But “text” (or “maintext”) is not just dialogue and kissing. It’s every damn thing that is actually on the show. It’s those things plus everything else. It’s blocking, it’s editing, it’s acting. It’s in the songs they play or the scores they write. A thing does not need to be explicit to be “text”. Tell me what Lost in Translation was about. Tell me about that “subtext.”
Visible, explicit representation is paramount. It is as important for the viewers NOT being represented as it is for the people looking for representation. Outside of Tumblr I’m not what most people would call old, but I can’t imagine seeing this amount of representation on TV when I was growing up. I was sneak-rewatching Gia on a taped-off-HBO VHS tape every night in high school. No wonder I wasn’t a whole lot of fun. But for real. Seeing people living and dealing and talking out loud about being queer is beautiful and amazing and still too scarce. More, more, more. No doubt.
But not all stories are told in explicit terms. I think we need to address the fact that a story’s iconic value to the queer community is not always (or even often) equal to it’s value as a compelling story. Like, The L Word was a hugely important step for queer (white) women’s representation on television, and I love it and rewatch the hell out it, but as far as storytelling goes it was maddeningly bad most of the time. Like, I watched the Season 2 premiere at Avalon in Boston in a sold-out house full of lesbians who let out one enormous audible gasp when that damn theme song first roared its ugly head. It mattered to us so much, and it let us down so consistently. Visibility itself is immeasurably important, but it does not guarantee quality.
We are lucky enough to be in a (at least relative to the past) golden age for queer women’s representation on TV. Hopefully it only gets broader from here. More, more, more. There are great shows right now that feature lesbian storylines, whether they are the A B or Z plots, as incidental parts of complex and good stories. That’s some excellent shit. But it’s not the only way to do things.
It’s narrow and reductive to say that stories don’t count if there’s no explicit declaration of love or onscreen kissing/sex (especially stories that are still in progress.) There are so many stories to tell and so many ways to tell them. I’m not trying to tell you you’re supposed to watch shows that don’t have what you personally are looking for, but you ought to step back and respect that the people who do love those stories have valid reasons for loving them.
I think our criticism should be focused harder on “sweeps-gay” storylines than on well-told stories that don’t feature onscreen orgasms.
The only hard-line stance worth taking here is “more”, is what I’m saying, I guess.
*This has been an extraordinarily flimsily disguised Bering & Wells post by an unapologetically biased and quite drunk stan. Bye.