Best. Lesbian. Year. Ever. 2006

 
 

JUNE

THE L WORD: WHERE THE LATINAS ARE HOT AND THE ASIANS ARE CRAZY. OR LATINA.
Moonlighting fans rejoice: in a brilliant casting move, Showtime announced this week that Cybill Shepherd is joining The L Word next season for 11 episodes. She’ll play a married mother and president of the college Bette’s now attending, who begins to question her sexuality.

Janina GavankarIn more L Word casting news: Janina Gavankar (pictured) has been cast to play a new character named Papi, who according to Showtime’s press release, is “a smokin’ hot Latino who challenges Shane. Unlike Shane, Papi is competitive, gregarious, loud, bossy and boastful. She canoodles with everyone and competes with Shane.”

I love how the Latinas on this show are always “smokin’ hot” sex-kitten types. Since Carmen’s storyline consisted of a parade of Latino stereotypes, the FTM trans character turned into the worst stereotype of a testosterone-driven man, and the only Asian woman on the show so far has been Marcus-the-sperm-donor’s hysterical/crazy Asian girlfriend in season one, I supposed I shouldn’t really be surprised. But is the cringe-worthy “Papi” (Spanish slang for “daddy”) really the best name we could come up with? Why not just name her “Sexy Latina #2″ and forego any attempt at subtly altogether?

I’m sure Gavankar (Barbershop, Barbershop 2) will be a fine addition to the show, but as you may have guessed by her last name, she is not, in fact, Latina–she’s Indian American (and one-quarter Dutch). Which begs the question: why not cast an actual Latina actress, or make the character Indian? A South Asian lesbian character would be great, considering how few Asian lesbian characters there are on film or TV. You could even name her “Kama Sutra” to keep the ethnic-stereotypes theme going. Just a thought.

ANOTHER TONY WIN
Cynthia Nixon won Best Actress in a Play at the 60th Annual Tony Awards last weekend, and kissed her girlfriend on live TV before accepting the award. With Cherry Jones winning a Tony last year, queer women seem to be on some kind of winning streak! Which begs the question: who do we think will take home the Tony next year? Now that she’s no longer on Lost, my money’s on Michelle Rodriguez in a stage version of the new Pixar movie Cars. Any takers?

TOASTER OVEN SOLD SEPERATELY
Ellen Season 4 Good news for Ellen fans: the fourth season of Ellen–the one with “The Puppy Episode”–is finally coming out on DVD. The 3-disc set hits shelves with few extras on August 29th.

For our teen readers–or our adult readers who were living in a cave in 1997–this is the season Ellen DeGeneres came out, on the show and in real life. It heralded the dawn of a new era, in which lesbians would finally be more than just token sidekicks on TV, when we would finally be recognized as a small but important part of the fabric of American society. The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name was splashed on the cover of Time magazine, and we would never have to beg for scraps of visibility again.

Yeah, well, don’t look at me, I don’t know what the hell happened, either. It was fun while it lasted!

THANK GOD FOR CABLE
Bravo has finally decided to throw lesbians a bone with Work Out, their new reality series debuting next month. Although the premise–”a docudrama following the personal and professional life of Jackie Warner, personal trainer to the stars and owner of Sky Sport and Spa in Beverly Hills”–doesn’t sound that interesting, I found the episodes oddly compelling. It’s refreshing to see a strong, no-nonsense lesbian in charge, and Jackie’s day-to-day problems at the spa will resonate with many lesbian businesswomen. Sadly, Jackie’s clingy train-wreck of a girlfriend, who expresses herself through biting (!), will probably resonate with many lesbians, too.

BECAUSE IF YOU WANT SOMETHING DONE RIGHT…YOU HIRE A LESBIAN?
Can a lesbian rescue FX drama Rescue Me from its misogynist reputation? The show’s creators apparently think so. In defending themselves from complaints this week about the parade of truly terrible female characters featured on the last two seasons of the show, co-producers Denis Leary and Peter Tolan mentioned that they’re considering adding a new female firefighter next season, who Tolan describes as “a lesbian or somebody who’s extremely capable in the job and the guys have to deal with that.”

After that sexual assault scene last week, I’m thinking it’s a little too late for the show to redeem itself with women. But I like how they describe the upcoming character as “a lesbian or someone who’s extremely capable in the job”, as if that’s interchangeable. Finally, a lesbian stereotype I can get behind!

