February 27, 2006
A column tackling gay issues, gay themes, and just general gayness in television.Out-takes
Over the Rainbow
Rape, sex, and romance in the Emerald City
My point, however, stands. In the midst of all my rough-and-tumble art-movie indie cred bittersweet stories of relationship pain, I like to have that little irrational spark of love. Case in point: the wonderful land of Oz. No, not L. Frank Baum's over-the-rainbow empire with the tornado door, but HBO's gritty prison drama (which I have been promising to write about for, uh, a while now). It has everything my cynical, hardcore heart desires — including, oh yes, the gay. But not just any gay! Oh, no, Oz has Keller/Beecher.
|Sure, their relationships is fraught with its perils — I mean, who among us hasn't had a boyfriend who broke our arms and legs and left us for dead on assignment from a jilted skinhead, huh?|
What makes this relationship so remarkable? Certainly not merely the same-sex aspects of it — Oz more implied male-male genital contact than just about anything else on television, and definitely more exposed masculine wing-wang than anything this side of the pay porn channels. In a world where blowjobs are currency and women are a rarity, one can hardly feign shock at the idea of boykissing.
To the contrary, what really catches my eye — I mean, other than the part where I'm just a hopeless romantic, period — is how Keller/Beecher manages to remain distinctive even in its hyper-homoerotic context. The pairing of these two men takes an almost sterotypically male-male environment and creates from it an actual relationship, full of longing and betrayal, and about way more than who is whose prison bitch.
In fact, the presence of Keller/Beecher really offsets most of the rest of the prison's sexual activity by creating contrast between... well, I can't say 'healthy' and 'unhealthy' interactions, as Keller/Beecher's tumultuous relationship is often about as unhealthy as it gets, but between consentual sex and non-consentual violence. See, I'm one of those pesky people who didn't think prison sex was something to joke about even before I watched Oz, and have become even more disinclined to find humour after four seasons' worth of hard-boiled convict drama. Oz never considers prison rape something to be joked about, and never does the show hold it up as an example of normative homosexual behaviour — and, in fact, goes out of its way to create an actual, mutual relationship (of sorts — again, I'm not saying it's a model for modern gay living or anything) to dispel any notions that all male-male sex is coercive, violent, and/or entirely about power and domination.
|The show has enough man-sex and man-parts to keep even the most discriminating connoiseur satisfied, and yet — and yet — I spent the entire third season shouting at the television until, at the very end of the very last episode, the show gave me the New Year's kiss.|
[You can imagine at this point I spent an entire paragraph making a brilliant argument about how being in a same-sex relationship does not make a person gay, how sexuality is about identity as much as orientation, and how calling either Beecher or Keller 'gay' would be tremendously reductive, and we all moved on, enlightened and satisfied. Good? Great.]
Does my wanting this relationship so badly make me uncomfortable. Hell, yes! I can't imagine I'd possibly be this enthusiastic about things if Beecher were a woman, and don't really feel good about egging on a relationship that's obviously both physically and emotionally abusive. But I feel better that the show isn't ever really comfortable with it, and realises that Toby loves Chris often beyond all good sense and reason. It may not be healthy, and it's definitely not pain-free, but while my hip edgy twentysomething self latches onto the complex drama and character interactions on the show, Keller/Beecher is enough of a romance to babysit my inner pre-adolescent as she dreams an Emerald City somewhere far away from prison, all in Technicolor and full of happy endings.
NEXT TIME, ON OUT-TAKES: Geeks, greens, gender, and Good Eats; or, Golden Brown and Delicious.
1No I don't.
2Apologies for the profanity, but really, I couldn't think of a much better word.
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