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LGBT Opinion Article

Hello! Gay Now!

Opinion by Dragonclaws posted over a year ago
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While by no means perfect, the treatment of homosexuality in modern media is improving. Gay storylines were once introduced purely for shock value, but now their appearance is far more commonplace and is often portrayed as legitimate drama (or comedy) alongside heterosexual narratives. However, while treatment of simple homosexuality has been increasingly progressive, bisexuality remains a subject without decent representation in many shows. This includes shows that would otherwise have a decent portrayal of homosexuality, but have somehow missed the boat when it comes to the concept of being attracted to both genders rather than just being gay or straight. Such examples are found in Will and Grace, Friends, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Will and Grace is a generally progressive show as sitcoms go. Its premise involves a straight woman (Grace) and a gay guy (Will) sharing an apartment. Also among the main characters is Will’s gay friend Jack. Elements of the gay community are frequently featured in a positive light, if stereotypical. The show has been criticized for their stereotypical depictions, but I think it is forgivable given the kind of show it is. Will and Grace is an exceptionally silly show and I feel that for what it is, it is pretty progressive. However, it does fail to recognize bisexuality as a legitimate sexual orientation alongside homosexuality and heterosexuality.

This is seen in the episode An Affair to Forget, the plot of which involves Jack getting aroused by a lap dance performed on him by a female stripper. Because Jack is extraordinarily gay, this freaks him out plenty. The entire thing is played as a parody of the kind of identity crisis a supposedly heterosexual man would have upon realization of homosexual inclinations. “I’m a freak, an aberration, a man that gets turned on by… women.”

As it turns out, the stripper is actually a transsexual woman who has yet to have her bottom half feminized. Because Jack instinctively felt a masculine body, his attraction now makes sense and he feels great relief to have been confirmed homosexual. While funny, it ignores the existence of bisexuality. It is possible for Jack to have been attracted to a ciswoman without turning straight or whatnot.

Friends has less of a focus on homosexuality as does Will and Grace, but does have some homosexual characters presented in a decent manner. One of the main characters, Ross, was married to Carol before she admitted she was having a lesbian affair and divorced him. Despite this, she later gives birth to his son and they share custody, maintaining a reasonable if somewhat awkward relationship. I believe the portrayal to be progressive in a sense because the characters are not stigmatized for their homosexuality and are ultimately on level with heterosexual characters, although it would admittedly be more progressive in this sense were the show to have LGBT characters occupying main roles.

The problem lies with one of Phoebe’s songs. The character Phoebe is known for her popular music, despite apparent lack of talent. Her songs tend to be about bizarre subjects, such as her “Ode to a Pubic Hair” or the ever popular “Smelly Cat”. In the episode The One After the Superbowl, Phoebe sings a song about sexual orientations: “Sometimes men love women / And sometimes men love men / And then there are bisexuals / Although some just say they’re kidding themselves / La la la la la la…” Ouch.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer features the character of Willow, who “turns gay” in the fourth season. She had previously had heterosexual relationships with the male characters Oz and Xander, both of which were portrayed as legitimate attraction. Her first hint of gayness is in the third season episode Doppelgängland, in which her evil vampire counterpart arrives from another universe and tries to seduce/rape her.

Willow: “That’s me as a vampire? I’m so evil… and skanky… and I think I’m kinda gay…”
Buffy: “Willow, just remember: a vampire’s personality has nothing to do with the person it was.”
Angel: “Well, actually…” (Buffy looks at him) “That’s a good point.”


Then later in the fourth season, she gets involved with her fellow witch Tara over the course of several episodes. When her ex-boyfriend Oz shows up from his successful trip to find a cure for his lycanthropy (episode New Moon Rising), he expects her to come back to him and be his girlfriend again. Problem is, she now feels committed to Tara as well as to him and has to decide which person to stay with. She straddles both sides as she tries to decide, until ultimately Oz finds out and loses his “inner cool”, which keeps his werewolf side in check, and can no longer stay around Willow. Willow and Tara live happily ever after (at least until Joss the Character Slayer strikes).

