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March 30 2007

Buffy a gay show? MSN briefly mentions Buffy as an important cultural landmark.

...a glut of gay-themed TV shows and films hit the mainstream: My So-Called Life, Bound, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, My Own Private Idaho, Will And Grace, Capote, Queer As Folk, Philadelphia, The L Word, Brokeback Mountain…

I thought this was an interesting article although it only mentions Buffy briefly. The first time I read it, it took me ages to actually work out why they were referring to Buffy as a gay show, until I actually remembered that Willow was a lesbian. The lesbian relationships in the show were written so brilliantly that I didn't immediately think of them as sticking out more than any of the others.

They forgot Dawson's Creek.
And Full House. (See what I did there?)
Also, "that one time" between Spike and Angel...
As I recall from newspapers of the time BtVS always ahd averys trong gay following from S-1, even an organized habit in soem cities of largely gay groups (m, f, or mixed) gathering in bars or homes for Tuesday Night Viewing Parties. So even before any pioneering aspects associated with Tara Well-Beloved-by-Many (me inlcuded) the audience was there.
"...And so far in the closet, he could have had tea with Mr Tumnus in Narnia."
HAH! Great line.

"And Full House. (See what I did there?)"
NekoDono | March 30, 21:23 CET

"Also, "that one time" between Spike and Angel...
Storyteller | March 30, 21:24 CET"
But of course.

[ edited by Xane on 2007-03-30 21:31 ]
Buffy has always been a gay show, but never in the same way that Will and Grace, Queer as Folk or even Ellen was a gay show. Content wise, it is on the lighter side of programming, but it just seems that way in comparison to the afore-mentioned (sp?) shows, which make a point to show diversity in media and visibility of the queer community. Buffy, in my opinion as a gay man, is an extremely gay show. It has 3 things that make it very gay: empowered, kick-ass heroines, camp, and the outsider motif. Gay men and women love any show that has a capable woman in the lead, who doesn't have to sacrifice her feminine in order to dish out the high kicks, who is believable and has flaws. The best example of the camp is, of course, Once More With Feeling. Characters like Harmony and Glory also bring a campiness to the show. Even if most of these examples aren't as intentionally camp as some of us think they are, they are camp nonetheless. And the outsider motif is something that many minorities/young people/women/queer folk can relate to, and always have. When you add Willow, it's just icing on the cake. :)
I'm impressed that Halle Berry managed to become the first black actress to win an Oscar both culturally *and* socially.

[ edited by barboo on 2007-03-30 22:21 ]
The wonderful thing about Buffy is that you can subscribe almost anything to it. I've seen the show described as socialist, neo-con, green, feminist, right wing, left wing, Freudian, Christian, pagan etc etc.
I think it's because, for all its fantasy elements, Buffy captures a great deal of truth about the world and we humans. And anything that does that and is of sufficient length will provide enough material for people to interpret it exactly as they want.

When you realistically portray people in all their glorious messiness you can pull from that portrayal all the glorious, messy things we do (including but not limited to Simon's list).
What 'we humans' do tends to always have some kind of 'name' for it anyway, and thus some kind of following and/or opposition...

Unless it doesn't provoke any emotional involvement and response in its audience when shown on TV, which, in fact, really isn't the Buffy I remember, now, is it?
Buffy is TOTALLY gay! I mean, who watches "Buffy!?!?" *giggles*

See, 'cause Full House was about a bunch of grown men living and raising a family together, and uh, ah fuck it. Never mind.

[ edited by NekoDono on 2007-03-31 01:39 ]
Buffy is bi.
Buffy and Faith forever!
@eddy: sounds good to me!
Is it a bad thing that the first bit of porn I was exposed to as a child was an explicit Buffy/Faith fic?
NekoDono: I wish I could say the same thing. The best I did was relate said fic to other like-minded individuals.
Hmmm, a glut? Seriously? Someone needs to get a dictionary.

