Wednesday, November 10, 2010

No One's Cornered the Market on Misery

For all the years I've studied writing, for all the time I've put into honing my craft, for all the money I've debated plowing into an MFA program, I am constantly humbled by the work of Tom & Lorenzo, aka, TLo, the bloggers behind the projectrungay site. As one of their adoring minions (or, alternately, kittens), I laugh out loud at their bitchery and insanely clever turns of phrases; their television recaps are frequently more insightful than those of professional entertainment writers/critics. They helped me understand "Lost," which is saying a lot.

While it may be simple to dismiss the boys as lightweights--their In or Out fashion posts aren't going to win any Pulitzers for investigative reporting but are often the highlight of my day--their work also demonstrates a frank, emotional depth that's irritatingly illuminating, particularly given how quickly they crank out this stuff. I've debated verb tense longer than it takes them to write a beautifully crafted 1,000-word post.

Their recap of last night's episode of "Glee" was typically heartfelt. Speaking from their own experience: "Giving a young gay boy the dream that someday Prince Charming will come and sing a love song to him? You cannot imagine. You simply cannot imagine how revolutionary such a thing is."

Their point: "Imagine going through high school without even so much as a hint of yourself reflected in any of the things you watch and listen to, any of the things that literally every other kid is talking about." Heartbreaking stuff.

And yet...I sort of beg to differ.

I'm not saying gay people haven't been woefully underrepresented in the media. I am arguing that they're not the only ones who don't see anyone remotely resembling themselves onscreen. Unless you're a super hot doctor, lawyer or police officer.

I'm barely over 5 feet tall. I wanna see someone my height, I've gotta watch Nickelodeon or the Disney Channel. I've worn glasses since I was in the fourth grade. My compadres on the boob tube are limited to Tina Fey and Ugly Betty, emphasis on ugly. I have thighs--when's the last time you saw a pair of those on an actress.

I don't mean to equate being short, chunky or near-sighted with being gay. None of those things is nearly as isolating or draws the venom of "religious" conservatives. But we all have things that make us feel like outcasts, especially in high school. There are the fat kids, the nerds who join Chess Club, the kids who have really bad acne, anyone with a disability. ("Glee" makes paralysis look cool. My husband works with special needs wheelchair-bound students who require toileting. Trust me, they don't have a gaggle of friends.) To suggest that gay students are the only ones with their noses pressed up against the glass, always on the outside looking in, is to ignore all the others kids (and adults) for whom Prom King or Queen, or a first kiss, or a happily-ever-after with Prince or Princess Charming is a complete and utter pipe dream as well. No one group has cornered the market on misery. I have a friend whose nephew is 7 feet tall--and he's not Shaquille O'Neal. Her nieces top 6 feet. Ask them how they feel when they watch romantic comedies. Do J. Lo and Matthew McConaughy represent any remote possibility of how their adulthood is going to play out? You don't have to be gay to find "When Harry Met Sally" depressing as hell.

The reality of high school and life in general is that flat-out winners represent a tiny fraction of the population--kind of like the teeny tiny percentage of people beautiful enough to take up acting. To consider them the standard model for how we should look or how we should behave is kind of crazy.

While I agree with TLo that it's a wonderful thing for gay kids to see themselves represented on TV, I'm not sure that's the be-all end-all we should be pursuing in terms of validating our own individual life experiences. Why do we need to see ourselves reflected onscreen to feel worthy? I'm a fairly rational person and I buy into this myself. I watch "Sex and the City" and I think, my god, I've never had a Brazilian wax, I can't afford to buy Manolos and even if I could I'd have no hope of walking in them, and I don't think it's insane to date a man for more than two weeks before having sex with him. Ergo, I'm not a modern woman. My existence is nullified.

Wouldn't we all be better off if we stopped looking for entertainment and the media to provide us with a reflection of ourselves? Wouldn't we all be better off if we turned to the person next to us instead--if the gay kid and the fat kid and the pimply-faced kid and the homecoming queen all saw themselves reflected in each other?


Post a Comment

<< Home