Hi Honey, I'm Homo!
Sitcoms, Specials, and the Queering of American Culture
by Matt Baume
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Pub Date 23 May 2023 | Archive Date Not set
BenBella Books, Smart Pop
—Dan Savage, journalist and author, on the "Savage Lovecast"
Behind the scenes of the most popular sitcoms of the 20th century, a revolution was brewing.
For decades, amidst the bright lights, studio-audience laughs, and absurdly large apartment sets, the real-life story of American LGBTQ+ liberation unfolded in plain sight in front of millions of viewers, most of whom were laughing too hard to mind.
From flamboyant relatives on Bewitched to closely-guarded secrets on All in the Family, from network-censor fights over Soap to behind-the-scenes activism on the set of The Golden Girls, from Ellen’s culture clash and Will & Grace’s mixed reception to Modern Family’s primetime power-couple, Hi Honey, I’m Homo! is the story not only of how subversive queer comedy transformed the American sitcom, from its inception through today, but how our favorite sitcoms transformed, and continue to transform, America.
Accessible, entertaining, and informative, Hi Honey, I’m Homo! features commentary and interviews from celebrities, behind-the-scenes creators, and more.
Average rating from 20 members
This book lived up to its humorous title and presented a master class in the exploration of queer themes and storylines in the American sitcom industry over the past four decades.
For those unaware, Matt Baume is writer and video essayist, his videos delving into the intersection between queer identity and popular culture have garnered a respectable following due in large part to his ability to adeptly balance in depth research with humorous presentation. And those were on full display in this book, it was witty, insightful, and well researched with enough behind the scenes detail to really sink your teeth into. The story of queer representation in media, as Baume relates, is a story of ups and downs, achievements and setbacks, overall a far more realistic and interesting history than a simplified gradual upward trajectory. Baume also expertly draws connections between these shows and the real life legal and cultural struggles LGBTQ Americans faced while they were on the air, demonstrating the interplay between media and real life events. The main thesis of the book, and one the author proves in my opinion, is that media does have real world effects; the way minority groups are represented (or not) on television does in fact matter a great deal.
Entertaining writing, a clear eyed grasp of the issues, and a meticulous attention to detail are the bedrock of this sweeping narrative history; it’s a must read for any fan of the sitcom genre or anyone interested in the history of queer representation in media.
I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley. My thoughts and opinions are my own.
I'm actually a huge fan of the author's Youtube page dedicated to, well, the topic of this book. Matt Baume analyzes milestones in queer pop culture through primarily TV shows. He does a pretty deep dive.
The book to some extent repurposes those topics and scripts while expanding upon them. As someone who does love his content, I must confess I wish there was new material. If you're unfamiliar with his work, this should be quite the treat.
As a GenXer, the shows he covers are truly the shows I grew up with, from toddlerhood to well into adulthood. Allow me to have a moment to weep. Watching Matt Baume's content, and now reading the book, really made me search my memory on how the episodes in question shaped me. I mean, obviously I was converted, and the actor who played Beverly Lasalle on All in the Family got a toaster oven. (This is a joke. I'm joking. Well...?)
One of the covered shows is All in the Family. Looking at the show now, so much of the language would never make the air, but for different reasons than were contentious at the time. I was 3, I believe, when the show premiered, so I grew up with the idea of Archie as out of touch, and Edith as downtrodden and kind in the way the older women in my family and community were. But I knew that if Edith thought someone was a good person, then they were, and I'm sure that must have made an impact.
As a kid, I was OBSESSED with reruns of Bewitched, and my burgeoning feminism was on display with my irritation that Sam was this amazing women who was constantly told by her husband not to be her amazing, creative self. I'd daydream about the magnificent life and marriage they could have had if he wasn't such a drip. This is why I married a Dale, not a Derwood, and why I say affirmations.
Matt Baume explored the show through another (related) lens, that I was less conscious of at the time. That the metaphor I picked up on works for a wide swath of people who felt they had to, in the words of the Beatles, hide their love away. They love being literal attraction and romantic bonds, but also creativity, the pressure to conform to gender norms -- whatever suburban normalcy dictates.
It occurs to me that even at a time when so many people were expected to be closeted, so many of those same people were my favorite people, and when the other penny dropped I was probably a much better person because they were employed by directors, and producers, and, oh, game show makers. Uncle Arthur was, after all, also the center square, and Charles Nelson Reilly was great on Match Game. (Matt Baume does do more in depth profiles of these men on Youtube, as well as Leslie Jordan, and George Takei.)
