Billy Crystal Says Gay Sex Scenes on TV Are "Pushing It a Little Too Far," Insults Everyone

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 18: Executive producer/writer/actor Billy Crystal speaks onstage during the 'The Comedians' panel discussion at the FX Networks portion of the Television Critics Association press tour at Langham Hotel on January 18, 2015 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
Source: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

After television has taken many steps forward with LGBT storylines, it took a big step back this week. At The Comedians' Television Critics Association winter press tour panel, Billy Crystal said that gay sex scenes are too graphic on TV, explaining, "Sometimes I think, ‘Ah that’s too much for me. Sometimes, it’s just pushing it a little too far for my taste." The 66-year-old actor actually played one of the first gay series regulars on late '70s show Soap, which makes his commentary that much more baffling. He noted that his time on the show was "awkward" and "tough" because of the audience's uncomfortable feelings about same-sex relationships, telling a story about his experience filming. "I did it in front of a live audience and there were times when I would say to Bob [Seagren], ‘I love you,’ and the audience would laugh nervously. I wanted to stop the taping and go, ‘What is your problem?'" 

Considering how Crystal wanted to confront potentially-homophobic people back then, what has changed in the past 40 years? He does not seem intolerant of the gay storylines happening, but if there are going to be graphic sex scenes with straight couples, what's the difference with gay characters? For example, there have definitely been some boundary-pushing gay love scenes on Shonda Rhimes' shows How to Get Away With Murder and Scandal. However, Scandal also had a phone sex scene and much more graphic moments with Olivia and Fitz, Olivia and Jake, and Olivia and herself than what's happened with HTGAWM'S Cyrus Beene and his prostitute fiance, or with Connor and his hookups. 

As Daniel Fienberg from HitFix told Xfinity, "Anything that’s outside of the norm is going to attract attention. Straight sex can be steamy and kinky and varied on TV, but gay sex has usually been a kiss and 'fade to black.'" Basically, people are not used to seeing men be physical with each other on TV, so the shock value causes more uproar. Shonda Rhimes recently went on a rant when someone criticized the "gay scenes" on HTGAWM, explaining, "There are no GAY scenes. There are scenes with people in them."

One thing Crystal isn't talking about is how gay storylines dive much deeper on television. Sure, there's a lot of hooking up happening on HBO's Looking, but the show also tackles emotional relationship issues, friendship drama, and problems at work — not just who is having sex with whom. Showtime's Shameless also had a groundbreaking storyline last season when Mickey came out and embarked in a real relationship with Ian after years of being both closeted and extremely homophobic. Transparent, the Amazon show about a transgender woman, also won two Golden Globes this year, and Orange Is the New Black's myriad of incredible LGBT relationships and characters has garnered many award nominations and a few wins, particularly for star Uzo Aduba. They're winning because they're great shows, end of story.

And when it comes to network TV, we have Kurt and Blaine on Glee who have dealt with complex relationship issues over the past few seasons as their relationship has changed and moved — physically, from Ohio to New York, and emotionally as they struggle with success in the Big Apple — and the same with Callie and Arizona on Grey's. There is also Will's struggle on Nashville as he comes out of the closet, Emily dealing with long-distance relationship woes with Paige on Pretty Little Liars, and Cameron and Mitchell's married-with-kids lifestyle on Modern Family, among many others. 

With such a variety of dynamics and types of relationships, Crystal doesn't have to focus on just the sex scenes of gay characters, and if he does, it should be because of what any sex scene adds or takes away from a show, not who is bumping uglies.

Image: HBO

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