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Queer Characters and Other Monsters - Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness

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August 10th, 2010


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01:27 am - Queer Characters and Other Monsters
I was thinking about the TV shows I watch with at least some regularity – Burn Notice, Doctor Who, White Collar, Stargate Universe, The Vampire Diaries (which is surprisingly good for what it is), True Blood, In Plain Sight (IMHO, the single best show currently on TV), and Covert Affairs, as well as Leverage & Royal Pains (both of which have gotten sufficiently dubious that I'm likely to stop watching them).

My first observation is simply that TV has definitely gotten considerably better in the last 20 years – the mid to late 90s marked the first time in my life where there were more than a few shows that were consistently enjoyable. My second observation is rather more mixed. All of the supernatural and SF shows I watch, all the shows with monsters – True Blood, Doctor Who (although sadly not in the most recent season), Stargate Universe, and even The Vampire Diaries regularly have queer characters, and two of them (True Blood and Stargate Universe) have major characters who are openly gay or lesbian. Of the shows that I watch w/o monsters, In Plain Sight has had two gay characters, each of whom appeared in a single episode, and White Collar has a recurring lesbian character, but we are shown nothing of this character's relationships and she is definitely a background character. As for the rest – no gay or lesbian characters at all – none, not even in a single episode.

On the one hand, that's vastly more gay and lesbian characters than were on TV even a decade ago, much less 20 years ago. However, we're also living in an era where gays and lesbians are getting legally married in 5 states and perhaps very soon a 6th, and will likely be openly serving in the military within a year. Vito Russo's brilliant analysis of queer characters in film – The Celluloid Closet and the 1995 film of the same name both mentioned how characters who were designed to appear gay or lesbian to people looking for such characters, and the occasional queer villain or monster were enduring Hollywood images. Now, such characters needn't be monsters, but they seem mostly to appear in shows that also include monsters. So it goes...
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful

(9 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:teaotter
Date:August 10th, 2010 08:51 am (UTC)
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We *do* watch a very small number of shows, so your sample is biased to say the least.
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From:andrewducker
Date:August 10th, 2010 09:51 am (UTC)
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I've been very impressed by True Blood, in which the gay characters seem to be getting pretty close to as much screen time as the straight ones.
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From:heron61
Date:August 10th, 2010 08:19 pm (UTC)
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Yes, but there's a different between implied and subtext and text. Subtext is nifty and interesting, but it's not the same.
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From:tangyabominy
Date:August 10th, 2010 03:47 pm (UTC)
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I wonder if this is, more than anything, a result of fandom, and the fact that TV execs have finally noticed the large audience for slash fannishness amongst people who watch, specifically, sci-fi and fantasy (which tend to have monsters). Or if it's a result of sci-fi/fantasy themselves being more progressive genres than the rest.
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From:lavenderfae9
Date:August 10th, 2010 04:26 pm (UTC)
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I've just started watching Wire in the Blood on Netflix. The first two stories included a lot of queer people, but they were all either victims or villains. I wondered about the author of the original books, and found out that she's a lesbian. Since I've only seen two stories, I am hoping they'll introduce other queer characters who don't either die or kill in subsequent episodes.
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From:seika
Date:August 10th, 2010 06:31 pm (UTC)
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Hmm, yeah... I kind of wonder if it's just that SF/fantasy fans tend to be, on the whole, more progressive and/or independent thinkers because they're the sort to evaluate "what if?" and "would our society be okay in x circumstance?" and actually realise that our social structure would not collapse into anarchy and ruin if we let gay people be normal members of society. Whereas the kind of people who watch non-speculative TV are more likely to be strong on the social judgments of here and now. /Just making this up with no hard evidence, but it seems likely.
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From:heron61
Date:August 10th, 2010 08:21 pm (UTC)
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Given the large number of horrifyingly vocal reactionary wingnuts and open bigots among SF authors and fans, I'm not certain that this holds up. It is more likely that SF/fantasy fans tend to more extreme positions, but it's sadly both extremes.
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From:seika
Date:August 10th, 2010 11:38 pm (UTC)
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Hmm, but is it maybe just a vocal few getting noticed, rather than a silent majority? (...lol, though, Orson Scott Card would be noticeable no matter what.)

On the other hand, I suppose it's socially understood not to necessarily be conservative. Which is mainly what the sort of people I've known who weren't into speculative fiction seemed to lack: the freeness of playing with viewpoints that weren't necessarily understood.

Edited at 2010-08-10 11:46 pm (UTC)
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From:alephnul
Date:August 11th, 2010 09:54 am (UTC)
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WIRE SPOILERS

Of the HBO shows I've watched, I think only the Sopranos was lacking in major gay or lesbian characters (the Sopranos has one gay character who gets a main plot line in one of the later seasons, but he isn't really a major character, and he gets the tragic gay character treatment). The Wire had one lesbian main character (in a steady but troubled relationship) and one gay main character (who does eventually die before the series ends, but he is a hard core gangster's gangster, so it doesn't feel like the tragic gay character), and a bunch of lesbian and gay minor characters. Six Feet Under had 2 major gay characters (I can't recall any significant lesbian characters). Oz had lots of "sleeping with men because we're in prison" romantic and sexual relationships involving main characters, and some minor gay identified characters. I can't recall any lesbian characters, but the show is overwhelmingly male since it takes place in a men's prison.

The Wire and Six Feet Under probably have the best handling of gay and lesbian characters and relationships of any television shows I've seen. Neither their sexuality nor their characters seem exoticized or othered.

It does sound like the non-premium channel action adventure series do suck at fair representation.

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