Saturday, December 30, 2006

lesbian drama and ethnic mixing

So as of late I have become very interested in a teen drama called "South of Nowhere." I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, because it's kind of geared towards adolescents. It airs on a station apparently owned by MTV Networks, "The N", which doubles as "Noggin" in the mornings, playing all those preschool classics such as Blue's Clues and Little Bear. Anyway, I got into this show after reading the extensive coverage that AfterEllen (my very favorite website) has devoted to it. Despite much of the extremely cheesy and "PG" rated drama, it's actually pretty quality for what it is. Not to mention, it's somewhat revolutionary in its subject matter.

Short synopsis: the Carlin family moves from smalltown Ohio to L.A. The family is composed of conservative, religious mother Paula, social worker dad Arthur and three kids Glen, Clay and Spencer. Glen (HS senior) is the somewhat dumb jock, Clay (HS junior) is the adopted black child in the all-white family and Spencer (HS junior) is the beloved only daughter. Asides from dealing with various other subject matters, the central storyline of the show is the developing relationship between Spencer and "bad girl" Ashley Davies. Ashley, who formerly dated heartthrob basketball star Aiden, is now an out lesbian coming from a broken home with a rockstar dad. During the first season Ashley and Spencer's friendship develops, filled with tons of sexual tension and an interesting love triangle between Ashley, Spencer and Aiden. However, Spencer's attempts to affirm her heterosexuality through Aiden eventually fail as she realizes that Ashley is the one she wants. The season ends with a long-awaited kiss between the girls, fading out to Ashley leading Spencer to her bed.

The show received extensive praise for its non-sweeps way of dealing with lesbianism. It dealt with Spencer's unfolding sexuality in an honest and real way that many teenagers could relate to. Her dramatic coming out to her parents in the second season continued to mirror the reality of many young people across the country. The way that her zealously religious mother dealt with it was also extremely realistic and moving. Nevertheless, the second season was seriously lacking in physical intimacy between the show's main couple -- Spencer and Ashley. While the heterosexual couples of the show enjoyed many heavy make-out scenes and engaged in various couple-like antics, Spencer and Ashley did a lot of hugging, hair brushing and the occasional peck on the lips. Alright, so it's a family network and they have to tread lightly ... but the season finale left me wondering ...

In the season finale, after Spencer and Ashley's relationship has survived various obstacles, stupid straight boy Aiden reveals his continued love to Ashley at the prom (which she and Spencer attended together). Of course we are left with a cliffhanger as Ashley stands gaping at Aiden and then proceeds to chase the distraught Spencer; the entire scene is then interrupted by a gang-related shooting with leaves everything in chaos (yeah, ok, the show is a little overly dramatic). So, we don't get to find out the answer. But from the way the supposed "relationship" has been handled by the writers throughout Season 2, one is left to wonder whether Ashley just might choose to be with Aiden.

My question is, what message is this sending to all the young viewers of the show -- both gay and straight? The reason why the show has gained such popularity among queer women, young and old is because of the truthfulness of it. Adult women think "How might things have been different for me if we had that kind of visibility when I was young?" The L Word and other positive media representations of lesbian women have also served this purpose. For younger people, they see that they are not alone; it makes it easier for them to come to terms with their own sexual identity. Seeing someone else go through that whole "coming out" process successfully (albeit fictionally) can serve as a confidence booster and also an eye-opener.

So, on the one hand I think that shoving people into a box is wrong and dangerous. I myself don't like labeling sexuality, and I think it is good to promote an understanding of the sexual continuum. However, I don't think that the exploration of this concept is what the producers of the show are going for. I also think it would go over the heads of most adolescents. What I think a Ashley/Aiden pairing would do is send the message to young gay girls everywhere that actually they really can change if they just find the right guy. It's frustrating to think that the writers of this show would consider putting the character who has been solidly constructed as a lesbian into a heterosexual relationship. It would be nice if someone could actually remain gay for once, instead of reaffirming the strong misconception that pretty young girls in same-sex relationships are just experimenting.

