Girl On Girl: Lesbian Characters In Hollywood Blow
This weekend, $69.2 million worth of people (including me) saw “Pitch Perfect 2.” I love the franchise and I feel obligated to support my sort of doppelganger, Anna Kendrick, even though every scene where she kisses that dude makes me feel weirdly uncomfortable. As one friend puts it, “Every time Anna Kendrick kisses a man, a lesbian loses her nose ring.” Anyways, “Pitch Perfect” (and “Pitch Perfect 2″) is a big deal because it’s written, directed, and produced by women, starring women, and for women. Even better, it makes a lot of money. It was a great movie and I loved it, despite some of the cringe-worthy minority jokes that pepper the dialogue. It also reminded me of how fed up I am with the lesbian stereotypes that dominate pop culture.
Cynthia-Rose realizes her sexuality in the first movie. When she comes out, no one is surprised because she’s butch. Already, that’s kind of worth an eye roll, but it’s not nearly as bad as in the sequel. Now that she’s embraced her sexuality, Cynthia-Rose is hitting on her peers and touching girl’s butts, but not in the fun Tina Belcher way. She can’t even be trusted to be in the same tent with the other girls without trying to make moves. Coming out at an early age, seeing this depiction of a young lesbian is kind of painful because it’s already hard to do normal young girl things like sleepovers and being in gym locker rooms without either feeling like you’re a creep or worrying that people think you’re a creep. To make things worse, her character doesn’t have that much depth beyond this and they close out her character’s storyline with the fact that she’s moving to Maine and getting married. I had a big “what the fuck?” moment with twist because, seriously, what the fuck. Using the only queer character as a predatory stereotype that they then reverse for monogamy seems like a slap in the face to all of the queer “Pitch Perfect” fans – and there are a lot of them because of that shower scene in the first movie. And, seriously, if you aren’t going to give the one queer character depth, the least you can do is have Brittany Snow and Anna Kendrick make out.
Predatory lesbians are everywhere. “Orange is the New Black” is a show rich with diversity and stories beyond that of the white girl in jail. They’ve also created a really relatable romantic storyline (it’s good to know I’m not the only girl who has gotten their ex-girlfriend arrested to make sure that she was safe). That’s why it kind of sucks that Big Boo is such a terrible character. Again, she’s butch and she’s predatory. She tries to trade Piper a blanket for a female inmate. That whole lesbian agenda scene would be a lot funnier if it didn’t manifest in her character. It’s made even worse when Boo and Nicky have a competition over who can have sex with the most women. Even Crazy Eyes starts off as predatory. It sucks that these are the stereotypes that are presented in mainstream forums. It’s also not accurate. Lesbians have a hard enough time talking to each other at bars, most of them aren’t trying to grope their friends.
Crappy lesbian stereotypes aren’t exclusive to being creepy and predatory. I was really pumped for the movie “Life Partners” when I saw the trailer because the story felt familiar and well-written and because I love Blair Waldorf more than almost every other character in a teen drama (Marissa Cooper has my heart though). It’s an enjoyable movie and I like it and I see the dynamic I have with my platonic soul mate in the movie, but I had to forget the last 15 minutes of the movie happened (kind of like another movie about lesbians that I’ve seen). I’m used to seeing lesbians get the shitty end of the plotline in a lot of movies, but it sucks to see it in a movie that was so high profile. Leighton Meester’s character’s life is completely falling apart while her best friend’s life is falling together. She’s unemployed, perpetually single, and seen crying in a fast food drive-thru. She’s come to peace with the conflict in her friendship, but there is absolutely no happy ending for the lesbian character unless you count the mozzarella sticks she gets towards the end of the movie and, frankly, I don’t count those because they are not Dorito Tacos.
“One Big Happy” was a show on NBC that was cancelled this year after one season. This series was a big deal because it was written by a lesbian about a lesbian on a major television network. It’s also a big deal because Elisha Cuthbert plays a lesbian, something that I had really hoped for in the mid-2000s. The series is about a lesbian and her straight male best friend who decide to have a baby together because the lesbian’s biological clock is ticking and neither has found love. Then the straight guy does find love and things get complicated. It’s a sitcom and, despite my very dark sense of humor, I watched the whole thing, which one friend described as “more embarrassing than having someone walk in while you’re watching porn.” I had really high hopes for the show, even if the style wasn’t really my thing. It’s still really exciting for something unconventional and queer to end up on primetime television. But it sucks because, once again, everything is coming together for the straight friend and the lesbian is forever single, involved with the wrong women, and I’m not even sure if she had a job or not. It’s really not that hard for lesbians to be happy, in love, and stable! I mean, I haven’t really figured it out, but most of my friends have.
I feel obligated to support shows and movies with queer characters despite how much their storylines tend to bum me out. I feel like we have to start somewhere to get support for stronger lesbian storylines in mainstream entertainment. So, I sit through them even though I seldom see myself, or anyone I know, in any of the characters. That means I have to tolerate a lot of lazy jokes at the expense of lesbians. If they’re not staunchly monogamous and renting U-Hauls, they’re either forever single and a mess or one-note and predatory. It’s one thing when it’s a low budget indie movie made for lesbians, but it sucks when it’s the kind of thing that gets marketed to the masses. Lesbians desperately cling onto any hint of a gay storyline (“Rizzoli and Isles,” anyone?) and are constantly getting the crumbs when it comes to high-profile lesbian storylines. I’m still traumatized by Tara’s death on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and I don’t think I’ll ever recover. And if a lesbian doesn’t have the most depressing storyline on a show, they’re just gratuitous like the lesbian character on “Marry Me.” Or, even worse, it’s Sweeps Week, and please take a moment to remember that awkward threesome with Dan Humphrey, Vanessa, and Hilary Duff’s character on “Gossip Girl.”
I read a lot of articles this year about how lesbians were finally having their moment in Hollywood. This gets thrown around every couple of years when there’s more than one queer female character on TV. There are great strides, but it’s just not there yet. Most lesbian characters are merely caricatures of stale gay culture. When they’re not, their storylines lack depth and are often pushed to the background (until they’re written off because she has beef with the lead actress). We eat it up, but we shouldn’t. We should expect more, demand more, and create more. As the ACLU takes the initiative to address the disparity between male and female writers/directors in Hollywood, we should be pushing for more queer women in Hollywood.
Morgan Cohn is a recent LA transplant to NY, splitting her time between working in digital publishing, writing, and discovering what seasons are. Follow her on Twitter!