cover image Will & Grace

Will & Grace

Tison Pugh. Wayne State Univ, $19.99 trade paper (116p) ISBN 978-0-8143-4906-9

The sitcom Will & Grace was a groundbreaking if flawed landmark of queer representation on television, according to this incisive installment of Wayne State University Press’s TV Milestones series. University of Central Florida English professor Pugh (Queer Oz) lauds the show for lampooning the prejudices of anti-gay conservatives by turning “right-wing rhetoric upside down,” as when the character Jack McFarland quips, “Heterosexual marriage is just wrong. I mean, if God had intended man and woman to be together, he would have given them both penises.” Because the show was subject to the restrictions of network television, however, its “treatment of queer sexualities consistently teetered between pushing boundaries and reinstating borders.” Protagonist Will Truman’s characterization came under fire for being too stereotypically feminine or too masculine, depending on the critic, and, as Pugh notes, the sitcom’s original run was much more timid about depicting Will’s sexuality than Grace’s heterosexual escapades. Examining the show’s 2017 revival, Pugh contends that Will & Grace’s depictions of queer life had fallen behind the times (a 2020 episode centered on Will’s reluctance to view bisexuality as real). The evenhanded analysis balances a love for the sitcom with a clear-eyed assessment of its shortcomings. The result is an insightful study of queer representation in the early 2000s. (Sept.)