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March 28 2004

Bryan Fuller and TV's most influential players discuss gay themes in television. "On Wonderfalls, we have a lesbian character. We explore her relationship, but we were told explicitly by (the network's) Standards and Practices (department) that we cannot show them kiss."

I think a gay television channel is a great idea. I never thought about that before.
Excellent article to read. Very insightful and interesting. I find it sad, though, that it's okay for Fox to allow two females kissing for the "shock value" but they won't allow two females who are in a relationship to be shown kissing.

I also liked that the MTV polls show that most young people are okay with the idea of Gay marriage. I've said it before, those young people are either already at the age to vote or coming close to it and things will change when they let their voices be heard.
My perception of this is that it seems to be the reactionary religious right that the US networks seem scared of and that the networks will not dream of offending the right by showing a single sex couple kissing.

This vocal influential lobby group does not want the general public to see that single sex couples are as normal as hetrosexual couples.
I think Simon is making a correct observation. I remember that, during the scene where Jaye's sisters meets the ex-wife-who's-a-lesbian, the other female comes on to her like some kind predatory seductress. When I saw that, I got annoyed because, even though I am straight and don't know all that many gay people, I totally believe that when gays meet, they act *exactly* like the rest of us do, and not like sex-crazed nutballs. All that scene needed was a banner across the bottom shouting:"lookie, lookie - lesbians!", and it offended me that once again gays were being portrayed as cartoon characters instead of human beings. (Contrast that scene with Willow and Tara in BtVS, where they meet, become friends and then fall in love in a manner that makes the homosexuality a footnote to the love rather than the focus.)
I am hopeful that future episodes of WF will portray the sister in a more realistic light, whether she kisses another woman onscreen or not.
I find it sad, though, that it's okay for Fox to allow two females kissing for the "shock value" but they won't allow two females who are in a relationship to be shown kissing.

Sad, yes, but you can't really blame them. If they allowed it, they'd stir up the religious right-wingers, who are much more numerous and vocal than people who are offended that they're not allowing it. It's math, really.

Wow, I can't believe I stood up for Fox.
Well, if by "stood up for" you mean "correctly labeled them as cowards", then yes.
It's not only on tv. Here's an interesting look at how religious groups are starting to grab alot of the limited radio bandwidth in the US.
For a supposedly(supposebly, whichever) religious tolerant country, we listen to religion too damn much. Most religious groups(PTC I'm looking at you) are all about the freedom of religion except if it's other people's religion. Anyway, I agree with fox's move, they couldn't afford to piss off the PTC too much without seeing boycott after bitching and all that.
I found wissxwe comments above interesting especially the use of the phrase 'predatory', a term which was used quite often in regards to Kennedy. I fail to see where sexual desire among homosexuals is regarded a 'predatory' where similar behavior among straight characters would scarcely be remarked on. When we hold gay sexuality on screen to a different standard than straight, whether out of a genuine fear that it will allienate straight audience or from our own squeamishness about it, I think we do a real disservice to gay characters. I don't think every gay relationship needs to start with the sexual coyness (lovely as that coyness was) that Willow & Tara started with. Sometimes homosexuality isn't a "footnote", sometimes it's the note.
At long last, something myself and Unitas can agree on.
GEESH! I stand my my statement. And I was categorically not holding the gay scene to a "higher" standard. If a male had approached her in that very same manner, it would have offended me, too. Overt sexual advances from a complete stranger spells "predator" to me, not matter what the age, gender, or sexual orientation of the target they are directed at is.

Which has almost nothing to do with what I said! I was commenting on how so often gays are portrayed in an "over-the-top" fashion on TV, and not like real human beings at all. I don't understand why you feel I'm being negative towards gays by saying that. I'm being negative towards the cowardly networks!

I give up.

[ edited by wissxwe on 2004-03-29 01:07 ]
Yes, Unitas, excellent point.

To be evenhanded, to move forward beyond stereotypes, to truly show gay people in the same light as straight people - it's realistic to show all facets. There are straight and gay flirts, straight and gay shy people, one-night stands in both situations, long term relationships in both situations.

