Thursday, October 19, 2017

Isn't It So Much More Than In High Heels and Backwards?

Queer women love to drag The L Word's Jenny Schecter, but I still maintain that she's a far better character than people give her credit for. She has her flaws, but her feminist sensibilities are certainly more progressive than those of most of the other characters on the show.

I always viewed the Season 2 plot of the heterosexual man secretly installing a camera in Shane and Jenny's house, so he could spy on the women and film them having sex, to be an implicit critique of the heterosexual, white male gaze that the show had to implicitly cater to in order to have ever been produced in the first place.

Here is Jenny, confronting the predator, in an epic take-down:

Heterosexual men undoubtedly watched the show. Yet, did they fully understand it wasn't a documentary, or representative of the full breadth of queer women's culture? And thus, rather than them being voyeurs privy to "a lesbian world," did they get that this L Word-universe was at least partially created for them, too, in that the leading women were all primarily thin, femme, conventionally-attractive, and rarely outspokenly-feminist. Such women exist, to be sure, and I love them. But, these women are not fully representative of the spectrum of queer women who do exist, and who many queer women would have loved to have seen represented in a TV show about queer women.

The theme feels particularly meta these days, with woman after woman in Hollywood - including Mia Kirshner, who portrayed Jenny - revealing Harvey Weinstein to be a sexual predator.

Perhaps this is a statement of the obvious, but it's often hard to enjoy pop culture and be a feminist.

As I tweeted earlier this week, "It's almost like the fact that our national industry for storytelling being run by harassers and abettors has an impact on our culture." Themes of rape culture are weaved throughout our TV shows and movies. This too, is a statement of the obvious. But, I truly believe the representation of rape culture in TV/film is a reflection of the rape culture that has long been allowed to thrive within Hollywood -that "open secret" that Hollywood's most powerful people just let persist.

(Isn't West World, and its fantastical world built precisely for men to rape actor-robots, one of the biggest, most recent admissions of all? Remember: Show, don't tell!)

And now, more than ever, I'm left to wonder: what have the women I watch on screen had to endure to get there?

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