'Nashville': Will Lexington, Steve Grand, and the struggle of the gay country singer

Nashville is one of the most boring shows on television, I’ve noted MANY TIMES BEFORE, but it’s worth discussing almost just for the possibility that it one day explore something interesting: about its characters, and maybe more realistically the actual Nasvhille/country music scene on which it builds its fictional world. There is a fascinating show buried deep, deep under layers of soap operatics and Connie Britton’s criminal fedoras that explores the ins and outs of a business most of us know nothing about. And producers have actually come close to exploring it a few times — most recently tonight, with the gay singer Will Lexington and his struggle to come out from or stay in the closet.

Gunnar has known that Will is not the woman-pleasing lothario he’s pretended for so much of his life to be. Will’s bride-to-be doesn’t know. And more importantly, the record company — specifically Jeff Fordham of Edgehill records — doesn’t know . Would they hold onto him, a gay musician, in a genre landscape that’s shockingly inhospitable to people like him? Would being gay effectively signal the end of his career?

Looking at tonight’s episode, it’s safe to say that Will and Jeff sure think so! “You don’t have the damnedest idea what I’m up against!” Will screams at Gunnar as he smashes a beer bottle against the wall. Later, Jeff corners Gunnar at a show to confide his suspicions. “I’m not talking about Will’s talent. I’m talking about his sexuality. It won’t fly in country music, ever.” So based on Nashville’s internal logic, yeah — Will’s in kind of a tough spot.

And anyway, this plot doesn’t exist strictly in the boring fantasia that is fictional Nashville. Undoubtedly writers took as inspiration the YouTube-spawned Steve Grand, whose song “All-American Boy” last summer became an immediate viral sensation. You want a gay country star? Here you go:

Steve Grand on YouTube

It’s kind of an amazing video. Maybe 2 minutes longer than it needs to be, but filled with whiskey-chugging and joy riding and skinny-dipping and wouldn’t you know it, some saucy gay lip-locking. No less impressive is the fact that the guy shot it himself, and is funding his forthcoming (potentially May) EP release via Kickstarter.

Then again, it’s also hard to say whether the grassroots effort exists because Steve Grand’s sexual orientation prevented him from getting any traction or simply because this is the route he decided to take. As with all things, probably somewhere in the middle. So with that in mind, it’s difficult to precisely trace the realism of Will’s fictional Nashville predicament. Would he truly find the world of country music inhospitable as a gay artist?

Ultimately it doesn't matter. On a show obsessed with keeping order (and occasionally throwing in a pill-popping subplot) this storyline is the closest Nashville has come to covering something genuinely interesting and politically relevant. So whether Luke's trajectory dramatizes cold truths or reinforces false assumptions, I'm onboard. At least the show is trying here.

Image: ABC