Thursday, January 18, 2007

Dude you kissed a girl

The first episode of Ugly Betty aired in New Zealand a couple of days ago. My short review is that it looks awesome (although the ending was way too pat, and if the point is supposed to be that if you're smart you can succeed I will stop watching).*

One aspect bothered me, and that was the part of Betty's presumed to be gay cousin - Justin. He wanted to watch fashion TV, and was slightly effiminate, and I suspect that from this the audience was supposed to deduce the sexuality of a 10 year old.**

It probably didn't help that immediately after watching Ugly Betty I watched a few episodes of Arrested Development.*** In this show there is also a character that the audience is supposed to believe is gay, based on a general sexual awkwardness and a feeling of oddness. I've been bothered by this particular trope ever since Andrew in Buffy.

I find the idea that we can deduce someone's sexuality from their gender conformity, or anything else besides their sexual desires, is completely regressive.

I don't think it's a coincidence that these characters are always men. A woman who acted and dressed butch, and whose sexuality was uncertain wouldn't be amusing, she'd be pathetic. The joke (such as it is) is dependent on a society that views feminine traits as inferior in general and inexplicable in men.

For all the fancy dressing (and all these shows are in some ways progressive or alternative) these characters are basically more gender policing.

I would actually like to see a male character who gave off all sorts of effeminate vibes was sexually attracted to women, or reveal that a character who behaved in typically masculine ways was in fact in the closet.****

* I also saw America Ferrar's golden globe acceptance speech, where she said "It's such an honor to play a role that I hear from young girls on a daily basis how it makes them feel worthy and lovable and they have more to offer the world than they thought." I believe her, but do want to pont out what a sad inditement on the world that is.

** I've only seen the first episode so I could be wrong and I'm sure people will let me know in the comments if I am.

** Also awesome, don't get me wrong. I keep on having a new favourite joke, for a long time it was the fact that none of the family could tell any Latino people apart, then there was the Atkins diet episode, but my new favourite is "they won't do anything to me, it's shoplifting and I'm white."

**** Of course on Buffy this happened with the Larry character, and it was great. Except the actor was a Christian homophobe and they killed him off.

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