Welcome back to Boob(s On Your) Tube, your twice-weekly round-up of all the queer stuff happening on your teevee.
Once Upon a Time
Sundays on ABC at 8:00 p.m.
Well, it’s really happening. On Nov. 15 — two Sundays from now — Mulan will finally return to Once Upon a Time in a two-hour special. What’s in store, apparently, is her tag-teaming with Red (who also returns that very night) and Merida to fight The Wicked Witch and King Arthur. Supposedly there will be ladies kissing. I will believe it when I see it with my own eyeballs.
Jane the Virgin
Mondays on The CW at 9:00 p.m.
Have I undersold Jane the Virgin to you, reader? Have I not called it my “favorite thing on TV,” the “most enjoyable thing on TV,” and “a thing that will make you belly laugh and cry and feel shockingly happy in your heart”? I have said those things to you, reader! I have! Alas, you still are not watching. I mean, okay, some of you are watching. A lot of you, probably. But not enough — Jane is getting killed in the ratings! It’s never going to win against Monday Night Football, but there’s no reason for it to be losing to Gotham! GOTHAM! One of the worst excuses for bisexual representation I have seen on TV in a decade and truly just an all around terrible show.
Parenthetically, if that paragraph included too many exclamation marks for you, you can ignore its advice. Jane the Virgin is not for you.
I want to talk about Luisa, and then Jane and Lina — but first, I want to tell you the plot of last night’s episode. Jane the Virgin is always a smorgosboard of expertly and lovingly curated pathos and absurdity. “Chapter Twenty-Six” finds Jane with a three-pronged problem: 1) Lina has been her best friend since they first performed a choreographed dance to Nelly’s “Hot In Here” at their Catholic school talent show when they were kids; but Jane has forgotten to plan Lina’s 25th birthday party. 2) Jane knows she’s faltering on the friend front and she’s also hardcore struggling on the grad school front. Instead of writing a paper on The Great Gatsby during Mateo’s nap time, she spends two hours making a list of babysitting guidelines. 3) She can’t choose between Rafael and Michael, in large part because she’s having a hard time reconciling her pre-mom self with her new-mom self.
Okay, but! In the middle of all that, Luisa wakes up on a park bench in South Beach after her kidnappers chloroformed her and dropped her there because they were unable to ransom her off to the mystery bad guy. When she returns to the Marbella — where Rafael assumes she’s just creeping back after a bender — she finds herself face-to-face with Rose’s ex-girlfriend, Heidi Von Ocher, a professional yodeler Michael convinced Rafael to book for a performance so he could question her about Rose. At first Luisa is jealous, but then she just goes on ahead and sleeps with Heidi Von Ocher.
The fact that Luisa was kidnapped by Germans gives Michael pause, so he brings her in for questioning.
Michael: You don’t think it was Rose holding you hostage?
Luisa: No! I mean, at first I thought it was her. These men, they were so gentle with me; they even used these soft ties — but once they hit my leg? No, it was not Rose. She would never hurt me. Even when we explored bondage, she was so gentle, she would just take me right to the edge…
Michael: That’s why we’re thinking maybe someone took you, to send her a message.
Luisa: Because I mean so much to her?
Michael: Yes, it’s very romantic.
Michael’s new partner: Can we rewind just a second. What kind of ties were you tied up with?
Luisa: During sex?
Michael’s new partner: No, with the Germans.
Luisa: Silky cords. They were soft.
When Heidi runs off to do her yodeling, though, Luisa has a think on it and decides her kidnappers were actually trying to auction her off to Rose and that even though Rose didn’t take the bait, she still loves her, so she opens up a dating site website she saw her kidnappers using, and behold! She has a message from Rose!
The Narrator: “On the one hand, Rose locked her in a mental institution, killed her father, and kidnapped her nephew. On the other hand…” (Cue flashback)
And so Luisa reads the message.
The other part of “Chapter 26” I want to talk about is Jane’s friendship with Lina. This show is built around Jane’s relationships (which is one of the reasons it’s shocking and wonderful that they’ve been able to bring Luisa so much more fully into the mix this season). Foremost are her relationships with her mother and abuela, and after that, there’s her dad, and Michael and Rafael, and her lifelong best friend. What’s so rare is that we get to see how Jane’s warmth and compassion and smarts and drive make the lives of all these people better, and also we get to see each of them empowering her to do the things she needs to do to Have It All. Lina has been fundamental in encouraging and supporting Jane, but she’s gotten lost in the shuffle with Jane’s new baby and her love triangle and the fact that Mateo’s aunt’s ex-girlfriend (slash Mateo’s ex-step-grandmother) is a crime lord who kidnapped him an hour after he was born. Jane’s been busy, is what I am saying.