Anyway, here's a clip of the show for those who are interested. Also, has recaps of all the episodes from the first two seasons. They woman who writes the recaps is absolutely hilarious in her commentary (

oh and here's another fun little promo of the show (can you tell that I love this stupid thing yet?)

In other news, the 4th season of the L Word is starting up soon. I'm really bummed that Carmen won't be around anymore after being stood up at the altar by stupid Shane. But that aside, I must voice my concern over the fact that the people over at Showtime seem to be intent on casting actors to play characters whose ethnicities are totally different than their own. First example would be (the very sexy) Sarah Shahi, who played Carmen. Don't get me wrong, I think that she was great in the role. However, Sarah Shahi is not Latina and she was playing a supposedly Mexican American character. Not only that, she was supposed to be bilingual while Sarah Shahi herself doesn't actually speak Spanish! The actress is a mix of Mediterranean and Persian ethnicity which is a nice combination, but still not Latina.

So, with the loss of Carmen we are apparently going to be getting a new Latina character for Season 4. This character, Papi, will be played by actress Janina Gavankar. If her name doesn't sound very hispanic to you, that's because it isn't. The actress is of Indian and Dutch descent. Ok, so maybe one time was acceptable ... but come on! Casting yet another non-Latina in a Latina role? What's up with that, L Word? This begs the question, why not simply make the role be an Asian American character? God knows there isn't very much representation of lesbian Asian Americans. And if you mosey on over to this interview with Iyari Limon, who played Willow's love interest Kennedy in the final season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you will see that it wasn't that there was a lack of Latina casting possibilities (I encourage reading of the interview, as it is interesting, but for those seeking instant knowledge, Iyari Limon was originally up for the role of Carmen). Ok, so I guess I can see how South Asian women might in some cases be confused with Latina women, but it seems kind of insulting to presume that they can be interchangeable. I mean, would anyone ever think to cast an obviously Italian actress to play the role of a Swedish woman? I don't think so... Why does it seem that all "ethnic" (i.e. non-white) people are so interchangeable? I remember when I was living in Portugal and the movie Memoirs of a Geisha came out. Many of my fellow foreign students were Chinese and they were saying how there was a lot of controversy over in Asia because nearly the entire leading cast of the movie was Chinese (playing Japanese characters). Being white and of European descent myself, I can't speak as to whether this is actually offending to the Latino population. But I can say that I think it is very strange, even more so because it is so clearly unnecessary. I don't know ... any thoughts?

welcome, etc.

Ok so I am officially joining the world of bloggers. I'll admit that I have already dabbled in it a bit during my stint in Portugal, but for some reason this feels different. (By the way, giving a shout out to myself: you can check out my chronicles of my year spent abroad at So here is where I tell you what I'm all about and give my big disclaimer. Well, I'm just a rather ordinary college girl living in the Midwest (Madison, WI to be exact) looking for one more way to waste the time that I don't actually have. I'm in my final semester at the University, studying Social Work. After I graduate in May I am quite unsure of what I will be doing with the rest of my life. But lucky you, you don't have to hear about all of that.

Yes, that's right, I am not intending this to be one of those "live journal" type things where I share my innermost feelings and thoughts with the unknown public. I have always been rather baffled by some people's willingness to share their most private emotions on the internet. Well, I am not so much an attention-seeker and I have my own (very private) journal for that. This will be rather a way for me to share my fabulous wit and intellect with the world. Ok, ok, so maybe I shouldn't go that far. In any case, with all of the work and studying I have I find myself with less and less of a social life. So I figure this can be a forum for me to ramble about some of the things I no longer have as many opportunities to ramble about with my friends. Plus, I'm sure my roommate will be grateful to be bothered by me with less frequency. Maybe no one will read this, which wouldn't really bother me. However, if people happen to stumble upon it and find what I have to say interesting ... well, great!

More about me ... I'm sure little tidbits will leak their way out here and there. What fun is it if I give you a lengthy autobiography right off the bat? Sheesh...

So, welcome to my mind. Or at least the part of it that I'm willing to share.