Monday, June 21, 2010

The Great and Mysterious Lesbian Code ...

See?? Your interest is already fully piqued, and you don't even know what the hell I'm talking about ... yet.

I know I have 25 awesome public readers over here ---------------------------------->

I'm not sure how many non-public subscribers I have, though I love you too, and respect your anonymity. But for you, let's make up a number - let's make my non-public readership amount 75 people (and give a HUGE ego boost for moi), or maybe 70 people, 3 dogs, 1 monkey, and 1 house cat. Either way - a total of 75. So 75 + 25 = 100.

Now - let's take 10% of 100 which would be ... class? Yes monkey, that's correct. 10.

Why 10%? Well, 10 is the standard and accepted percentage of gay folks in the world. The "they" conjecture that 1 person for every group of 10 people is a gay. Like me. And my girlfriend. And hypothetically speaking, 8 more of you out there, public readers or not. While I admit that the statistics of this fact are probably wrong - as it's more than likely that I have more than a 10% gay readership, by virtue of me (as a lesbian) knowing an exponentially higher amount of gay folks than the other 90% of straight bloggers out there - let's just keep this easy and say that 10% of my readership is, in fact, gay.

Now throw that 10% away (no offense to my rainbows out there). What do we have left? Okay, let's not see the same hands. Yes, Octopus, 90% would be the right answer. OCTOPUS?!?! Really?? Wow.

Anyway, 90% of my blog readership are (theoretically) heterosexual. Completely ignoring the likelihood that many of you are mostly:
a) liberal,
b) open-minded,
c) have many gay friends yourselves,
d) all of the above
let's assume that you are Joe or Jane the Plumber of middle america (a lesser off-shoot of Middle Earth). You don't know anyone who's gay, and if you did, you probably don't feel comfortable enough to ask them questions or learn about their life, let alone taken any college courses that would enlighten your cultural awareness to include such a relatively small minority (or even to have gone to college at all).

Do you feel comfortable in your role as the reader of this blog post now? God, I hope so. I don't do math for just ANY reason.

Okay, Joe/Jane. I'm going to tell you something that's going to blow your mind. Something that the average, white, heterosexual human being has no awareness to, recognition of, conjecture towards. Are you ready for this? I'm serious - once you know, you'll never look at film, TV, or comic books in the same way ever again.

There is a hidden gay and lesbian code.

SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Not so loud! If Karl Rove finds out, I'll be put into a camp.

Now listen, because I'm only going to say this once: The code is everywhere. It is! I know what you're thinking. It's 2010 - what use have we for codes in such a socially liberated and accepting time?! Well, sadly, it's to do with the fact that the 10% of the gay population we have is totally under-represented in Hollywood. Yes, I know Hollywood is run by "flamingly gay, liberal Jews." But how many flamingly gay liberal Jew shows do you see on television? Movies? But apparently, studio executives are paid to make money for the studio. And to do that, they need to appeal to the overwhelming television needs of the other 90%.

Enter THE LESBIAN CODE. (Forgive me, I have a giant God-like sound effect that detonates in my head whenever I say THE LESBIAN CODE. And since the blogosphere doesn't have sound effects yet, you're stuck with my all-caps over-usage.)

Now, typically, writers write in "guest star" gay characters when they want to win an Emmy or Golden Globe. Or have some kind of tortured gay character to illustrate their power boost for an Academy Award nomination (see: Brokeback Mountain, Notes on a Scandal, Boys Don't Cry, and hundreds more). I mean, let's face it. Gay characters are good enough to help win awards, but they're not good enough to have a regular show about. Unless they're used in a highly farcical way (see: Will & Grace, Nurse Betty). Gay characters can be hilarious on TV, tragic on film - but give them any complexity on a daily basis - and consider yourself cancelled before you can say the L Word. (bwuahahahaha ... little inside joke, there.)

When we do have the rare grace of being given our own show, like the L Word, the story and characters are so marginal, that most lesbians end up resenting it, because the representation is so insultingly minimal. In fact, there's now a follow up Showtime reality show called "The Real L Word," so Eileen Chaikan can prove to us that lesbians like the ones she created, actually do exist. To which I say, "If you have to prove it, Ms. Chaikan, you're not representing us. You're representing you." But I digress. The L Word made me angry for several reasons, and it's not the inspiration for this post.

So yes - we've been shafted more times than not. Lesbians are forced to feed on the scraps that Hollywood deigns to throw our way. And even that's a double-edged sword, because on some levels, television has played a huge role in our country's increasingly positive view of homosexuality. There have been books upon books written on this very topic. But how can the studios make money on a show for such a small consumership?

They split the difference...and use that classic Freudian device: SUBTEXT.

Yes folks, it's true. THE LESBIAN CODE is SUBTEXT! Is it starting to make sense now? How do I know this? Well, firstly, I'm a lesbian, so the chip in my brain is activated when there's any inkling of girl-on-girl relationships, no matter how diluted. Secondly, go google "Lesbian fanfiction." What pops up? Xena, Star Trek: Voyager, Law & Order: SVU. Now. Can any of these shows be qualified as "Lesbian" shows?? No. Not one. Not even Xena. I'm telling you - I'm now half way through the third season, and there's more girl-guy action than an episode of M*A*S*H - and M*A*S*H is pretty damn heterosexual. Gabrielle and Xena have taken at least 4-5 MALE lovers each since the first episode of the first season. Gabrielle even marries a man in Season 2. This is not the stuff that lesbian dreams are made of, people. And yet, Xena is the lesbian cult show that conventions are built around - even 8-9 years after the series ended!

