straight people knew it or not.”

With each day that goes by, the closet moves closer and closer to being an artifact of the past. With any luck, it’s one classic that’ll never get a reboot. Seattle-based writer Matt Baume

The “Murphy Brown” revival, which debuted in September, has maintained its embrace of LGBTQ themes, specifically with the character of social media expert Pat Patel (played by Nik Dodani), who came out as gay in an early episode. 

The show’s writers keep the new version feeling current by making sure the queer character is in on the laugh, Baume said. 

“Every time a queer person asserted their very existence, they became a little more a part of everyday life,” he explained. “With each day that goes by, the closet moves closer and closer to being an artifact of the past. With any luck, it’s one classic that’ll never get a reboot.” 

HuffPost

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