Welcome to your weekly Pop Culture Fix, the place where we tell you about famous gay women and gay women on television, and sometimes there is a cute animal at the end of the post. (Spoiler alert: This time it’s a goat!)
LGBT Fans Deserve Better
In the three weeks since Lexa died on The 100, the conversation about lesbian and bisexual characters on TV has taken a turn I never expected. Bury Your Gays is a trope queer fans and TV critics have been fighting against for decades. We comprise such a tiny tiny tiny fraction of the total number of TV characters in existence, and continue to fight daily against stigmatism and oppression in the real world, so when TV writers casually toss another dead body onto the pile (that already includes 147 other dead lesbian and bisexual characters), it’s almost impossible not to feel victimized by it. Especially because one of the main things that makes us human is our need to project ourselves into stories and onto fictional characters to work out the narratives of our own lives. Queer women have so few quality stories to choose from, and when we find one that resonates, and then find ourselves on the receiving end of a stray bullet again, it starts to take an emotional toll.
The night Lexa died, Rachel and I brainstormed 100 stories in five minutes that don’t involve dead gay ladies to provide some lighthearted comfort and a critique of the laziness of continuing to lean on the cliche. Later that week, TV Intern Karly denounced the trope in her The 100 recap, and so did Stef this week in her The Walking Dead recap, and I even wove my frustration into my The Fosters recap. And Riese began her epic list of every dead lesbian/bisexual TV character in history to help drive home the cruelty and ubiquity of this thing. It’s what we do. It’s what we always do.
But something really different happened this time. Lexa’s death, and the way it was handled by The 100‘s creative team, drove queer fans to their breaking point. They turned social media into a hub of fandom activism, raising $65,000 (so far) for The Trevor Project, hoping to both help gay youth in crisis situations and to shine a light on the fact that gay youth are still struggling in big ways in the United States, to show that they need empowering stories to help carry them into adulthood. The same fans trended “LGBT Fans Deserve Better” worldwide during the following week’s episode of The 100. And, most impressively, and for the first time ever, they forced mainstream pop culture magazines to sit up, pay attention, and address the problem.
Variety asked “What Can TV Learn from The 100 Mess?” Entertainment Weekly springboarded from Denise’s death on The Walking Dead the following week to hop into the conversation with an article called “TV Kills Another Lesbian Character: What’s Going On?” Vanity Fair weighed in similarly:”The Walking Dead’s Latest Gruesome Death Is Part of a Troubling TV Trend.” Mega fansite Hypable contributed a voice. So did smaller pop culture sites like Blastr. And The Hollywood Reporter even brought in Dorothy Snarker to explain Why The 100, Walking Dead Deaths Are Problematic.
What The 100‘s queer fandom has accomplished in these last three weeks is pretty miraculous. By relentlessly compelling mainstream media to acknowledge the existence and danger of Bury Your Gays and to admonish TV writers to do better, fandom has added a level of legitimacy to this issue that we’ve never had before, which has ensured that no person working in TV can hide behind feigned ignorance about this trope anymore. I’m not delusional enough to think mainstream pop culture sites are going to become powerhouse allies for queer female representation, but in this moment their help has been revolutionary. It feels like we’re not just talking to ourselves anymore; the conversation has finally been amplified. In 2013, a series creator called me “infantile” for pushing back against his decision to kill a beloved lesbian character. The days of white male showrunners being able to talk to queer female fans and critics like that are over.
+ Dustin Lance Black is producing an “LGBT-themed limited series” for ABC called When We Rise. Mary-Louise Parker will play Roma Guy and Rachel Griffiths will play her activist wife, Diane. According to The Hollywood Reporter:
When We Rise chronicles the personal and political struggles, setbacks and triumphs of a diverse family of LGBT men and women who helped pioneer one of the last legs of the U.S. civil rights movement, from its turbulent infancy in the 20th century to the once-unfathomable successes of today.
(Yes, it looks suuuuper white.)
+ Everyone is raving about Cameron Esposito’s debut comedy special, Marriage Material. It sounds like her gayest show yet!
Time and distance have afforded Esposito the ability to laugh at her own youthful ignorance, and she continues to get mileage out of it in Marriage Material. She spends a full quarter of the special delving into the special adolescent agony of having a best friend even she didn’t know she was in love with: “I knew I wanted [my boyfriend] to go home and I knew I wanted the same haircut as Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer,“ and that was it. There’s a horrifically awkward interlude in a swim team locker room, in which Esposito wrings maximum physical comedy from stuffing a mid-pubescent body into a very tiny swimsuit. And everything culminates in the particular tragedy of your friend group “experimenting” with everyone else but you.
+ Roxane Gay’s An Untamed State is going to be a movie, starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood.
+ Jodie Foster, who is wearing Harry Potter glasses in this photo THR chose for her, will enchant audiences at the Tribeca Film Festival as she sits down with Julie Taymor to talk about her trajectory from child star to esteemed director. Probably I will go to this panel and report back to you.
Queer People Out and About
+ Your girlfriend Evan Rachel Wood makes a guest appearance in Nylon this week, in which she interviews genderfluid artist Illma Gore, who is responsible for that “Make America Great Again” naked Trump art that’s been making it’s way around the internet. The interview is hardcore. It talks about the Western relationship between the depection of genitals and power, the censorship of art, Facebook’s general bullshit, and of course there’s some existential nihilism floating around in there too.
First of all, I love the video you made to get the word out about your situation. You are so charming and adorable, scraping your feet on the ground, chipping paint off a wall, but at the same time dropping these truth bombs to show a really unique perspective on the subject.
I knew everyone was going to take the wrong idea from it and that was kind of the point. Now, I’m getting sued and they’re all going to know what the point is. So I’m just going to stand here and pick a wall and tell the truth.
+ Marie Claire would like to talk to you about your other girlfriend, Ellen Page; specifically about her new Vice series, Gaycation. It’s an exciting profile that digs deep into the cultural ramifications of the series, and sheds new light on how it came to be. It’s also awesomely, surprisingly intersectional.
Gaycation enters pop culture at a delicate moment for queer rights, both domestically and internationally. Not even a year out from the Supreme Court’s marriage ruling, the United States is still trying, and failing, to secure national employee protections for LGBTQ individuals. The result is troubling: You might be able to get married, but you could be legally fired for it. All the while, the United States is seeing some of the most explicitly transphobic legislation in our nation’s history, with 11 states proposing bathroom restrictions for transgender people based on biological sex.
This urgency is reflected in the series. Gaycation delves beyond the one-dimensional, often sanitized understanding of LGBTQ equality through same-sex marriage to expose the complex layers of enduring homophobia: queer youth homelessness, lack of financial resources, sex work, abuse and rejection in the home. These are the queer issues that define the current climate—and they aren’t going to be absolved by gay marriage alone.
+ Paribas Open CEO Raymond Moore said some stupid sexist malarky about women’s tennis last week, including that the women’s tour “rides on the coattails” of the men’s tour. Billie Jean King had some feelings about it, obviously. Moore has now resigned.
Disappointed in #RaymondMoore comments. He is wrong on so many levels. Every player, especially the top players, contribute to our success
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) March 20, 2016