Do we want our LGBT characters to be heroes?
We are a minority, subject to varying levels of distrust and dislike in the general population, becoming more visible and visibly successful. In real life there are queer heroes and villains, those oppressed and disadvantaged by homophobia and those who transcend it, people of all levels of gift and accomplishment, psychopaths and empaths.
The Bechdel test asks, in this drama are there two female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man? That is, does the drama have anything primarily for a female audience? There are films for queer audiences, romantic comedies of two women or two men, just as fifty years ago there were films for Black audiences in the US.
Oops. I was going to stick in a joke about black film noir, but this article says that there are still segregated films, even though Morgan Freeman and Eddie Murphy are mainstream: if the Whites are watching a Black film such a high empathy threshold would make the suspension of disbelief difficult and attenuate the pleasure of their viewing experience. Please read that word “mainstream” imagining distaste in my voice.
So we look at these dramas with a beady eye. Are the gay characters in some way clichéd, like Jack the camp one in Will and Grace? Will, the main character, was straight-acting to be more reassuring to the straight audience. Oops. Cliché camp gay: bad. Straight acting: bad. Felix in Orphan Black is also ostentatiously camp: most gay men I have known have reserved their fully camp side, like a Scouser in London speaking with a modified accent. Is he cliché or role-model?
In Last Tango in Halifax, a married woman having a lesbian affair books a hotel for a weekend away with her girlfriend. Phoning a young male receptionist, she bottles it, and books two single rooms to the great disgust of her girlfriend who does not find out until they check in. Arriving to find a middle-aged woman receptionist, she does not correct her mistake.
I can believe she would be frightened about her relationship being known. I want drama to portray reality without pointing too much of a moral, so we can react to it as we will: but I would not want anyone thinking she was right to be ashamed.
People use the word “lesbian” of her, as if her marriage was a mistake. Was there never any attraction? I may be less offended by this than if I were bi. Yet so many women marry then come out that we have the expression “Gold star lesbian” for those who have never had sex with men. We would not need terms at all if sexual fluidity was accepted, that it was equally normal for some people to feel attractions to the same sex, and act on them, and different attractions at different times of their lives: but would there still be straights who suffered that high empathy threshold and be put off?
I want the queer couples to get a happy ending. Straights do.