So when she forgets to plan Lina’s birthday party, Lina is hurt, but she gets it. Any other show, Lina takes a backseat with grace and Jane rushes off to smooch a boy or tuck her baby into bed. But not this show! Jane goes to Lina’s birthday party at a club, gets a little tipsy (don’t worry, she plans to “pump and dump”), performs the middle school choreography to her “Hot In Here” dance with Lina, and then sits on the floor in the bathroom with her while pumping breast milk (a thing that is not played for awkwardness or laughs) and reconnects with her because of their real and lasting love for each other. They talk about boys, yeah, but they also talk about grad school, their hopes and dreams, motherhood, and their bond with each other. They say “I love you” while staring deeply into each other’s eyes, because women’s friendships are miraculous things.
After Lina bounces at Jane’s behest to go hook up, Jane even writes a gibberish paper about The Great Gatsby on her phone.
You know, and then there’s Xiomara and Rogelio stealing Rogelio’s ex-wife/co-star’s bus full of rabbits and holding them hostage so she’ll give back the confession tapes she kept from when she and Rogelio joined Scientology, a thing she had been using to blackmail him so she could be stage right when they kissed on-screen (which he didn’t want to do because his left side is his best side, too). And Petra impregnating herself with Rafael’s secret sperm and her crime boss ex-boyfriend coming back and proposing. And Michael feeling superior to Rafael because Rafael has never seen The Sound of Music.
And dialogue like this:
“This is a telenovela people, we need some drama! Turn on the wind machine! And kiss like you’ve been poisoned, and the only antidote is each other’s saliva.”
Dang, y’all! Are you hearing me? Watch this show! If The CW cancels it, I’m gonna be devastated!
Mondays on CBS at 8:00 p.m.
Supergirl is not a queer show, so I’m not going to fold it into this column, but it is the only female-fronted superhero show on TV right now and the ratings are astronomical and it’s on CBS; it’s what America is watching. So I think we should talk about it. Supergirl is not perfect, but all superhero shows are procedurals at heart and it always takes a minute for them to find their footing. The dialogue, also, is clunky, but I think that’ll work itself out too. However! I don’t want to talk about where it needs to improve. I want to talk about the four things it gets really, really right.
1. Its heart is in the right place
With the notable exception of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., all current superhero TV shows are made by dudes for dudes. Sure, there are female characters — some of them both complicated and kickass — but they are supporting players, afterthoughts, love interests, and perhaps most damningly: disposable. Supergirl is building a team for herself, but she will be at the center of it all. The show is about her struggles, her victories, and her relationships. Every supporting character matters only in the way that they brush up against her. It’s such a refreshing change of pace, it makes me lightheaded to even type it out like that. It’s obvious that this creative team really wants to get it right; the scripts feel like they’ve been held up to the light and picked apart and stitched back together, keeping in mind the feminist critique each episode was going to endure, and while it’d be better if that process presented itself seamlessly, the glaring mindfulness is actually a relief to me.
2. It knows what it wants to be
When Supergirl was announced, I was weirdly hopeful when I heard it was going to be on CBS, because I felt like it was the only network that would allow the show to swerve wildly away from the Chris Nolan model everyone is following these days. As if the only way to tell a comic book story is to make it grim and gritty. Supergirl is bright! And light! And Kara is sweet and awkward and adorable and lovable and just the very opposite of The Dark Knight in every way. It wants to be an empowering feminist story, and a rom-com, and a low budget action movie, and a workplace dramedy, and a PG family film. In a world that places the highest value on cynicism and an entertainment industry that loves “broken asshole white guy” stories more than anything, Supergirl is earnest and well-adjusted. People smile on this show! They laugh! They’re not afraid of love; in fact, it’s like a secondary superpower that anyone can wield if they want to!
3. It’s determined to bring feminism into the conversation
Kara’s main relationships are with her adopted sister (and now co-worker/coach); her boss, Cat Grant (played by Calista Flockhart); and her Kryptonian mom (who we meet in flashbacks and then again in real-time hologram form as Kara gets her own Fortress Of Solitude). Yes, there’s a love triangle sprouting around her, but the heart of the story is her relationship with the women in her world. And the dialogue in every episode makes it clear that feminism is going to be a part of the conversation. It’s 101 stuff. It’s “women have to work twice as hard as men to get the same amount of credit” kind of stuff. But on CBS, that’s a big damn deal and it’s a message that’s penetrating the minds and hearts of these young girls who are watching.
Because: Yes, young girls are watching.
4. It’s not about Superman
One very clever, very surprising thing Supergirl is doing is only bringing Superman into the conversation to talk about how different Kara is than him. He left Krypton when he was a baby; she left when she was was like ten. He prefers to work alone; she wants to build a team. He’s an award winning male reporter in a man’s industry; she’s a female assistant to one of the few women who have made their way to the top in that male-dominated industry.
A lot of Kara’s story so far has been about identity, which (as a gay person) is a thing I have always loved about about superhero stories. Who are you when you’re wearing glasses and a button up? Who are you in spandex in a cape? Are you the same person and, if not, which one’s the real you? What does it mean to have the heart of a hero? How does it work when you get to choose who you are, who you want to be?
If this isn’t your scene, don’t worry: Jessica Jones is coming for you, but don’t write it off because it’s not bloody and dark. There’s a lot to love here.
And now I have planned your entire Monday night for you.