Of course, they aren't all the gay-themed TV shows on television. Where's Dawson's Creek and Six Feet Under and Oz?

I'm a bit reticent to call any show with a single gay character in it "gay themed", though. So that's about it.

It's a drop in the ocean. Not a glut. Very little has changed in the twenty years since Rock Hudson died.
Yeah, a bit free with both 'glut' and 'gay-themed' but is it really true that "Very little has changed in the twenty years since Rock Hudson died." ?

I think things have come a long way from comedy poofs like Mr Humphries from 'Are You Being Served ?' to well rounded characters like Willow, the women in 'The L Word' (from what I hear) or even Will in 'Will and Grace' (though from what I saw of it Jack always struck me as being very much the 21st century equivalent of Mr Humphries). Not far enough for sure but to say 'very little' seems an exaggeration to me.

It does seem true to me though that A-list actors still can't be openly gay, probably as a result of trying very hard not to offend any particular demographic.
Nicanor, that was a very interesting perspective.
As a straight woman with some gay friends & relatives, one thing I've always loved about Buffy is the matter-of-fact portrayal of both Willow and Tara's relationship, how it was treated exactly the same as any other relationship on the show, and the fact that there were casual references here and there that indicated that a straight character could recognize another straight character as attractive & just move on as if nothing unusual had occurred. My favorite of those moments being Xander's comment about Spike, I think it was in Intervention ... "You know ... strong, mysterious sort of compact but well muscled." And if I got that quote completely right, from memory, I'm not sure if I'm gonna feel pleased or like the world's biggest nerd :)
Mostly I think there was a general feel to the show of being totally inclusive, with no big deal being made of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or as metaphor, alive or undead or "good" demon (Clem, Lorne).
And I will never understand the thing about "A-list" actors having to hide it if they're gay, because they could no longer convincingly play straight characters in romantic or sexual situations. Happily married straight actors can convincingly play characters who are madly in love with another character in a movie, so I just don't get the difference.
In seven seasons on air, Will Truman had one regular boyfriend that he actually got to kiss on screen. There might have been a handful of male kisses in the entire run of the show. Most of them were pecks rather than passion.

Dawson's Creek suffered a similar affliction, a gay character who was never affectionate with anyone. Well, maybe once.

"Very little" is the definition of two long-term lesbian relationships on network television (on Buffy and ER) ever. And no gay male equivalent.

Cable shows fare a little better, with long-term lesbian relationships on The L Word and The Wire and long-term gay male relationships on Oz and Queer as Folk and Six Feet Under and Noah's Arc.

If I've missed any, please let me know. It'll be nice when the number hits double-digits.

Yes, it seems like a long way from Mr Humphries... but as you say, Jack on W&G was almost the equivalent - and gay characters are still being used for humour in films all the time.

And mainstream gay themed films? Well, Philadelphia and Brokeback Mountain. Unless there's some new kind of fancy definition for mainstream that somehow includes Bound and My Own Private Idaho... which are cult films at best. Idaho won a little more recognition because of its leading men, but not a huge audience.

STOP THE PRESS: Apparently "Brothers & Sisters" has a gay male couple amongst its main cast. Bravo! Particularly noteworthy because it's barely even raised an eyebrow.

So things are changing, but not quickly.
Doctor Who and Torchwood have their moments.
It seems to be the way things go that the way to mainstreaming is first to be used for humor on sitcoms, so there's hope. Captain Jack on Who/Torchwood is brilliantly painted and both shows are run by RTD who is the hugely successful creator of the original Queer as Folk as well as Bob & Rose and The Second Coming. Six feet Under had some really incredibly stuff for its gay and straight characters and never shied away from much of anything. It seems that gay characters are still stuck in humorland on networks, but the cable/satellite stations are far more willing to treat them more matter of factly. I mean, look at Lee Adama on BSG (KIDDING! Still, here's some reading material on that subject.).

