overthinking the idiot box

April 4th, 2005

A column tackling gay issues, gay themes, and just general gayness in television

my lezbian is pastede on yay: An Open Letter to Joss Whedon
by Whitney Cox

Dear Joss,

I love you. I love you so tremendously much. Your television shows have helped make me the person I am today. Your characters sing to me, Joss. They whisper beautiful things to me in my sleep. And I can tell you love me too, or you wouldn't be making a Firefly movie. This isn't cheap, Joss; this, what we feel for each other, is real. And since it's so real, I feel I can ask you an honest question:

Do you actually know any gay people?

I mean, I'm certain you do, because everybody knows somebody who's gay, even if you don't know you know somebody, et cetera. But do you know anybody out of the closet who goes around and does gay things with gay people in gay places? And not just trendy bisexual Hollywood celebrities, but real gay people? Because I don't think you do.

Well, okay, there was Tara. I loved Tara. I would have dated Tara myself. Maybe you know a lesbian or two, because Tara was actually a lesbian. And I find myself cringing as seasons five and six of Buffy progress, because it becomes increasingly obvious that Tara has found herself in the unenviable lesbian position of having fallen in love with a straight girl.

See, Joss, Willow isn't a lesbian. She's what we technically term as a LUG — 'Lesbian Until Graduation', one of those women who uses her college years as an opportunity to make out with other girls, then puts her youthful indiscretions behind her and embraces heteronormativity as soon as she finds herself in the 'real world' (where homosexuality is not nearly so trendy)'. And while I believe she truly fell in love with Tara — I mean, you don't go all black-eyed and world-endy for just anyone — it got even more obvious over time that she hadn't actually discovered anything new about her inherent sexuality so much as fallen for the World's Most Wonderful Person (who just happened to be a girl). Now, while this is all well and good, your efforts to continue with her lesbian lifestyle past the object of her affection's death had such an obligatory feel that you might as well have had THIS IS TO PLACATE THE ANGRY LESBIANS scrawled across the bottom of the frame (though my lecherous self finds it hard to fault a girl-on-girl makeout scene with a tongue stud). Kennedy was as obvious a response to the crisis of OH NO WILLOW NEEDS A GIRLFRIEND as Riley was to OH NO BUFFY NEEDS A BOYFRIEND, and felt just as artificial, body jewelery or no.

(Honestly, Joss, more cutting-edge than having a pasted-on lesbian character would have been having a bisexual character. Biphobia is an actual Episode in both the het and queer communities, and those of us stuck in the middle get no respect from either side.)

And then you killed her. Tara, I mean. Now, Joss, I know your shows have a high body count, but your queer characters have particularly reddish shirts. Tara, Larry, even Ethan Rayne? The surgeon general should Episode a warning about being gay in Sunnydale.

Then there was Andrew. You know, I'm still sore about that. He was adorable and fluffy, and though he nosed into faggy caricature territory every now and then, it was forgivable because I actually know at least three people like him. And then you took him to Angel and intimated that he'd changed, become a new and confident man — and it got him a girl on each side. See, now, unlike Willow, Andrew was actually a homosexual. I think you got confused in there, perhaps switched the 'Willow' and 'Andrew' cards on the whiteboard while you were planning season seven (both names end in 'w', it's very confusing). But when my roommate and I saw that, we chunked heavy objects (a somewhat regrettable move) at the television, because the message was clear — you clean up, you grow up, you straighten up. It was the most overtly anti-homosexual sentiment I've ever heard from Mutant Enemy's mouth, Joss, and it's going to take a lot of candy and roses to make up for that one.

And don't even get me started on Angel and Spike. I can understand why they're your OTP (One True Pairing), as they had more chemistry together that anyone else on that sad sack of a season, even when Angel was made out of felt, which takes talent. But if the only place you're going to acknowledge the sexual aspects of their relationship is the DVD commentary, it doesn't actually count.

Now, I'm gonna give you a pass on Firefly — partly because we only got to have fifteen episodes of it, and partly because Simon Tam's one of the most accurate portrayals of a closeted homosexual I've ever seen on television (...that was intentional, right?), but mostly because, so far on Firefly, the queer is no big deal — which is the most empowering scenario you've put forth so far. Boy whores and bisexual space hookers? All in an interstellar day's work.

So Joss, next time you think about queering your characters, go out and make some gay friends first. Perhaps use your questioning male-ness and pick up a guy or two in a bar. If nothing else, it might placate those lesbians that have been picketing at your door ever since the end of season six. It's either that or a life-sized Eliza Dushku cast in dark chocolate. Hey, we're not picky.



NEXT TIME, ON OUT-TAKES: Dykes in Sunnydale! Or, how to placate the lesbians but not really.

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