The Evolution of Gay Mac in ‘It’s Always Sunny’
No character on television better represents the intention of their show better than Ronald McDonald (aka gay Mac) of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The show has humorously tackled many social and political issues over the years, and its irreverent tone and chaotic nature have garnered a massive fan base.
Like all great comedies, It’s Always Sunny has a handful of long-running jokes, such as Dennis being a sociopathic sexual predator, Charlie’s obsession with a waitress, Dee’s bird-like appearance, and of course, Mac’s repressed homosexuality, which has made It’s Always Sunny to be the type of show that aims for more than just laughs. From his karate-infused overcompensation to his bodybuilder obsession to his “appreciation” for masculinity, Mac’s journey from closeted Christian to openly gay male has been a memorable one. These are the highlights of that journey.
Cover Photo: Patrick McElhenney/FXX
More ground-breaking television: The Best LGBTQ TV and Movies to Stream for Pride Month
Carmen: The awakening?
It’s unlikely that the writers were aware of gay Mac's pending evolution from the get-go. When the reoccurring transgender character of Carmen shows up in the season one episode “Charlie Has Cancer,” Mac is (supposedly) straight and unaware of her penis until Dennis points it out. The well-endowed love interest causes quite a bit of sexual confusion for Mac; nevertheless, the pair date. Carmen is supposed to call Mac after her sex reassignment surgery, but instead, she marries the High Life guy—who Mac then calls gay. Mac condemns their union via Bible verses, protests gay marriage in the season six episode, “Mac Fights Gay Marriage,” and is just…well…angered by the whole thing.
His God is an awesome God.
Mac is established as a devoted Catholic early on in the show. His religious practices revolve around worshiping a cruel, bigoted God. Actually, Mac's "God hates the gays" delusion is one of the biggest reasons it takes so long for him to embrace who he really is. And yeah, he totally wants to bang that God.
The gang realized early on.
Much like the audience, the other members of Paddy’s Pub become aware of Mac’s internal conflict almost right away. His obvious infatuation with Dennis (the blowup doll later in season 13), obsession with the male form and the Project Badass tapes are a dead giveaway. Mac being the only one unaware of his sexuality becomes a cornerstone of his character. In the season four episode “Mac’s Banging the Waitress,” Dennis and Charlie promptly agree upon one thing:
“Do you think Mac wants to bang us?”
Dude loves dongs.
Some more clues: party invitations shaped like bulging biceps (or dicks?), the "dick towel," and the revealing therapy sessions in the season eight episode, "The Gang Gets Analyzed." All the signs were there.
In the season seven episode, "How Mac Got Fat," we find out that Mac literally just binge ate until he was the same weight as his "beefcake avatar," who he clearly wants to bang.
At the height of frustration came the season nine episode "Mac Day." On a day devoted to doing whatever Mac wants, the gang has to participate in a "badass" version of the seven days of God's creation from the Bible. Mac is joined by his friends and Country Mac (openly gay) as they indulge in activities while wearing cut-off tees. Also, Mac sports an erection while he speaks on the so-called evils of homosexuality.
Almost out but no cigar.
Mac meets a gay couple on a Christian cruise in multi-part season 11 episode, "The Gang Goes to Hell." Knowing only his archaic religious practices (via a church overrun by Vietnamese), Mac finds this shocking. While the rest of the gang attempts to avoid their respective sins (wrath, sloth, and lust), Mac avoids his homosexuality. However, when he does confront the gay couple, it doesn't take long for them to convert Mac to their lifestyle. This leads Mac to a crisis of faith which ultimately subsides when the gang is miraculously saved from drowning.
"If there's a God, there's no way he'd make me queer."
C'mon. What was the line? "It's not a penis, it's a fist." The gang's exhaustion upon the reveal of Mac's exercise bike mirrors the audience's. At this point in the series, Mac has to realize he likes dudes, but somehow he doesn't. It appeared nothing would bring this karate enthusiast out of the closet...but then, it happens...in the same episode.
Mac comes out.
Mac nearly dies in the season 12 episode "Hero or Hate Crime?" His life is saved due to Frank yelling a slur that references Mac latent sexuality. There's also a scratch-off lottery ticket flying around during this piano-dropping incident that everyone wants. The gang hires an arbitrator to help them sort through the mess; enter Ass Pounder 4000. Long story short, Mac has to admit he's gay in order to claim said scratch-off, so he does. Believing he will go back into the closet immediately after claiming the winnings, the gang becomes frustrated with him. He doesn't go back into the closet, but they're still mad they lost.
"It's not a gay thing, it's a Mac thing."
The finding of Ronald MacDonald's pride.
At the beginning of season 13, Mac is, finally, an openly gay man. He spends most of the season uncertain of his place in the world, up until the finale, "Mac Finds His Pride." Mac, having never come out to his father, is encouraged by Frank to do so. The episode brilliantly uses the dichotomy between Mac and Frank as a catalyst for contemporary issues; Frank's bigoted understanding of the LGBTQ community being a major theme.
At the end of the episode, Mac finally comes out to his father courtesy of some sort of emotional interpretative dance. Mac's father does not approve.
Frank gets it.
A crowd of mesmerized convicts witness the finding of Mac's pride. Mac's father leaves his seat, disgusted, as Mac cries. The episode ends with Frank, who finally "gets it." The surprisingly poignant finale proves a show that used to have you believe it does not give AF absolutely does.