Despite the presence of gay characters on TV, there are still no openly gay actors on television, and that’s a problem. The real problem with Ellen wasn’t that her character was gay, or that there were too many gay themed shows, as some people claimed.
It was that Ellen Degeneres, not the character Ellen Morgan, was gay. During the debate over ratings and issues that surrounded the cancellation of her show, the example that proves that point, the real reason the show was no longer on the air, got overlooked.
During Ellen’s last season, there was an evening in which Ellen show aired at 9 p.m. Airing that same night at 8 p.m. there was an episode of Spin City. On that show, the gay character Carter, (played by a heterosexual man) kisses the heterosexual character Mike Flaherty as a joke. The fact that it happened was practially ignored, except that it aired as the promo for the show for days before hand.
That same evening on Ellen at 9 p.m., Ellen Morgan, a gay character, kisses her heterosexual friend Paige as a joke. Not only was it a big deal, it was given a warning prior to the show, and was universally criticized afterwards.
What was the difference between the two events? Both featured a gay character kissing a straight character in a romantic way, but as a joke. The only difference was that one of the real-life actors in the second show was gay in real life.