Due to issues with my Internet and laptop, and health issues, I haven’t been able to post this until now.
Since the first openly gay character on television (Peter Panama in The Corner Bar) in 1972, LGBT+ representation has advanced a lot from the “Sassy, Camp” gay trope. However, even today this original effeminate gay male archetype, and the “butch”, masculine lesbian counterpart is still the way a large part of society imagines the LGBT+ community to be – and in a society where homosexuality is not entirely accepted or understood, the media is responsible for moulding this hegemony in the mind of the modern viewers. Although some people argue that the media is not fulfilling this job, and that the LGBT+ community is treated as a prop or plot device or even a joke in some cases instead of a real group of people, especially female members – due to the effects of patriarchy. But how are female members of the LGBT+ community treated differently to males, and why?
One of the clearest examples is in Glee, which is renowned and praised for being the “most gay-friendly show on TV”. However, the differences in the two main queer relationships on the show, Kurt and Blaine (dubbed by the fans as “Klaine”) and Santana and Brittany (“Brittana”), outlines how male privilege can affect the narrative of relationships. Despite the fact that the dynamic of “Brittana” is as popular as “Klaine”, even winning voting polls on most popular lesbian couple on TV, the relationship between the two girls is practically ignored throughout the show. In fact, with a total of roughly 5 minutes and 30 seconds on screen together as a couple (compared to the boys’ numerous storylines), they spend more time together onscreen as just friends. None of this time onscreen is even spent showing private dialogue between the couple and none spent wearing anything other than their gratuitous cheerleading uniforms. It seems more like the couple were placed together for the sake of having a lesbian couple – perhaps even purely for the male viewers’ titillation, as the cheerleading uniforms suggest. This is a common occurrence in queer female storylines and is largely due to what Laura Mulvey dubbed “Male Gaze”, which states that women are shown as sexual objects for male audiences, through voyeurism and scopophilia. This can lead to fetishization of lesbianism, which is incredibly harmful to the female LGBT+ community and in turn lead to ignorance and even harassment.
This theme often occurs when either lesbian or bisexual female characters (who are usually considered conventionally attractive by society’s standards) are placed in clothing or situations which is generally considered erotic by heterosexual males, when homosexual or bisexual male characters are not marketed in the same fashion – or if heterosexual males within the narrative claim that lesbianism is “hot” in a way the audience is supposed to agree with. Another example of this is the kiss between Sarah Michelle Gellar and Selma Blair during the movie Cruel Intentions, which had no real plot purpose or even accurately portray the characters’ sexuality – who were both heterosexual.
- “Sex Sells” – this kind of attractive lesbian used in advertising: Versace, American Apparel, Nikon. Marxism, capitalism taking advantage of a minority in need of visibility.
- Is over-sexualization of lesbians and bisexual women simply to innoculate the viewers and help them get used to the idea of lesbianism? If so, why doesn’t the same happen for homosexual males?
- The other end of the spectrum (binary opposite) – overly butch lesbians/”dykes”, for example: Patty Bouvier (the Simpsons), Shane, Tasha, Candace and Dusty (the L Word), “Lesbian Robin” (How I Met Your Mother), Norma (Shameless), even Ellen DeGeneres to some extent – subverted in But I’m A Cheerleader (the butchest girl realizes she’s straight). This stereotype presents lesbians as masculine, to take over the traditional binary role of male in the relationship.
- “Dyke TV” by Channel 4 – trying to raise awareness or alienating lesbians and bisexual women even more? Also usse of slurs in the title of a series aimed at helping LGBT+ females?
- Another representation of lesbians is the “Psycho Lesbian”. For example: Lydia Hart (Hollyoaks), Episodes “The Conspiracy Theory” and “Lt. Jane Doe” in NCIS, The ITV Miss Marple adaptation of The Body in the Library actually changed the killer from the original plot so that it catered to this trope.
- Sailor Moon – the third season of the anime series Sailor Moon featured Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune as a lesbian couple. However in the US version, many scenes between them were cut away and redubbed to make them appear as cousins rather than girlfriends. Caused a controversy amongst fans. Prime example of queer erasure. Other examples include Chasing Amy (1997), Irene Adler in BBC Sherlock and bi-erasure of Brittany Pierce in Glee and Piper Chapman in Orange is the New Black (however, OITNB is good Rep for lesbians, mostly for bisexuals and trans females)
- Why are lesbians and bisexual women treated as taboo in some areas of the media? – patriarchy, threatening to masculinity, homophobia, media afraid to take risks, etc.
- Opposite viewpoint: homosexual men just as subject to stereotypes:
- Feminine homosexual male + masculine homosexual male (gender stereotypes, male and female traditions): Loras and Renly in GoT, The New Normal, Kurt and Blaine in Glee.
- Good LGBT+ female Rep: Orphan Black, The Fosters, Skins.