Willow should probably be regarded as a bisexual character; however, she is instead portrayed as a straight woman who became gay. This is repeatedly referenced in the dialog, such as Willow asserting that she wouldn’t have another affair with Xander because “Hello! Gay now!” or the Buffy-bot (a sexbot built in Buffy’s semblance) noting of Willow “You’re my best friend. You’re recently gay.” I believe Joss Whedon does note in one of the episode commentaries that he’s aware that’s not really how it works, but that didn’t keep him from putting it in the show in the first place.

In conclusion, despite the increasingly progressive portrayal of homosexuality, bisexuality remains rather minimal. The shows I discuss here are not your average Hallmark Channel, Christian-type programming that would naturally be anti-gay inclined. These are shows that should know better, but don’t. One can only hope that the representation of bisexuality will improve in the future.
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3 comments

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Cinders said:
One of my favorite shows deserves a mention here-- Torchwood. Not only is the main character (Jack Harkness) a legitimate bisexual (he flirts with several women and has a relationship with a man), but themes of sexuality permeate several storylines of the series.

Season 1, Episode 2: "Day One": Gwen, the "new girl" has an encounter with an alien that feeds off of sexual energy. While possessing an eighteen year old girl, the alien uses pheramones and other "sexual wiles" and eventually, Gwen ends up passionately kissing her. Witnessed on the monitors, one of the characters says, "She said she had a boyfriend," and Jack says, "You people and your quaint little categories."

Season 1, Episode 7: "Greeks Bearing Gifts": Toshiko, feeling the burn of rejection when she learns of Owen's interests in Gwen, finds herself talking to a strange woman who gives her a pendant to read minds named Mary. Mary asks Toshiko what she's thinking, and Toshiko hears that Mary wants to kiss her. Eventually, Toshiko has a brief affair with Mary, until she finds out that Mary was just using her to get back home.

Season 1, Episode 12: "Captain Jack Harkness": When Toshiko and Jack find themselves stuck in 1941, Jack meets the man whose identity he stole. Knowing that the captain will die the next day, Jack urges the REAL "Jack Harkness" to live life to its fullest. The real Captain Jack decides to go after feelings he's long since repressed by taking the Torchwood Jack's hand. They dance before the rift is open, and Torchwood Jack kisses the real captain goodbye before leaving with Toshiko.

Season 1, Episode 13: "End of Days": Though hints of the Jack and Ianto relationship were made in the past, this is the first episode in which they kiss.

Season 2, Episode 1: "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang": John Hart, an old "partner" of Jack's, returns on the scene, sparking jealousy in Ianto with his stories of past relationships with Jack. Jack asks Ianto out on an official date, which Ianto accepts.

My point in referencing these specific Torchwood episodes is to say that there is at least one (UK Mainstream, and available on the US SciFi Channel) television show that is sincerely dealing with the concept of sexuality in general, as well as labels and love. Every single main character on the show has kissed someone of the same sex once, even if they are predominantly what one might call "straight." Even Owen, a very heterosexual man, kissed another man in order to avoid a fight in episode one when he stole that man's date.

What makes Torchwood different, for me at least, is the fact that these relationships are treated as normal. There isn't a big deal made about them, or at least, the same "deal" made about the heterosexual relationships on the show (of which there were many, such as Gwen and Rhys, Gwen and Owen, Owen and Diane, Ianto and Lisa, and Toshiko and Owen).

This isn't to refute your point-- I agree that bisexuality isn't as prominent today as it should be. But I did want to give Torchwood its props for dealing with a complicated issue exceptionally well.

EDIT: This Video shows the diversity of Torchwood couples.
posted over a year ago.
last edited over a year ago
 
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It looks cool. I'll have to rent it. I wasn't thinking of shows that weren't American (or aired on premium channels, for that matter) when I wrote this article. I just thought I'd rant about some shows I watch.
posted over a year ago.
 
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thats really good!
posted over a year ago.