That '70s Show

Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s That ’70s Show Cameo Made TV History

Joseph Gordon-Levitt appeared in a brief cameo on That '70s Show season 1, but it was part of a historic episode due to a scene with Topher Grace.


  •  The Joseph Gordon-Levitt That ’70s Show appearance was groundbreaking as it featured the first-ever male-male kissing scene on North American primetime TV.
  •  While the audience reaction to the kiss was mixed, it served as a lesson in representation and highlighted the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ individuals in the 1970s.
  •  The franchise learned from Eric’s negative reaction and incorporated more respectful and accepting queer representation in the follow-up series, That ’90s Show.

Many viewers considered the Joseph Gordon-Levitt That ’70s Show appearance to be a landmark moment for television. The actor played Buddy Morgan in an episode that aired in 1998 during the sitcom’s debut season. After making a name for himself on 3rd Rock from the Sun, Gordon-Levitt guest-starred on the episode titled “Eric’s Buddy.” In the episode, Buddy was paired with the central character, Eric Forman (Topher Grace), as lab partners at school. Buddy was rich and popular and his cool car quickly won over Eric. The lab partners spent a lot of time together, and Eric quickly realized Buddy was more than just his social status.

In reality, Buddy was gay and had a major crush on Eric. Due to Eric’s constant talk about his complicated relationship with Donna Pinciotti, Buddy thought that Eric might also be gay. After a heart-to-heart, Buddy made his move and planted a kiss on Eric. Grace’s character, of course, wasn’t gay and acted in complete shock. Eric came clean to his friends about the encounter, but Buddy was never seen on the show again. The Joseph Gordon-Levitt That ’70s Show stint was brief, but it was significant in TV history.

Why Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Cameo On That ’70s Show Was So Groundbreaking

Buddy and Eric in That 70s Show.

The Joseph Gordon-Levitt That ’70s Show kissing scene was the first-ever between two males on North American primetime TV. The 1998 kiss from the actors occurred just mere months before another gay kiss on Dawson’s Creek. It wasn’t the first gay kiss, however, since there were several shows prior to That ’70s Show that featured two female characters kissing. Even though it was the late ’90s, it was still a big moment for TV and something the cast and crew were proud to include. Unfortunately, the reaction from fans was mixed. There were rumors Gordon-Levitt was set for a recurring That ’70s Show role but audience reception nixed that idea.

Some weren’t offended by the kiss, but instead, by how Eric reacted to Buddy’s sexuality in an over-the-top manner. There was also criticism pointing out that the kiss and reaction were meant for laughs. On the other hand, Buddy felt comfortable with himself and felt no shame in his identity, which was why Gordon-Levitt felt so proud portraying the character in that scene. The series was also set in the ’70s when many people weren’t open to homosexuality, and the situation was a product of the times. Either way, that episode from That ’70s Show served as a lesson in representation for all involved.

What Joseph Gordon-Levitt Said About His That ’70s Show Role

Joseph Gordon-Levitt on That 70s Show

When it comes to the Joseph Gordon-Levitt That ’70s Show kissing scene, the actor himself said he has memories of the scene, but it wasn’t anything like some of the people who reacted negatively to the scene made it seem. In an AMA concerning the acting class he was promoting in 2021 for his HITRECORD initiative, he was asked about the kissing scene. “I remember the director asking me and Topher to kiss longer, and then on the next take, kissing for what felt like several minutes. But when you watch it, our lips touched for probably less than a second,” he remembered (via Reddit).

That ’90s Show Has More Queer Representation

Reyn Doi as Ozzie in That '90s Show

While there was a negative reaction to the Joseph Gordon-Levitt That ’70s Show kissing scene from several of the fans in the 90s, the franchise decided to move further into queer representation in the follow-up, That ’90s Show. With the over-the-top reaction from Eric being a learning point, the new show took a more respectful look with Ozzie (Reyn Doi). In the original series, there was always a hint that Fez might be gay, but he never came out. That ’90s Show acknowledged Ozzie’s queerness openly, and he is fully out with his friends, who accept him. The new show also made it clear it learned from Eric’s negative reaction.

Ozzie had not come out publicly. His friends knew, and he considered that a big deal. However, he knew he lived in a small Wisconsin town, so even in the 1990s, he considered it a risk to come out publicly. When he did come out to an important character in Kitty, the show never went for a joke or shocking moment like it did with Eric. Instead, Kitty accepted him and never spoke down or dismissed the moment. It was the exact reaction fans wanted to see from Kitty. None of this would have been possible without the groundbreaking Joseph Gordon-Levitt That ’70s Show kissing scene.

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