[ edited by zeitgeist on 2007-03-31 14:36 ]
So things are changing, but not quickly.

I don't disagree (and i'd tag 'enough' onto the end) but my point is crossoverman, 20 years ago, how many shows were there full-stop for you to complain about the timidity of ? The list of shows which treated their gay characters without courage is depressing BUT it's also a list. Progress in other words.

It's all a matter of degree though obviously and I guess a few drops in the ocean are easier to be sanguine about when you're represented by the ocean and not the drops.
You are right, Saje. The fact that there is a list is encouraging. Maybe soon the list will be too long to recite off the top of my head.

It's definitely encouraging to know a show like Brothers & Sisters has a gay male couple on it and it's barely made a ripple. I'm not sure what that says about the profile of the show, but it wasn't long ago that no network TV show would air two gay men kissing. At least the networks are on board.

As to Captain Jack on Torchwood/Doctor Who - yay bisexuality! But really, he gets two kisses in two episodes of Torchwood - and the rest of the cast spent the entire season shagging. But at least with RTD in charge of both shows, something is happening that would never have happened twenty years ago!

I am grateful the tide is turning.
I have the feeling that Torchwood will go further with things with Jack and keep pushing the bounds of what we expect to see. At least here's hoping, cause who wants to see Owen shagging all the time ;) I'm encouraged by the fact that such a high profile show allows for Jack to be kissing the boys at all. It seems to me that away from Doctor Who, Jack seems to be less interested in the ladies, but I could be misreading.

I've watched Brothers and Sisters all season (though I'm not entirely sure why, the melodrama makes me roll my eyes almost continuously - hey maybe thats it! the fact that its a good eyeball workout) and the only character that really interests me is Kevin (he would be the gay brother), though I am of course amused by the fact that Joe's last name is Whedon :) Thanks, Marti! Actually I think I like recurring character Scotty (Kevin's on again off again) more than any of the regular characters. Glad to see Rachel Griffiths and Ron Rifkin back on the tube, though!

[ edited by zeitgeist on 2007-03-31 14:56 ]
Nicanor; I know the "outsider theme" is something any high school English student can recognize on the surface.Thing is, there's mroe than one type of outsider (at least two basic ones;people who have insider personalities but are defined into excluded groups versus people who are loners by nature.*) Which isn't to say that the show lost sight of that, since the gang and their allies tended to include both.
*Which goes a long way towards explaining my own Far-Right-Wing-with-Exceptions political beliefs.

Shey;It's an interesting thing re Willow and Tara. I verys trongly agree and cheer that it was presented matter-of-factly...when it was presented. There's been discussion of this on "another board" this past week, posters pointing out that unlike basically every other romantic and/or sexual relationship on the show, we didn't see all that much of its growth. Yes, there are external-to-Joss reasons for this like network "programming standards" but then again that's part of the whole issue anyway. (And I don't see much growth shown in Willow-Kennedy either. In my own pompous opinion,there wasn't much growth to show since it was never so much a relationship as it was a little charity whocka-whocka.)

General comment; As to how it's been easier for TV to portray lesbian relationships as both serious and physical I think it's fairly simple and most of us probably are aware of this. When two women are involved at least 80% of even the most homophobic straight males (not to mention those who aren't) will still have a the naughty-8th-grade-boy reaction to it. And straight women seem (from my limited viewpoint) to be less likely to have problems with lesbians than straight men can with gay men. So there's a small but significant fraction less opposition to it.

Gay-themed films which are mainstream like the 2 mentioned and for example _Making Love_ or even "semi-mainstream" ones like like Liana or the one from last year whose title I can't recall (Tony Head played the father of the bride) seem always seem to be "about that." Which is exactly what the matter-of-factness aspect of Willow - Tara avoided. And which I don't think we'll see in fetaures for quite a while. Say a mystery where one of the detectives just simply has a same-sex romantic partner. (If I could write mysteries I'd try to do one.)

