Yep, I'm back again. Talking about the same subject. Labels, stereotypes, expectations placed out of a false sense of 'representation'.
So many people are upset because Otalia may or may not kiss by the time Guiding Light goes off the air. I can understand the upset for anyone who hoped for a fairy tale ending. Firstly there is not concrete confirmation one way or the other that a kiss did or did not happen. We're going to have to wait until the final frame of the final episode airs to know for sure.
What I don't understand is the massive move to condemn the writers, the network and the owners of Guiding Light and the characters of Olivia and Natalia over what might not occur. The reason I don't understand is that the battle cry seems to be that they are "doing this to us" or "we're not being represented" or "we're being represented in a bad light again." All of these statements of course are referring to homosexuals or lesbians as a group. As a collective mind with a collective will and collective interests. My problem with this, other than that humans are individuals and I still don't feel these labels are in any way accurate and are in fact detrimental, is that these labels are put upon the characters by the audience. The show worked hard to not label the story, the romance, the love that Olivia and Natalia were realizing. So many people scoffed and ridiculed those of us who made an effort to keep the labels away. Those of us who refused to allow this pure story of two souls finding and loving and needing each other had to fight hard and be constantly vigilant in out efforts to keep the labels off of the story and characters. But then people started referring to it as a 'same-sex' love story, and placing all of the expectations on it from every 'gay' or 'lesbian' story that had come before. Setting it up to fail by constantly looking for the same missteps that had damaged 'stories that represent us' in the past. Of course you're going to be disappointed if you're looking for mistakes or comparing to things past.
Maybe this analogy can describe it better. It's like a new lover. They may be the most attentive, kind, thoughtful, supportive, understanding person in the world, but if every time they scratch their nose with that same middle finger and not the index finger, or tap their spoon on the coffee mug 6 times but always in 3 sets of 2, or just can't seem to remember to call when they're going to be a little bit late you're reminded of an ex, then that's your problem and not theirs. If you continue to blame them evenutally the relationship will fall apart. The issue is with you, your perceptions and your expectations, not them. If you don't see that, and work on it from your side then when it does end you've only got yourself to blame.
The audience members who are the most upset about things now, are the members who put those labels and expectations on the show and characters themselves. P&G, CBS, Guiding Light, not even the actresses ever said, "Hey come and watch our amazing gay storyline with lesbian characters that will be the best 'representation' you've ever seen on screen." They simply presented a love story with a classically soapy sense of tumult a Jane Austen sense of societal standards and a Bronte-esque sense of devotion between two passionate, intelligent people. They haven't failed in that.
If you're upset it's because of your expectations not their actions.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
It's been a while since I've posted here. Life has been busy, but I should have made time.
A lot of discussion has been made of the Otalia storyline on Guiding Light. There has been lengthy back and forth debate over personal perceptions regarding how the couple is being written. Without negating any one's personal feelings, I'd like to post my own thoughts on some of those criticisms.
It seems to me that once a term is applied to a person or situation or idea, even if it's just in our own minds, that flexibility and open mindedness is immediately limited. That's not to say that it's a bad thing maybe, but it's something to consider. When just the idea of a pregnancy for Natalia came into speculation I saw so many people immediately claim that yet another lesbian character, story, couple was being destroyed, desexualized, hetro'd etc. and that their love for the storyline was now forever changed. Here is the thing though. The Otalia storyline has always been one about two people who unwittingly came together, forming a friendship, a family and a home before finally admitting to themselves and each other that they were in love. Yes Olivia and Natalia are both women, but that's not the point of the story. If Olivia were in fact a man then Natalia being pregnant wouldn't have elicited comparison to previous heterosexual storylines. People wouldn't have cited how every straight couple on television has some obstacle thrown in their way. It was only because those individuals chose to assign a category to the couple that expectations were set and perceived to have been unfulfilled. This leads me to my next point, words, and more specifically adjectives.
By constantly pointing out that you are not like this person or that person, aren't you in fact re-enforcing a barrier that you claim to want broken down? I understand that there is a certain freedom that some people feel in the 'reclaiming of hurtful language' but there is a point where it's no longer about other people not being able to hurt you with those words and becomes more about you separating yourself with them. Keeping with the Otalia example, to keep referring to them as a lesbian couple, or a gay couple is to imply that they are different from non-gay couples. There is a quote from one of my other favorite television shows, that was also prematurely canceled, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip that to me illustrated this concept. Aaron Sorkin has written the characters of Harriet and Matt and they are discussing gay marriage. Harriet asks, "What is wrong with civil unions?..." Matt cuts her off with, "Because there is no way to get to the end of that sentence without saying that gay love is something less than straight love..." I feel like by putting vague and inadequate qualifiers on who we are when we're describing ourselves and others, that we are passively saying that it's an important difference between me and you and it might change how you see me so I need to let you know that we're not the same. If someone is talking about a 'black' woman, a 'mixed race' child, or 'gay' couple, do any of those qualifiers tell you anything about who those people are? If you switch them around, a 'gay' woman, a 'black' child or a 'mixed race' couple, does that change who they are? What if all of these qualifiers applied to the same person? A 'gay' woman who was a 'black' child and is part of a 'mixed race' couple. Are all 'gay' people the same, all 'black' people, 'Jewish' people, 'blonde' people, 'New Yorkers', 'Germans', 'women'? It may look ridiculous printed out like this, but that's because to me it is. These words don't say anything at all about who these people are. Do any of those labels tell us that the way the people will relate to their parents, treat their partner or raise their children is different from the way you would? The only purpose of these 'labels' is to say that there is something about them that is different from you. It's not even a difference that affects relatability. I'm not saying that everyone should stop using labels, but maybe not over use them.
Whether you agree, disagree or have no opinion what-so-ever about these statements, I ask one thing of you. The next time you find yourself using a word that 'defines' you or someone else, take a moment to think about it. Words are weighty how much can you carry around before you get tired, resentful and angry?