So how do the writers do it? It's more simple with women, I think. Create two strong, reasonably independent women. Now have them become friends. Then have their friendship be tested under life-threatening circumstances - explosives, evil gods, and alien races are all completely acceptable vehicles. Add a few pinches of heart-felt confessions, a dollop of side-ways glances, and garnish liberally with full-body embraces. LOTS AND LOTS OF EMBRACES. Voila! You have yourself a non-lesbian-lesbian relationship, so water-tight, that your show can air on prime-time, all-access TV, appealing to a wide-variety of audience, and threatening no one. The lesbians will be happy for new fan-fiction fodder, the straight men will be happy with the prospect of girl-on-girl action but it won't seem "gay," and straight women will wish for female friendships like that, and take comfort that women can be friends without the backstabbing and ripping each other apart - like in real life. Brilliant, no??

And as I watch these episodes, remembering how at the tender age of 13, I was completely engrossed, obsessed, and very much in love with the idea of Xena, yet not knowing why - I realize that Xena was the key to my lesbian confusion, in a VERY heterosexual world. I had no one to take me aside and say, "You know Alyssa, you might like girls instead of boys, and that's okay. Just know that it's an option for what you're feeling." I didn't have anyone in my life saying anything to that, or any other effect. But I had Xena. And I saw that relationship, and knew that  that was what I wanted. And even though they couldn't come out in Ancient Greece and make-out all the time, I was blessed enough to watch a devoted, funny, healthy relationship love continually - through the explosions, wars, and impregnations of evil-god sperm - really, what more could a 13 year old want?

Besides equal rights and more kissing - not a damn thing.

So go take a look at some of these shows, or find some of your own. Reports from the field are completely welcome.


Phoenix said...

Don't throw stuff at my head, but wasn't there a lesbian relationship on "Grey's Anatomy?" I don't watch it but thought there was a side-story.

Interesting thought (well, to me at least): Do we ("we" meaning the collective lot of us that are comfortable watching healthy gay relationships played out on TV and film) want to watch a show or film that is all about a gay relationship as the main focal point because "OMG that's so fascinating that they're both gay!" or do we want a film or TV show that puts the gay relationship in the background because it's normal enough that it doesn't warrant it being the main plot or the punchline? ie "Brokeback Mountain" (Gay Drama!) vs "The Kids Are Alright" where the lesbian relationship is treated as normal, everyday relationship?

I'm just curious as to which one helps the gay community (and those of us who have friends and family that are gay) feel included and represented.

PS I know you don't like the show but I thought Joss Whedon handled Willow being gay wonderfully - it surprised her friends at first and then basically became a non-issue for the rest of the TV series.

Phoenix said...

Also I totally win for Longest Comment Ever.

Radical Bradacal said...

a) I would never throw stuff at your head - I only hit your really hard on the arm when you scare the bejeesus out of me in movie theatres.

b) I stopped watching Grey's Anatomy before that really got cooking. But yes, I believe there was ... but it's mostly from the perspective of Callie, who was married to George, and had friends-with-benefits sex with McSteamy ... so she's kind of non-threatening to men - because she'll still sleep with men, but digs chicks too, and that's hot, hot, hot! To the men.

c) My answer to your thought, is that there should be a happy medium between the two. Why can't there be "normal" gay relationships as occasional focal point? It doesn't need to be the main - again, that would go against the 90-10% viewership. And I think you're absolutely right - Joss Wheadon TOTALLY handled the Willow/Tara relationship very well - but that kind of relationship has disappeared, seemingly. We have less gay folks on TV now than we did in 1998. Kind of weird, no? But look at movies like "Love Actually" - which would have been the perfect vehicle for a "gay relationship as normal, yet showing another look at love." And what did they do? They CUT OUT THE LESBIAN RELATIONSHIP ALTOGETHER. So you have a movie - about love - conveniently excluding an entire group of people. And this seems to be the norm, now - the gay/lesbian relationships one sees are either bi-sexual, and develop as an afterthought, or they're cut out altogether. In the most ironic of ironies, Heroes, the show about the printed medium in which gays/lesbians have been living vicariously and codedly represented since the 1950's - has no gay character. No gay super heroes? Really? I don't need gays and lesbians all over television. I really don't. But I'd like *some* representation. I think that's why I watch so many HBO/SHOWTIME programs.

d) I think I just surpassed you as longest comment ever.

Phoenix said...

Woah, you totally did beat me. And yes, I remember the dead arm. Maybe that's why we haven't been to the movies together in so long? ;) I kid, I kid...

I agree that it is absolutely sad when you don't see yourself or your own relationships echoed at all in mainstream media. And I think you're correct that a balance between making a relationship be front and center, and sometimes putting it on the backburner while solving cold cases or something, would be ideal. After all, nobody at the networks is saying, "Hmm, should we have this straight relationship between a guy and a girl take front and center in this show? What if people don't find that acceptable?"

I think the more representation gay relationships have in media, the more diverse they can be in how they are represented - by right now, you are correct, it's either for straight men to drool over or it's for comedy's sake.