I don't know where the writer of MArvel's "Secret Wars" stole this but he put it into Captain AMerica's speech balloon. (I don't make friends easily so it doesn't apply to me.) "Some of my best friends are people." Which was, to its credit, a theme that _BtVS_ usually echoed.
I think Willow and Tara surpassed the notion of gay v's not gay. They simply loved each other, a lot. It's one of those brilliant things that Joss does.
I've always had the notion that Willow would have loved Tara regardless of the body her soul was housed in. Had Tara's soul been in a man, Willow would have been with a man. It wasn't about being anything but in love.

Ever read Gotham Central? Brubaker and Rucka handled Renee Montoya's sexuality and her relationship with her girlfriend very well.
Willow, schmillow, what about Larry?
NekoDono: I don't even know what that is but thanks for the tip. Plus, let's face it, I was talking about films and that'll be along time coming I think.

zandra: Well, inspite of his trnasformation from a bad guy into a better than the average good guy just by being honest, Larry wasn't a major character and since he died at Graduation many people regard him as another example of what they regard as Joss 's two-faced failure on the issue. (I once tried ficcing an alternative;my Mary Sue character was tricked into a venageance wish and one of the facts in his very very short-lived Wishverse was Larry and Andrew as roomies.)

cheryl;Fundamentally I agree with you on Willow's loving souls rather than bodies. (I even have Cordelia making a touching speech about it in one of my fics, followed by Anya making a rude joke about talking cats.) Despite what Joss showed in S-7 (or, to an extent, in "Him," supported by it) I think that still applies to the character. What a person can like and what they wish to act on aren't always completely =======.
Angel and Spike "That one.........." Which has got to be a lot more that just one! The word time was not spoken!
The truly AWESOME thing about Whedon's gay just how "normal" they were....there was no "Very Special" gay episodes...and no neurotic gay characters, and no silly gayisms (sorry..Jack from W&G is funny but lived up to this country's expectations of homosexuality)

Hell...even lunkhead Larry comes out in season 2 and then is still talking about football and eggwhites during the first ep of season 3... no big... just is...cause it ain't special, it ain't different, and the more we treat it as such the more homophobia will endure...

Of course that's Whedon's positive message. The problem is that when the rubber meets the road, reality is harsher... and while Californians may seem to have a better handle on it...the rest of the world still sucks...

Even the most metaphorical "gay" episode aptly called "Family" was not so much about Tara's gayness but about her power as a woman. BTW "Family" was written by Joss....and in case you don't know-- "Family" is an often used gay term for other gay folk...I'm not saying he's gay but that he knows things about that world (or at least understands it) unlike Brokeback Mountain which, to me, felt like a gay movie for straight folk, with "straight" notions of gayness (promiscuity, neurosis, tragicness of being gay..etc)

So again I say....LONG LIVE JOSS!!!!!
So...Am I to understand that Buffy is a "gay" show because there are gay characters on it? Then I guess we can say that Angel is a "black" show because of the character Gunn. And it must have really been a black show when Gina Torres was playing Jasmine.
One more brother or sister in the cast and they would have been moving "Angel" over to The WB.
Yay for the Brothers and Sisters reference! It's my fave new show, aside from Heroes, and I was sad to see Marti part ways from it (even though I think she's doing great on Grey's :). I agree with the descriptions of "not a big deal" and "positive, realistic" in regards to Jossian relationships, especially Willow and Tara's. While I am a big supporter of pansexuality, blurring the gender binary and general "choosing not to give a name", I also value the visibility that Joss brings by developing a relationship like Willow and Tara's. I agree that he was never trying to make a statement with it, but even that is also, in a sense, making a statement. To me, it was clear that Willow was a self-identified lesbian by the end of the show. At the same time, it's important to realize that it does not in any way invalidate the love she had for Oz, or their relationship.

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