Coming Out as Homophobic: Isaiah Washington and the Grey's Anatomy Scandal
In late 2006 and early 2007, a high-profile celebrity scandal developed around Isaiah Washington's use of an anti-gay slur to describe his co-star T. R. Knight. The mainstream media coverage of this scandal positioned homophobia primarily in therapeutic and confessional terms, echoing the typical treatment of a celebrity's coming out. As the “angry black man,” Washington failed to satisfy the criteria for neoliberal citizenship and seemed to confirm white culture's fears about black masculinity. Knight, in contrast, emerged as a successful neoliberal citizen whose “difference” was safely contained. The debate thus shifted from the morality of homophobia to the morality and psychological health of the individual, determined through Washington's failed performance of honesty and Knight's successful one. As a result, heteronormativity and white privilege remained largely unnoticed within mainstream coverage of the scandal.