And that's at least a little bit the point. I wonder if younger readers will wonder why so many of the portrayals and the story lines were so elementary, so lacking in sophistication that Mr. Rogers would find it condescending, but these shows met people where they were, and helped shape the people who could only marvel now at sitcom characters that need to be told 5 different ways from Sunday that someone is gay.
To circle back to game shows, my husband and I have been watching reruns of What's My Line, which ran in the 50s and 60s. It's fascinating to view culture through that lens. The host would ask every woman, unless she was famous, if she was a miss or mrs. Any question that the often blindfolded panel would ask that inadvertently misgendered someone would be met with laughter, and always there was the assumption of heteronormativity -- that there simply were no other options. But the panel was stacked with sophisticated people, one the founder of Random House books, others who'd worked in the theater. They knew better, but it took other shows, other influential people, only pioneers, other people fighting for their rights, to speak the name of the "love that dare not speak it's name."
The fact that I know I've descended into long-windedness speaks to how thought provoking this book is, and how much I think the reader will enjoy it whether they're learning about these shows for the first time, or if they cut their teeth on them.
In my dream world, there would have been more material -- maybe on game shows, or on moments that didn't warrant their own chapter, but this shouldn't affect someone new to the material, and even people who are familiar should enjoy the elaboration.
My only other issue is minor. Each chapter was kinda treated as independent from the whole in some ways, much like Matt Baume would do in his videos, not assuming you'd seen previous content. But these chapters do exist in the same book, so sometimes the background "these were the initiatives and the zeitgeist of the moment" material was repetitious, especially when the shows in questions aired simultaneously or close on the heels of one another.
Absolutely recommend. When I released I'd been approved for an ARC, I reversed my pre-order of the audiobook, but I think I'm going to go on ahead and reinstate it. If you're a nerd like me, you might enjoy looking up the episodes and moments the author covers. (Shame on you, Marcus Welby!)
This was so good. I really enjoyed the exploration of media throughout history and how it directly impacts the way people feel about serious political issues. I haven’t seen a majority of the sitcoms mentioned in this book but, now I know they exist, I definitely will.
This book also followed a similar theme that the sitcoms the author spoke of did, delivering messages through humour! It was gripping, easy to read and very informative
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an arc of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I really enjoyed this book! It takes a look at queer themes and subtexts in sitcoms across the decades, and links them to cultural and political events happening during the time of the sitcom. I learned so much about queer history, and the role television has played in impacting LGBTQIA+ rights. The author had the perfect mix of humour and information in this book, and it was such an enjoyable reading experience.
Informative recap of queer representation throughout the ages via sitcoms. We follow shows from Bewitched to Will & Grace to more recently Modern Family. As we delve into the characters Matt Baume also provides context to the political climate during the time.
I do enjoy how much background we get as to the creation of the show, the symbolism, pushback, and support, as well as the climate during the time of the show's run. This was a bit textbook-y for my taste, in the sense there wasn't much personality in the text for me. As informative as this is, I wanted a little more.
For me, the best passages were Friends (discussing Chandler Bing himself) and Will & Grace. Particularly with Will & Grace since that show was the introduction to gay characters for me, I enjoyed reading about the history.
Still, great ready if you want to learn more about queer culture in media and the progression from little winks and nods to full blown acknowledgment.
Wow, what a fascinating read - accessible, yet thorough. Baume uncovers the invisible forces and connections between the evolution of homosexual culture and the emergence of television as an actor for social change. While some of the shows featured in the book are well-known for their fearlessness in tackling the controversial issues of the day, Baume illuminates new ideas and anecdotes that even the staunchest fans of programs like the Golden Girls, Will & Grace, Friends, or All in the Family are likely to have overlooked. This, mixed with chapters devoted to shows less associated with the gay rights movement, like Barney Miller and Dinosaurs, make for an overall engaging read. I devoured this book, and am grateful to have a new cadre of examples to pull from in my course modules covering the relationship between pop culture and social change.
I'm absolutely amazed by how well Matt Baume integrated context and history into these discussions of queerness in sitcoms. I thought each chapter would be a recap of episodes or characters featuring queer content, but each show, episode, and character discussed was laid out alongside current events, major turning points in LGBTQ+ history, and contemporary attitudes toward queer people of the time periods. It's all very well researched and accessible. Baume's writing style is engaging, humorous, and fun.
