Remaining on the Guiding Light theme…
Despite being cancelled by CBS, the soap in the past few weeks has seen new audience peaks thanks to “Otalia”, soap jargon for Olivia+Natalia… Basically after 7 decades the pretty town of Springfield now has its first lesbian couple.
And don’t they like it!
It’s a bit late, really. Back on the mid 90s I remember my always delightifully ambiguous and beautiful Maureen Garrett discretely suggesting in an interview that perhaps GL should awknoledge the existence of homsexuality and HIV, a suggestion everybody carefully ignored (when the issue of AIDS was addressed the sick person was a serial killer who dressed up like a woman to lure his victims… Yes, right.)
But now, 15 years later, lesbians rule on TV, and GL couldnt fall behind. It’s as if all of a sudden TV planet had woken up and decided women in love with women is the way to go. I almost can’t name a show that hasn’t displayed a lesbian couple of sorts. The curvaceous Greek doctor in Grey’s Anatomy, who in the previous series had been pining for her little husband, is now all over her female colleagues. Even in silly realities such as America’s Next Top Model now they make sure to select at least one lesbian. No gay equals uncool. It’s quite funny, considered how conservative the States still are and how no President so far has had the guts to openly defend gay rights (Obama did say a couple of things during his campaign but knew that going too far would have alienated some sympathies…)
I’m personally delighted to see TV world opening up to the variety of relationships that life offers, but I do find this recent obsession with lesbians a bit suspicious. Call me cyncial but I doubt this choice comes from a desire to fight discrimination or from sudden liberalism. Rather some producers have decided that sexual ambiguity sells… And voila’! Let’s exploit it and fill the screens with lipstick lesbians.
But the even funnier thing is that, in my personal life, the trend has gone far beyond TV screens. I keep meeting women uncertain about their sexuality and confessing their attraction for other women. I’m starting to wonder whether there’s something wrong with me. I’m not joking. I can count at least 5 in the past 3 months…
What’s going on? Is homo the new black? Or have many women, after repressing their feelings for decades, suddenly decided the moment has come to come out? Do they feel freer to express their true selves, now that even daytime TV seems to have embraced the idea of two women together?
I don’t think so… The truth is, I’m willingly trivializing here, because the friends I talk about tend to be quite troubled and definetly not relaxed about their sexual confusion. Even in superliberal Britain, where openly gay ministers aren’t a problem and everyone seems happy to advertise their sexual life, I know women who have been effectively ostracyzed by their families who pretend to have accepted their homosexuality while in fact carefully avoiding them. One particular friend tried to talk to her mother, who is a psychoanalyst, and she first threw a fit, then tried to “analyse” her daughter for a few hours to find out who was the “culprit”, then said “ok, do what you want, I don’t want to hear about it ever again.” Encouraging!
My fear is that despite Grey’s Anatomy, Ellen, GL and all the fab lesbians on TV, female homsexuality is still often a taboo in our society, which on one side offers a totally liberal and open minded face, but behind this facade feels uncomfortable at the thought. My suspect is that beautifully made up TV lesbians risk only to transform female homosexuality into something “glamorous and naughty that happens on TV.” By glamorizing lesbians, they make them less real. One thing is to watch beautiful soap characters forging a gay relationship in fictional Springfield. It’s different stuff when you have to confront the issue in real life. Then suddenly things are slightly less easy, unfortunately. In soapland this month you’re a lesbian, next month you’re kidnapped by terrorists, and then discover you have a teenage son delivered while you were unconscious… No such things happen in our world, do they? Only sometimes they do.
Talking about it is a first step. But the journey from TV world to reality can be a long one.
For now, let’s wait and see what happens to Otalia. I’m pretty sure at some point Olivia will discover her real vocation is to be a nun and she will retire in a convent on the Swiss Alps.
A lipstick nun, of course…