Weekly Gleek: We've Come a Long Way, Baby

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Weekly Gleek: We've Come a Long Way, Baby

side chanting about the goddess flowing through the river in me, while panting, sweating, and touching only their palms, until a nice big flaming O appeared around them. Willow eventually collapsed backwards and writhed on the floor with more panting and gasping, as she delved into the “nether realm” on a magickal mission. Yeah.

I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it—but it was no secret that Joss Whedon wanted to let Willow and Tara have real kisses and sexy times too, and that the network’s refusal to allow even a peck on the lips between the two lovely witches was a constant struggle. When they did finally have their first on-screen kiss a year later, it was in the context of Tara comforting Willow over the death of Mrs. Summers; and even then, Whedon reported to fans that he had to threaten to quit in order to get the network to allow it. They had a few more chaste kisses in the remaining seasons, and eventually they were able to be shown in bed together; but never under the covers. At least, until the episode where Tara gets her brains blown out—then it’s full-on naked sexy times galore. Yes, we really have come a long way from the ol’ evil/dead lesbian cliché.

Go back just a little bit further—not even another decade, just five years—and you’ve got the much rougher story of dear Rickie Vasquez on My So-Called Life

 

Poor Rickie never had the slightest glimmer of hope that he could actually have someone to kiss; his mere presence on the show was threatening enough. And with the addition of an actual adult gay role model who had a positive impact on his life, the show quickly became way-too-gay for ABC, and was cancelled after just one season, despite its immense popularity with teen viewers. Go back any further on the ol’ gay teen TV timeline, and you’re tapped—no regular gay teen characters on any TV show anywhere, just the occasional ill-fated guest star making a pit stop on their way to the well of loneliness

That was barely fifteen years ago, folks. Fifteen years to get from gay role model equals cancelled show to how many more flavors of gay can we cram into one 44-minute episode of television? It’s a huge, momentous leap forward in a very short period of time, and frankly, it makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. When I watch Kurt and his dad have an uncomfortable sex talk about how to respect yourself, or Santana telling Brittany she just wants them to be together and damn the consequences, and certainly when I see a loving, sweet, tender first kiss like this one, I get a massive shot of pride juice straight to the heart.

I’m not saying we’ve arrived at utopia, or that mainstream media representation is the same as civil rights; but it does make a pretty darn good benchmark for social and cultural progress. Think of all the twelve-year-olds watching Glee at home with their parents, and the conversations they’ll be having after the credits roll.

And let’s be clear— it’s not just about the gay kids getting a positive self-reflection from the media that has an impact here. It’s all the straight kids watching, too, who of course vastly outnumber the gay kids, and who are now also getting the this is normal message piped into their hearts and homes weekly. Because people who know real, live gay folks are less likely to be homophobic than those who don’t, kids who grow up watching gay characters as fully fledged people on their favorite TV shows are also more likely to see their gay peers as regular people, too. Imagine that.

So thanks for super-sizing the gay, Glee—we’ve come a long way, baby, and we’ll be crowded ‘round the TVs, computers and mobile media devices to celebrate your return on April 19th, with gay sharks and tasty vegan treats for all.

 



Comments [8]

Robin Rigby's picture

Are you only discussing gay

Are you only discussing gay teens on TV, Jenny or have you completely forgotten about Billy Crystal on Soap when you say no recurring gay characters before 1994?

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Jenny Aisenberg's picture

yes, teens

sorry I wasn't clear, robin-- I was indeed referring to gay teen characters specifically. mainly because I don't have the same confidence that I know all the adult gay characters from TV history that I have w/ teens, because before my day, there just weren't any. (case in point: I think I might have seen an episode or two of soap when I was really little, but I didn't even remember that billy crystal's character was gay!)

"We're all born naked. The rest is drag."
--RuPaul (appropriating Judith Butler for the masses...)

Grace Moon's picture

who goes back that far?

who goes back that far? kidding Wink

actually I don't remember Crystal's gay character? was it on snl?

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minniesota's picture

Making me feel old again

Dang, all you youngsters. I go back that far. Haha. Billy Crystal played Jodie in the TV sitcom SOAP (1977-1981).

Civility is not a sign of weakness.

Robin Rigby's picture

Thank Mins, for letting the

Thank Mins, for letting the young 'uns know about our history. Smile

Yes, Grace & Jenny, Billy played a gay character on the TV show Soap in the 70's. I was a teen but I thought the show was hilarious. I did not watch any of these gay teens since all of the programs mentioned here were on the air when I was in my 20's & 30's. 

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Jenny Aisenberg's picture

actually...

I think I should get a few points for just having seen a show that went off the air when I was two, haha ;p

But I still know how you feel...my little cousins are in college now, and they've never even heard of my so-called life. it's a travesty. I will be rectifying the situation over passover. 

"We're all born naked. The rest is drag."
--RuPaul (appropriating Judith Butler for the masses...)

Grace Moon's picture

I'm so confused by the

I'm so confused by the Gleasons, when does this season end?

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Jenny Aisenberg's picture

yeah, they make you work for it...

the hiatus is just one month-- then they'll be back to regular weekly episodes till the end of the season (end of may). I'm assuming the reason for the hiatus is either or both of the following:

1) they were all getting sick and passing around their germs the last few months, and needed a break so they could keep singing and dancing without collapsing on set

2) they needed to wait till the weather was reliably sunny in NYC for when they come to film the finale, so they couldn't shoot too far ahead of real time. and yes, I am actively considering some stalking when that happens... <3

"We're all born naked. The rest is drag."
--RuPaul (appropriating Judith Butler for the masses...)