Lance Loud, the charismatic eldest son of the family, emerged as the leading personality of the series, making no secret of his gay lifestyle in episode two. A gregarious, free-spirited youth, he was the first openly homosexual person to appear on television as an integral member of American family life. Loud became a very public personality, inspiring legions of young people, both gay and straight, to feel free to be who they were and who they wanted to be.
Having his life scrutinized on television had its benefits and it burdens. Loud, emerging as a gay icon overnight, became a television star simply by being himself, and for a time he reaped the benefits of fame, becoming a rock and roll performer and, later, a writer and columnist for Interview, American Film, Details and The Advocate. On the other hand, Loud's most famous quote was "Television ate my family," referring to scars left on the Louds after having their lives laid bare before a national audience. In the end, Loud reportedly found that celebrity was hollow. Nothing could ever measure up to that initial burst of notoriety and he spent years trying to find himself again, struggling through substance abuse and other dark episodes.
The Loud family, according to the Raymonds, "had shunned all public attention in recent years and did not readily welcome returning to television." As a last request, Lance Loud asked and convinced everyone with the exception of his younger brother Grant to participate willingly and lovingly in the making of this final chapter, demonstrating the strength and unity of his family in standing by him.
According to the filmmakers, Loud often spoke of not wanting to be perceived as a gay icon and a publicly homosexual figure, but rather as simply "an outsider, a rebel, someone always living on society's edge." Near the end of his life he wrote, "Make no mistake. This is not to emphasize the sadness of my demise but rather emphasize the love of my family and friends. When my time comes up, I want to be filmed because life this past year has taught me so much. I also stand as a role model as to what not to do in one's life."
Funding for Lance Loud! A Death In An American Family is provided by PBS, the Corporation of Public Broadcasting and the Independent Television Service (ITVS).
Lance Loud! A Death in An American Family is a presentation of WETA and ITVS, and was made possible
by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Public Broadcasting Service.