Ryan Murphy didn’t always have the creative capital that he enjoys now. The showrunner of a number of TV series including Glee, American Crime Story, and the upcoming Feud, recently discussed the struggles of making his first show, Popular, which aired for two seasons on the WB from 1999 to 2001, on the inaugural episode of Todd VanDerWerff’s podcast, I Think You’re Interesting. Murphy remembers how he would get notes from executives like, “Could this character be less gay?” and “The language coming out of this character’s mouth seems very flamboyant, which we think is too gay and will offend some of our viewers, can you take that out?” Murphy has discussed his struggles with the network in the past, noting that the character the WB had taken particular issue with was camp goddess Mary Cherry.
“They were interested in gay people who were tragic,” Murphy said. “They were interested if you were gay and you would kill yourself. Or if you would try and commit suicide. They weren’t interested in gay sensibility, or the language of being gay, which is sometimes not just gay characters.”
But one meeting with an executive went beyond the pale. “I had one meeting with an executive about a script, and I showed up at the meeting, and he started imitating my voice, and making feminine hand gestures — which I don’t have — and I never thought my voice was gay until he repeated it back to me,” Murphy said. “I literally was stunned into silence and he was being really, really brutal to me. I was very pained by it. I’d never understood it. But right from the beginning of my career, interestingly enough, I did feel homophobia and I did feel ‘no,’ and I remember one of my early agents was fired for being gay. This was in the mid-’90s, if you can imagine.”
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