I will absolutely be using excerpts of this book in my classroom, but it was a good time to read for pleasure too!
Just as America has entered another era of hysteria over LGBTQIA+ representation in the media, YouTuber and LGBTQIA+ historian Matt Baume has gifted the world this book. Hi Honey, I'm Homo chronicles the evolution of Queer representation on television, behind-the-scenes stories of the people who made it happen, and the influence of fictional LGBTQIA+ characters on American culture. At the heart of the book is the argument that the introduction of Queer characters on television profoundly impacted American attitudes towards LGBTQIA+ people and that television often acts as a bridge of understanding. Chronicling the history of queer television from Bewitched to Glee, Baume offers an entertaining and illuminating look at the Queer history of the small screen and the often overlooked role it has played in the fight for equality.
Disclosure : I received a free netgalley ARC of this book in exchange for my review. My review is my honest opinion.
Extremely well-written and accessible nonfiction! The author anchors the development of queer representation in sitcoms to historical events in a very comprehensible fashion, showing you how one influenced the other and vice versa.
I have to admit that I'm not interested in US television at all (I chose the book to broaden my knowledge of queer history as my primary field of study is Britain) and it still kept me engaged the whole time and sometimes even made me quite emotional. There is enough background provided of the shows that I could keep up even though I haven't seen any of them except for some episodes of Friends.
I definitely recommend this book to those interested in queer and/or media history.
I received the book on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
This book is fascinating. It’s a well-written thematic history book. It’s accessible and easy to read. The writing style is very conversant and approachable but it is still informative. It looks at the development of queer representation in sitcoms and the relationship between television and current events. This book does a great job of contextualizing the shows discussed both in terms of what was going on nationally as well as what was going on with the studios. This book is really interesting and I highly recommend it.
I did not know about Matt Baum before this book but I’ll definitely be looking him up now. I have always been interested in entertainment history and I have recently become interested in queer history so this book was a no-brained for me. I learned a lot from this book not just about the shows I haven’t seen, but the ones I’ve watched every episode of.
It is a fast & easy read, I devoured this book in a little over a day, & I definitely recommend it for anyone!
I’ve been a subscriber to Matt Baume’s YouTube channel for the past four or five years. I enjoy gossipy “did you know” trivia about TV and movies and Baume’s work covered an area I was particularly invested in: the sitcoms that Gen X grew up on. I have a strong opinion that what was on TV shaped my generation. One of the most popular television shows during my formative years is set in a military hospital during a war—and it’s sitcom! I feel like maybe that does something to a person.
Matt Baume’s investigations are more focused. His specialty is the representation of LGBTQ+ issues in sitcoms. He looks at how LGBTQ+ characters and plots have reflected American attitudes and policies and when those sitcoms have led the way by showing queer people as, you know, people; often vulnerable people who are comedically making the best of the situations they’re in. All this is told against the background of TV history with behind-the-scenes stories about the shows’ creators, many of them also LBGTQ+. Hi Honey, I’m Homo! begins with Bewitched and secretive life its main character, witch Samantha Stephens, and the secretive lives of several of its cast members. From there, the book moves through the 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s, through “wins” and “losses” for gay equality, to the 2010s’ Modern Family. Having clearer memories of later sitcoms, I was surprised by how many story lines in shows like All in the Family and Barney Miller included queer characters.
I was familiar with some of these stories from YouTube, but Hi Honey, I’m Homo! stitches themes and history together, providing more context. It was a quick read and, due to Baume’s comedic style, enjoyable even when topics get heavy. The conclusion of the book looks at the present, in which many gay and trans rights are being threatened and even abolished. If there is a lesson, it’s that there is a cycle of progress and backlash, but progress isn’t made without working toward representation, without fighting to tell stories.
Very informative and honestly, I didn't know the half of it even though I thought I did, so it was eye opening for me to read about what went on behind the scenes.
Brief but entertaining and informative look at how American television sitcoms have portrayed queer characters since the 1960s. Starting with "Bewitched" and ending with "Modern Family," Baume illustrates how the gradual upward trend in queer characters' number and visibility mirrored history, and helped normalize and personalize the average American's experience of queerness.
