Thursday, August 03, 2006

A Confession

About three weeks ago, A---- and I sold our television and DVD player. The intention was to use the proceeds to buy a flatscreen tv with a built in DVD because it will take up less real estate in our apartment and lives, but we found ourselves at Best Buy unable to commit, and so here we are, tv-less and only vaguely perturbed about it. Eventually, we both figure, we'll buy one.

But then, we're odd, and we know that. My co-workers already thought it was strange that I didn't have cable. Nope, not even basic. We get by with rabbit ears nine months out of the year. I get the sense that people attribute this lack of investment in tv culture to my latent socialism, or they assume I'm judging them for watching too much tv. It doesn't help when I explain that we mostly watch PBS and we don't need cable to get that station. God, it even sounds snooty to me when I write it out here, but it's true nonetheless.

Three months a year, however, all of this changes. Three months a year, we cave to our basest cultural cravings, and how I love those months. Each January, I call our cable company and pay the introductory $39.99/month for three months in order to get the Gold Package - somewhere in the range of 3,268 channels, including the all-important Showtime. After I call Comcast (don't get me started on them), I send out an Evite. For three months, it doesn't matter that it's raining outside because we don't have to leave the house for anything but work. All that entertainment, right there, 24/7.

And Sunday nights, our social life comes to us. We somehow pull together meals that accomodate the lactose-, wheat-, egg-, meat-, and vegetarian-intolerant appetites of all our dyke friends (usually by doing the good lesbian thing and throwing a potluck), and together we all give into the guilty pleasure of watching The L Word. Because that's the real reason we subscribe to cable in the first place.

I have several lesbian friends who can't watch the show because it is such a disappointment. And it disappoints me too. It depicts a world that's about as far from my reality as can be. But then, Desperate Housewives probably isn't an accurate depiction of the average straight viewer's life either - that isn't why folks watch it. I don't watch The L Word to see reflections of myself on the screen. I couldn't even tell you why it's more compelling for me to watch a lesbian psycho-drama than it is for me to watch a bunch of straight people falling in and out of love, realistic or not. As badly written as it can be, as inconsistent and frustrating as the characters often are, it gives me a thrill to tune in once a week, three months out of the year, to watch actresses pretend to be lesbians (and I am including the few on the show who actually are).

No show can be all things to all people. No show can even be all things to all lesbians. I've also spent the last five years addicted to Six Feet Under (on DVD), but what I loved about it wasn't that it was "real," (because I don't know anybody whose life even remotely resembles the lives depicted in that show), but that the characters stayed true to themselves, no matter what got thrown their way. The L Word fails at this, but I don't think of it as the kind of highbrow tv where you'd find that kind of writing and character development. It's trash tv, and the only reason it disappoints is because it's the only lesbian tv show out there.

Would an accurate lesbian tv show really be just about lesbians, though? Maybe I'm weird, but my world is populated by lesbians and gay men and straight men and women as well. Even the Cosbys, great black hope that that show was, had white friends. To me, The L Word is a step on the path toward weaving lesbians into the greater cultural fabric. I look forward to the day when I turn on the tv (assuming I have one) and a lesbian character will be integral to a drama or comedy that is not classified as "lesbian." I look forward to the day when I won't feel compelled to watch a show just because they have a lesbian character or episode or theme. When we get to the point where we're on as many shows as we aren't on, and I can pick and choose what I want to watch based purely on what I think is good - that'll be the day...

In the meantime, Sunday nights from January-March, you can find me at home thoroughly enjoying my trash tv. Only five more months to go.


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