Why is it that, as a culture, we are more comfortable seeing two men holding guns than holding hands? ~Ernest Gaines
On more than one occasion here I have talked about ‘cultural products’ that potentially expand the public space available to LGBTQ youth.
Lately that space has gotten incrementally more open and diverse as society has come a long way from the days of Will and Grace where all gays were grown up and seldom dated to the days of GLee. I won’t look back any further because things get downright depressing prior to W&G. (*At the end of this post I’ve attached a couple short videos about media depiction of the LGBTQ community over the last 30 years.)
Anyway today there are divergent possible spaces in which LGBTQ youth and their straight identifying peers might see a queer character that is not neatly tucked into one of the four following narratives: a sicko killer or psychopath of some sort; a victim getting bashed; an amusing sidekick to a pretty straight lady; or a one-dimensional comedic stereotype for ridicule and ick jokes (thanks for the memories Eddie Murphy).
Anyhow, last night I was reading about the new MTV series Skins, a remake of the BBC series of the same name. The BBC’s Skins depicts teens lives as filled with sex, drugs, violence, and a bit of rock and roll. And in this teen world not unlike in the actual world some of the kids are gay.
Like The Office, among other BBC shows, there is now a U.S. version underway of Skins. Having watched the first couple episodes I guess I’d call it Beverly Hills 90210 minus the absurd wealth.
But back to my point in the article I was reading I learned, “before “Skins” premiered, the Parents Television Council was already on its case, accusing the series of being “the most dangerous show on television.”
You know, because of the sex, drugs, and violence. Well, as a parent I’m not to hot on my kids watching any of those things either. So they don’t.
But somehow in this public outcry and panic I heard a bit of a homophobic dog whistle. Maybe that’s because when I watched episode two of Skins on the MTV web site the other night I found that I had to submit my birth-date before I could view the really dangerous scene involving two girls making out.
Really? Watching explicitly sexual heterosexual narratives in far more main stream programming where characters sexually degrade themselves and each other (Ugly Betty, 2.5 Men), pet and slobber all over the television (the never-ending 90210), and laden every conversation with sexual innuendo (How I Met Your Mother) that’s just peachy keen.
In my lifetime of viewing mainstream television I have seen millions of heterosexual bedroom images. So have you, so has everyone. There are straight people kissing and straight people romping off to the bedroom in everything from family programming to chewing gum commercials.
But queer teens kissing and heading off to the bedroom – now that is dangerous. And here I have to mention that the BBC Skins queer character was male and the U.S. queer Tea is female, which suggests to me there was already a plot tweak to protect American sensibilities from the possibility of watching male/male intimacy and a nod to our cultures relative approval for lipstick lesbian action on the screen. Ick.
But you gotta know what sells when your making t.v. shows for the American consumer amiright?!
Okay, so here’s the honest question: As a parent do I want my kids watching Skins?
Nope, but they already don’t watch a single Disney princess or the Princess Diaries etc. or any show or film designed for young children where the female plot line revolves around the character’s success evidenced through a make out session at the end of the film. You guessed it, my young children don’t watch much t.v.
I’d rather they get to develop their own sense of self before the onslaught of marketing tells them they are not enough no matter who they are, what they want, or what they do until they buy the right product, the right idea, the right image.
So I admit I agree there will be no Skins for my children.
But “The Most Dangerous Show on Television” really?!
Does the Parents Television Council know how v i o l e n t television is today? And how heterosexual sexual and gendered violence are the central sources of plot line and entertainment on nearly every cop, lawyer, and hospital drama on television right now? Honestly my 11-year-old daughter has a classmate who tells bedtime scare stories that are simply her recounting episodes of CSI.
The television literally oozes with sexual and gendered violence. It’d be nice if The Parent Council considered kissing at least slightly less dangerous than serial rapists and killing.
One in ten girls in our country has been sexually assaulted by a male. Nearly 75% of the women murdered in this country are killed by their male spouse/partner or estranged lover. Heterosexual violence is an epidemic in our country. And when it comes to youth violence male / male violence we set records for a nation ‘at peace’ as well.
So how dangerous is it to watch two girls, or two boys for that matter kissing?
I dunno but I think the scales may be slightly out-of-order on this one.
————-And here as promised a brief video history of how Hollywood has depicted the LGBTQ community over the years .——-
Off the Straight & Narrow: Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals & TV (Media Education Foundation)
Further off the Straight and Narrow: New Gay visibility on T.V. (Media Education Foundation)