Fact is, when it comes to finding "someone special", it doesn't really matter which gender you're trying to find - the emotions, situations, fumbles, triumphs, stumbles, etc, are all similar. It's about the humanity of the situation, not the gender of it.

And we, as viewers, respond when the humanity is true to life and resonates with us, creating a common ground.
I had a reaction to wissxwe that was marginally similar to Unitas--which in turn created the exact same reaction in me as Caroline expressed!

It's been a while since I have dated a woman but while I would agree with Unitas that same-sex relationships can begin in the same myriad ways that opposite-sex relationships do, it is also often a feature in meeting someone of the same sex that one person must be overt. Because there are so many social situations where people so inclined must tread very carefully, even those who are "out of the closet," it is often necessary to be far more clear and forthright with signals when a situation does arise than might occur in more socially acceptable circumstances. Do I think that FOX takes note of this and tries to portray it? Hell, no. I think that wissxwe is probably correct that the more the scene was played for titallation, the more likely FOX was willing to keep it.

Also, herb, thanks for the interesting link and Cabus, while I completely agree with you on the "more vocal" part, the "much more numerous" is arguable. Definitely highly organized and politically active but many political scientists feel that, despite the reflection in governmental issues, they do not hold an actual majority in the population.

OT, but along these lines: I would recommend an excellent book by a woman who has been studying right-wing organizing for a number of decades: Mobilizing Resentment: Conservative Resurgence from the John Birch Society to the Promise Keepers by Jean Hardisty. She has done extensive participant observation and carefully documents the co-optation of the religious right by the far-right, the differences between the two and how they differ from the moderate right wing, and the appropriation of the Republican party by this bloc. She is very careful to try not to judge folks on the right in general but instead tries to discern why so many get drawn into such a conservative movement which frequently only benefits the very small faction of leaders (of whom she is much more critical). Very interesting read.
Can anyone explain why a lesbian kiss is offensive to religious groups while Temptation Island is not?
Well, if by "stood up for" you mean "correctly labeled them as cowards", then yes.

I think I'd say "aware of consequences and conservative viewer's reactions" instead of coward.

Can anyone explain why a lesbian kiss is offensive to religious groups while Temptation Island is not?

No idea, but religion doesn't really make sense that way. Like it or not, homossexuality is a huge taboo with these people, while infidelity isn't. You can't expect Fox to attempt to break a taboo at the high risk of a very negative viewer reaction. Come on, we all hate Fox, but be reasonable!

Cabus, while I completely agree with you on the "more vocal" part, the "much more numerous" is arguable. Definitely highly organized and politically active but many political scientists feel that, despite the reflection in governmental issues, they do not hold an actual majority in the population.

I stand corrected, I didn't know that. I'm not a huge fan of politics, so forgive my ignorance on the subject. That was just my general impression.

[ edited by Cabus on 2004-03-29 03:16 ]
I wasn't trying to correct you--more or less just trying to shine a little light of hope. They are so conspicuous and powerful that I know it is hard to believe. No implied ignorance intended at all!
Well, hm. I saw the first episode of Wonderfalls and I didn't find the hook-up between the sister and the ex-wife offensive, just a little contrived if anything. Or at least it would have felt contrived in the setting of another show, but it seemed to fit this one just fine.

On the other hand I think Kennedy is a different story. I think people find Kennedy offensive because the Willow/Kennedy storyline makes some people feel like it was written in a sense of, "We're both lesbians, so obviously, we must date." Kennedy seemed to have some sort of "lesbidar" and hit on Willow the first time she spoke to her, seemingly only because she realised Willow, also, was a lesbian. I don't think it's so much how predatory she was there, as it is that it gives off the impression that if there are two lesbians in a space they will date like it's required.

