Six Feet Under: America’s MOST IMPORTANT TV Portrayal of Gay Relationships?

SIX FEET UNDER: THE 2001 TV SERIES THAT HELPED BREAK DOWN BARRIERS FOR QUEER REPRESENTATION ON MAINSTREAM TV

Six Feet Under is set in an eerie house in the suburbs of Los Angeles. The house is home to the Fisher Family: a complicated set of siblings, with an emotionally unstable mother, Ruth, at the helm. The show explores the lives of each of the siblings, Nate, David, and Claire, following the death of their father, Nathaniel. If that wasn’t depressing enough, the series is also set in a funeral home.

Six feet under The Fisher Family
The Fisher Family (Rolling Stone)

One of the main storylines in Six Feet Under is between LA cop Keith, and the younger Fisher son, David. The interracial relationship between David and Keith was one of the first positive and realistic portrayals of gay love on US mainstream TV. Although the show is often overlooked, David and Keith’s relationship played an important part in educating America on the realities of same-sex relationships. Here are some of the reasons why you should give it a watch.

A realistic gay love story?

Six Feet Under – bear in mind it was made in the early 2000s – has one of the most honest and transparent gay love stories in TV history. One of the main reasons for this claim is because of its realism. The series doesn’t shy away from showcasing the difficulties of navigating society as a gay man. In series 1 and 2, Keith and David are having issues accepting their sexuality. David is looking for answers through God and the church, whereas Keith is using sex to mask his insecurities. Although not the case for all gay people or couples, the show explores some deep psychological questions about accepting that you are different to mainstream society.

A different take on “coming out”

Earlier on in the show, David decides to come out to his mother, Ruth. Although Ruth had some outdated thoughts, she accepts David and seems to move on relatively quickly.  Sometimes coming out to the world is the first hurdle. But what sometimes follows is accepting it yourself. Whilst David is looking for acceptance from his mother, David realises that it is himself who is struggling to come to terms with it. Often TV shows focus on the dynamics between the parents and child, whereas Six Feet Under offers a unique take by reflecting the ‘coming out’ storyline back on David himself.

David and Keith are a main storyline

Six Feet Under
Keith and David (HBO)

It’s no secret that many mainstream TV dramas add token gay characters to zest up a show. Often these characters are on the periphery of major storylines, and if they have storylines, then they are superficial or inferior to others. However, in Six Feet Under, David and Keith are one of the main focuses’ of the show. Not only do they receive a lot of airtime, but their story is also both complicated and beautiful, fun and serious. Six Feet Under has rejected the gay cliché and made their relationship the dramatic and complex storyline it deserves.

Breaking stereotypes: David and Keith continue the family legacy

Six Feet Under begins with the death of Nathaniel Fisher, a father, a husband, and the head of the family funeral business. It had always been Nathaniel’s wish to pass on the business to his sons, David and Nate. Nate, the straight son, has always avoided responsibility. Nate is petrified of death, and so, has done everything in his life to avoid taking it on. David, the younger of the two, was left to take on the burden, despite sacrificing his personal dreams and ambitions. In many cases, fathers are negative about their sons being gay due to an unfounded fear that they cannot continue the family legacy. What’s beautiful about Six Feet Under is that a gay couple, David and Keith, are the reliable ones. They manage to keep the business running, and even move into the family home to keep the legacy alive.

Although not perfect, Six Feet Under is a ground-breaking show in a variety of different ways. The show’s executive producer, Alan Ball, was instrumental in showing America a different side to gay relationships. In the early 2000s, the concept of gay marriage and adoption was even more taboo than it is today. TV and Film in this period were even more geared towards amplifying negative stereotypes of gay people, and their inability to live normal lives. Six Feet Under embraces stereotypes, but it also shifts perspectives, and in the process, it urges the audience to challenge their preconceived ideas of what it means to be gay and to live life as a gay man. Six Feet Under is more than a TV show, it is an education to those who need it, and for that reason, it’s one of America’s most important portrayals of Gay love.

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