To Be Or Not To Be

Written by Harrison Cheung

AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE fans debate about a lot of things that take place on the show. One of the more persistent and liveliest topics of conversation is whether or not middle kid, Oliver Otto, is gay.

Let's see how this evolved.

By the middle of the first season, Oliver (Daniel DiMaggio) had reluctantly invited friends over for an escape room birthday party, and that was the first appearance of Cooper Bradford (Logan Pepper), a clueless, preppy, shallow and uber-rich classmate who took a shine to Oliver and his family.  The trajectory of Cooper's bond with the Otto's was primarily focused on Cooper having absentee parents, so he enjoyed the Otto's homecooked meals (meatloaf!) and traditional middle class nuclear family structure. 

Oliver and Cooper quickly became "bros" though it seemed a lot of their friendship was based on Oliver's admiration of Cooper's family riches and a family mansion with its own theater and bowling alley.  Oliver was devastated when he thought Cooper was snubbing him over Instagram. Cooper had posted pictures of a family yachting vacation, so Oliver jumped to the conclusion that he was just Cooper's charity case friend.

By the time Oliver and Cooper practice unfastening bras off each other, even parents Katie and Greg were exchanging looks at the possibility that Oliver was gay. When they found Oliver's vision board, which featured photos of shirtless men, Cooper and Ashton Kutcher, Katie was thrilled, imagining a mother/son vacation on a gay cruise. Oliver explained the vision board as aspirational of what he wants in life - abs, designer clothes, success (and Cooper?). Later in that episode, when Katie and Greg see Oliver reciting a love scene opposite Taylor's boyfriend, Greg noted, "He's either as good an actor as Ian McKellen or he's as gay as Ian McKellen."

Whatever Oliver's sexuality, he definitely remained materialistic and opportunistic. Angling for any kind of admissions advantage to get into Harvard, Oliver comes up with a scheme to become a ballet dancer and at one point develops "calf envy" when he admires the legs of another male dancer. Oliver becomes the companion to Spencer Blitz (George Hamilton), their rich next door neighbor, a senior citizen and ex-con, initially with the hopes of becoming his heir.  In one of my favorite Oliver episodes, he competes with his grandmother (Wendie Malick) for Spencer's affections and place on his will. Grandma triumphantly pulls the sex card but loses to Oliver who ends up inheriting Spencer's wealth for all of a minute when Spencer's video will goes on to change his mind.

But hold the phone, by Season 3, both Oliver and Cooper had girlfriends though eventually the girlfriends were written out of the show.  Season 4, Oliver has ditched ballet school but we have the infamous "bro" episode where Oliver does everything possible to stop Cooper from declaring his love to his girlfriend.  That episode ends with the two buds declaring their love for each other - "bro" love, of course, nothing more. 

And this year's mid-season cliffhanger centered on how Oliver would handle being called gay on social media after he talked to a closeted football player on a teen hotline.  (Oliver had landed the teen hotline gig by pretending he was the son of a lesbian mix-race couple). At school, Oliver and Cooper are delighted to be thought of as gay since being a "minority" might help Oliver's Harvard application. The funny thing about this particular episode is that neither sister, Taylor, or Oliver's ex-girlfriend were surprised about the gay rumor. 

Whether or not Oliver is gay, this brings up the issue of fan involvement with a show's evolution. Should Oliver be gay just because some fans want it? There is already an AH character who is openly gay - Katie's bestie, Angela. 

The other issue is that in this era of growing diversity and representation, should 15 year old Daniel DiMaggio, who is straight, be playing a gay character?  There's a lot of fluidity on primetime. MODERN FAMILY won praise for having portrayed a gay couple though critics pointed out that only one of the actors was actually gay. In a recent episode with David Beckham, Luke (Nolan Gould) had no qualms about being with the "guy in the hot tub." The acclaimed ABC Family drama, THE FOSTERS, had a straight 13 year old child actor, Hayden Byerly, portray a gay character very early on in the series with a history-making 'youngest LGBT kiss on national TV.' And of course, straight actor Eric McCormack has played gay Will in WILL AND GRACE for over 10 years.

Whether a straight actor should portray a gay character, there's still the question of serving the story.  For a sitcom like AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE, there are lots of comic possibilities if Oliver (and Cooper) explore their sexuality.  There's also the option of being bisexual, pansexual, but AH is not THE FOSTERS though Katie and Greg are clearly okay with having a gay son.  AH could also be thinking about  attracting the MODERN FAMILY audience which became a lot more sexually sophisticated as the Dunphy kids became young adults.

AH has already poked fun at Oliver's puberty with a number of jokes about masturbation and the infamous 'boner in ballet class' episode.  If AH has exhausted weight jokes about Katie, are they preparing to center on Oliver's love life? Is Daniel DiMaggio up for the challenge?  As Cooper might say, "Quien sabe, mi amigo?"

Share this

Related Posts

Next Post »