I'm not saying this is right or wrong, mind, I just think that people who were slightly offended by Kennedy were offended for reasons having nothing to do with her being blunt.
weatherby - That's interesting. I've never heard anyone with that objection before. It strikes me as rather strange considering the endless number of heterosexual hook-ups among different characters. I mean, these are two incredibly hot gay woman locked in the same house together for months on end. Really, how strange would it be for them to hook up. Plus it's a story contrivence. Willow needs a new girlfriend and this is the most economical way to do it. This is television (something it seems that some people forget) so you have to tell the story in shorthand at times which means Whedon & Co. really don't have time to introduce three new gay female characters for Willow to choose from.
Really? I hadn't actually thought about it myself until I read someone else saying it somewhere, and I think I've seen it a few times so I thought it was a common-ish complaint.

I think that it's easy for people to feel this way about Willow/Kennedy if they don't see why Willow would be with Kennedy, and especially for the people who don't see why Willow did need a new girlfriend. If someone thinks there's no reason for Willow to be interested in Kennedy at all, I think that they can come up with, "Well, Kennedy is gay", and it then turns into, "So, Willow is just interested in her because she's gay? The hell?"

I mean, I suppose it really depends on how much chemistry you think Willow and Kennedy have, personality wise, and how easily offended you are. Personally, speaking as a gay woman, I didn't find anything offensive about it from that standpoint. I can easily see how people would, however, because I myself don't get why Willow would be attracted to Kennedy. I tend to see it as you said, though, in that it was a story contrivance.
Unitas, not every hot straight couple that is locked up in a house for a while will automatically fall in love. Why would two hot lesbians? And I agree with weatherby that it was odd how Kennedy started flirting with Willow before she could even know she was a lesbian. (I still say Willow was bi but that's a whole different Oprah)

And for the record, yes, Kennedy was very predatory. But that had nothing to do with her being gay. If she'd put the moves on Xander or Spike in the same way, she'd have been just as predatory. Faith is predatory too. They come on strong, which is a trait that has nothing to do with 'orientation'.

And I'm one of those who never understood the notion that Willow 'needed' a girlfriend. It's besides the gay issue, I know, but I just don't get why Willow couldn't be on her own. Besides, Willow's 'falling in love' consisted of 3 eps of looking confused at the pushy flirting, one ep of going on a date with the same confused look, have her trauma over Tara manifest and then be 'solved' by a sudden burst of 'I LOVE you Kennedy' that apparently wiped Tara's memory from her mind and caused an 'instant-relationship' somehow. After that she merely sat around nodding like Kennedy's good little geisha.

I consider it easily the most poorly developed relationship in any of Joss' shows. If it had been developed more properly I still wouldn't have liked her, nor found it credible that Willow would fall for this type of person, but it would've been something.


Of all the relationships that Joss turned into tragic shipwrecks this is the one he saved.

As for the rather offensive notion that Fox won't allow any lesbian kisses on Wonderfalls, I find that very strange considering what we saw on Buffy. I know Joss had to put up a fight for Willow and Tara, but from then on it didn't seem a problem, all the way up to Kennedy. (Including a semi-sex scene) And I didn't see the religious right go all crazy over that. Is it simply because Fox is a bigger network? Or should we simply say 'It's Fox, what the hell do we expect'?
wissxwe, nobody's attacking you and nobody said you were being negative. You expressed an opinion, unitas expressed another, other people agreed, that's kind of what happens in discussions.
And I'm one of those who never understood the notion that Willow 'needed' a girlfriend.

It's the Buffyverse! No one could ever be single for an entire season! (Except for Giles, of course.)
EdDantes - I wasn't saying that every hot straight or gay couple locked in a house together would fall in love (or lust) for that matter, just that it's not that much of a stretch that some would. I mean there was a lot of heterosexual tension running around that house as well. The Willow/Kennedy relationship and it's necessity/treatment in the storyline is certainly a debateable issue. I don't think it's anyone's favorite relationship but I still think that thematically, it's very important (shame they couldn't get Amber Benson back, though)

Also, wanted to apoligise for my comment in the Boranez interview thread last week. You seemed to take offense and though the comment was meant as playful I can certainly see how you could be offended. My only defense is a tremondous lack of sleep that weekend.