I'm an Old, so I remember watching "Bewitched" as a young child. It never occurred to me that Samantha's need to hide her witch status from the neighbors could be queer coded. I also had no clue that Paul Lynde's outlandish behavior as Uncle Arthur meant anything beyond the fact that it made him a witty "Hollywood Squares celebrity" (look it up, kids).
Reading about the evolution of Marty M0rrison on "Barney Miller" in the 1970s made me glad that the police sitcom was one of my favorite shows at the time (and yes, it looks different in the face of the "Abolish the Police" movement). The writers took a cliched mincing homosexual, a petty thief at that, and over the years turned him into a well-developed character with a business suit-wearing partner. As Baume notes, even though Marty was a minor recurring character, television viewers had a chance to see for themselves that gay people were not deviant predators. As public perception changed, television adjusted, which then fed into more pubic acceptance.
The book highlights the sitcom directors, producers and writers who pushed back against network suits who feared retaliation by conservative groups. And at the same time they faced criticism from the queer community for not moving far enough or fast enough (e.g., "Modern Family's" gay couple were not allowed to kiss each other in earlier seasons).
Baume's breezy writing style belies the seriousness of the topic. Writing this review in mid-2023, I worry that the latest backlash against LGBTQIA+ and trans persons will reverse the progress and send queer characters back into the shadows. They may only be sitcoms, but if we're headed back to shows with only white cis-het characters like "Leave It to Beaver," we will lose an important avenue for queer visibility.
ARC received from Net Galley in exchange for objective review.
Excellent nonfiction read covering the history of queer issues and visibility in the American sitcom. I've been a viewer of Baume's YouTube videos before, so much of the information presented here isn't exactly new to me, but Hi Honey, I'm Homo! was still well worth reading. One of the strengths of this book is how these television series/episodes are situated into their historical/cultural context. It's often easy to look on representation in television and criticize it for being "not enough" but the much needed context here shows just how important these series were in their context (and still even now).
Hi Honey, I'm Homo! is perfect for viewers of Matt Baume's YouTube channel. However, if you are interested in queer TV history then you do not have to have seen Baume's channel to be captivated and intrigued by this wonderful novel. Matt Baume was able to take readers on a journey through the years and discuss both historical events that were being seen from living rooms as well as ones right outside their door regarding gay rights. By reading this book you really get a feel for what was going on during the airings of not only different episodes featuring gay characters or even developments of TV shows starring gay characters, but it also delves into the historical events in history that lined up with episodes airing. This book is as informative as it is insightful and is a must-read.
I may not care too deeply for non-fiction books but I do care about Queer representation in media!
Hi, honey, I'm homo! Was incredibly funny all the while still remaining informative; it was well-referenced which I appreciated. It takes us through sit-coms through the ages. (meaning the 1960’s-2019)
It begins with introducing us to the first sitcom we’ll be looking at: Bewitched, a show about a closet witch who needs to hide her true self so that she can be safe, all the way to our last sitcom: Modern Family.
It’s interesting how we get to see queer representation in media evolve from a straight couple hiding a secret to a drag queen being featured in a recurring role to an explosion of queer characters popping up all over the place with varying levels of success. I am delighted by the current amount of representation we’re seeing in today's shows however the book doesn’t neglect to mention the current issues we’re facing today such as the erasure of any representation a large majority doesn’t see fit– we, unfortunately, can trace resurging behaviours back not even 60 years ago.
This book addresses the aids crisis, family viewing hour, a nation's bigotry and improving opinions; it details why representation matters and I think it’s a very worthy read; important even
This was such a fun read -- starting with the catchy title and the subtitle - "Sitcoms, Specials, and the Queering of American Culture" - Baume does a great job giving an overview of TV sitcoms that either had gay undertones (Like Bewitched) or had gay themes as a part of the plot (Soap, Will and Grace). Baume does an effective job describing the context of what was happening in society and politically regarding LGBTQ+ rights and perceptions by straight Americans. Because of the societal context, some creators, showrunners and writers were able to demand that the episodes aired as intended but many compromises had to be made along the way particularly when networks added a "censor" bureau. Because I grew up with many of these shows, I very much appreciated looking at them through a new lens. I teared up at some of the dialogue he quotes from Edith in "All in the Family" to the Golden Girls. This is a real gem of a book and was a quick and entertaining read. I highly recommend this book!
Thank you to Netgalley and BenBella Books, for an ARC and I am leaving this honest review voluntarily.
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