I Think I Fell for the Gays on TV
Two petite, bubble gum-snapping, seemingly straight girls making out on a frat house couch is considered totally hot. And yet two leather-sporting, bull-dyke-labeled biker chicks locking lips don’t merit an invitation to most parties.
Over the last couple of decades, being hetero-flexible has become an “in” thing in urban America, but you have to fit a certain “gay standard” in appearance. Bottom line: pop culture forms cliques we must fit into, lowering the self-esteem of those who don’t cut it.
We want our butches in healthy, athletic shape and cracking jokes like Ellen and Jane Lynch. We want our femmes tiny and occasionally dick-sucking. We want MTV’s bisexual Tila Tequila tucked cutely in our pockets, playfully twirling her hair while she feels us up in the grocery line.
This isn’t to say that gay men don’t have it just as bad, if not worse. No one wants to believe heavyset gays exist, except in the form of hairy prison inmates who dominate poor skinny bitches in the movies. But if a gay character on TV is too flamboyant for our collective hetero-leaning tastes, or — God forbid — a drag queen, well honey, she better be the comic relief best friend, or you ain’t got yourself a show. No, we want to see strong, masculine Heath Ledger saddle a horse and give it up the ass like a real man.
But at least aspiring young drag queens and out-of-place queers can find solice in Margaret Cho and America’s Next Top Drag Queen. Lesbians, on the other hand, had sickly thin, super straight Ally McBeal lockin lips with women for ratings in the late '90s, and teen dramas in the early 2000s featuring thin, makeup-plastered girl-on-girl. action. Thank you, Willow (Buffy). Thank you, Paige (Degrassi). These are the lesbians of our lives.
Undoubtedly, Curve Magazine and other LGBT publications seem to be the best places to find newsworthy lesbians of all sizes and styles. But unfortunately, TV influences magazines by telling us lez ladies how to look and behave.
The L Word came close to depicting all kinds of faces — from the harsh realities faced by transgender Max, to an older, if somewhat comical, lesbian relationship between Phyllis and Joyce. But most of the show’s devoted lesbian fan-base often forgets that their own faces are not shown on the screens of their TVs and laptops. As a teenager, I secretly watched each episode on my computer at night, hidden from my parents. I was fed images of what most lesbians should look like: white, feminine, and thin. Hell, even the show’s most heart-throbbing butch, Shane, never leaves the house without makeup.
Regardless of whether I consciously realized what was happening at the time, those images of socially-acceptable lesbians were driven into my brain. Certainly, The L Word was groundbreaking, but I think we’re all in need of a little self-esteem booster shot.
So is there any such vaccine for the future? According to RealityTVWorld.com, Showtime will be premiering The Real L Word sometime next year, a reality series chronicling the lives of “real” L.A. lesbians. I only hope these chosen girls don’t just regurgitate the stereotypes. Maybe we’ll even see a plus size lesbian. Now that would be something.
image from Flickr by firstname.lastname@example.org licensed under creative commons
Meghan Russell is a regular web contributor to Pride Fever