[ edited by Unitas on 2004-03-29 17:57 ]
RE: Willow and Kennedy. I was pretty much staying out of most of the discussions surrounding BtVS while it was on the air (after Season 6, the 'discussions' about which kinda traumatized me [/semi-facetiousness), so I couldn't say what the general objections to Kennedy were, I can only speak for myself.
First of all, I was never annoyed by Kennedy herself. I actually kinda liked her. And I more-or-less accepted the Willow/Kennedy relationship. But I did feel it happened way too fast. Not just because of Tara, although that was a semi-factor, but even regardless of her and Willow's grieving period. I just didn't feel it developed gradually and naturally enough for me to become truly invested it.
Now, I do believe that part of the reason for the Willow/Kennedy, and swiftness of their developement, was because the writers wanted to prove something, after all that controversy surrounding Tara's death. They wanted Willow to be in a relationship that lasted through the end of the show, that wasn't going to end on a sad note- that's what I believe. I also think they wanted to portray Willow and Kennedy as a sexually active couple and not shy away from it in anyway. I think they wanted to get Willow and Kennedy to the point where they'd be having sex before the end of the series. I'm not sure that any of the writers have said any of this themselves, but I do believe that it is the case.
Now I don't think that wanting to prove something in itself is inherently a bad thing. But when it supercedes natural storytelling then it's a flaw.
Because Willow and Kennedy just moved way too swiftly for me. That's the only issue I had with it. It seemed to come almost out of nowhere. And I didn't feel it, with a few exceptions, because of that. I guess that's about all I have to say.
foxcorreo - You have a point. Whedon said explicitly that he did not want to end the series with Willow in some form of widowhood (believe this was in the Film Force IGN interview last year). He didn't address the sexual component but I think you have a good point there as well. The relationship probably does move too fast but remember, the show is ending so somethings kinda have to move fast. It may not be smooth but I accept the reality of the situation, like I said above about this ultimatly being a TV show.
And another point to consider, even though they had faced the end of the world before, this time seemed like they wouldn't win and that could've speeded up people's feelings for each other thinking these may be their last days on earth and they just don't want to be alone. I thought the episode where they showed them all hooking up but Buffy and Spike just holding each other was showing that. The other three couples were having sex but it didn't seem as intimate in comparison to Buffy and Spike just holding each other and being there. It seemed like the other three couples were just reaching out more for the physical connection than for the emotional connection, to feel alive (which ironically is what was going on with Buffy the season before and her relationship with Spike).

In Willow's case this made sense. I do think it's believable she had feelings for Kennedy but I do not think they were ever as strong. Willow was wounded and here was a strong person wanting her and wanting to comfort her and she was dealing with the death of someone she loved, still recovering from the things she did in reaction to that and it was easy for her to sit back and let someone else be strong for her. Remember how fragile and nervous she was about doing any spells but by the end of the season she was ready.

After saying all that, I am not someone who enjoyed the Willow/Kennedy relationship. I did feel it was too rushed and that Kennedy came across as very pushy but I do think that the way the season was set up, that they most likely won't win this battle (even though they did) they were all feeling doomed and to be in a relationship with someone was more of an escape of what was to come. I mean Xander and Anya basically agreed they had no future together but then went on to have sex several times after that. The relationship was no longer important but connecting with someone in a physical manner was.
I do agree that it makes sense, people hooking up for sex at the end of the world. I think Willow and Kennedy would have made more sense in that sort of case without the random, deep loving conversations they had (of which I cannot remember exact context but specifically I can think of Kennedy's, "I always get my way, and now, you're my way", and the whole thing with tethering Willow to earth) which seemed to imply that it wasn't purely physical. Plus, Willow was worried about having sex, so I'm not so sure if that works with the way Willow handled the relationship.

forcorreo, I totally agree with you, re: Now, I do believe that part of the reason for the Willow/Kennedy, and swiftness of their developement, was because the writers wanted to prove something, after all that controversy surrounding Tara's death.

A lot of people complain that this was the one relationship that ended happily, but I can only imagine the controversy if Kennedy had died after what happened with Tara. If Willow and Kennedy had ended up miserable, even without death, I think people would have started yelling about lesbians being 'punished.'

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