JULY

WHEN PERIZAAD MET INTERNALIZED HOMOPHOBIA
I mentioned in my last column that Bollywood film star Perizaad Zorabian was in talks to play the lead role in the lesbian romantic comedy When Kiran Met Karen. But Zorabian announced this week that she’s had a change of heart and has turned down the role, “because of my own personal inhibitions about playing a lesbian and for no other reason”.

“It truly is a very brave film”, she went on to say. “It would be unfair to the script, character as well as the director to have an actor play Kiran half-heartedly. Kiran is a fantastic role for any actor who has the courage to think with an open mind.” Which apparently doesn’t describe her, but at least she admits that she’s the problem.

This is a step up from the comments made by the last two actresses to play lesbians in Bollywood films, which include “I don’t think [lesbianism] is natural” (Payal Rohatgi, Men Not Allowed), and “I am a normal girl without any lesbian tendencies” (Isha Koppikar, Girlfriend). Perhaps the next actress to turn down a lesbian role will give an even more honest answer, like “I can’t play this role because I want to work in this town”, or “if I play a lesbian, my mother will stop talking to me”.

WITH SONG TITLES LIKE “PROMISCUOUS” AND “MANEATER”, SHE’S ALREADY EMBRACING HER INNER BISEXUAL STEREOTYPE
Nelly Furtado
Portuguese-Canadian singer Nelly Furtado–who broke out in 2000 with hit singles “I’m Like a Bird” and “Turn Out the Light”, and whose new album, Loose, has already produced the hit singles “Promiscuous” and “Maneater”–was recently asked by Genre magazine if she was attracted to women, to which she gave this response:

“Absolutely. Women are beautiful and sexy. It is interesting, because I’m reading a book about Chinese medicine, which claims that people are inherently bisexual to balance their energies. And, in a way, that makes so much sense. As humans we have both male and female energies. I believe in Kurt Cobain’s statement that, in the end, everyone is gay. Everybody should have the freedom to experiment. I believe sexual experimentation is part of human history.”

It’s always nice to see more women publicly embracing bisexuality, and I think Nelly Furtado is actually kinda cool, but forgive me if I’m a little skeptical of what appears to be yet another celebrity waxing on about how she’s attracted to women, while never actually dating them. I can elaborate on the wonders of beets and lima beans, but that doesn’t make me a vegetarian, now does it?

OPRAH AND GAYLE: SITTING IN A TREE, NOT K-I-S-S-I-N-G
Oprah and GayleLesbian rumors have long dogged Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King, who have been friends for 30 years, talk four times a day, and frequently travel together. The two friends finally decided to address the issue head on in a conversation written up in the August issue of Oprah’s magazine O.

“I understand why people think we’re gay”, said Oprah. “There isn’t a definition in our culture for this kind of bond between women. So I get why people have to label it–how can you be this close without it being sexual?” Gayle, who is divorced, said the rumors used to bother her, because “it’s hard enough to get a date on Saturday night”, but she doesn’t care anymore. “If we were gay, we would tell you”, said Gayle, “because there’s nothing wrong with being gay.” Oprah agreed, saying: “People think I’d be so ashamed of being gay that I wouldn’t admit it? Oh, please.”

Then Gayle said, “if Oprah was a man, I’d marry her”. But Oprah was like, “Um, no offense, but if I was a man, I’d marry Halle Barry” and Gayle goes, “Who wouldn’t? She’s hot! I wouldn’t kick her out of bed for making Catwoman” And then Oprah was like, “What about Marg Helgenberger? She can investigate me anytime!” and Gayle was like…oh, just read the transcript for yourself here.

IN RELATED NEWS, PLANS FOR HOT CHICK 2 HAVE BEEN SCRAPPED
Nina Jacobson As part of a larger restructuring of the company, Walt Disney Studios announced this week that it has fired Nina Jacobson, president of its Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group. During her 8-year tenure at Buena Vista, 40-year-old Jacobson–who is one of Hollywood’s highest-ranking lesbians, and the 94th most powerful woman in American in 2005, according to Forbes magazine–has supervised a slate of hit movies including The Sixth Sense, The Princess Diaries, Flight Plan, and the hugely successful Chronicles Of Narnia and Pirates of the Caribbean franchises. She also greenlit the god-awful gender-swap movie Hot Chick, and the ill-conceived sand-and-horses movie, Hildalgo, but hey, no one’s perfect.

Executive shuffles happen all the time at movie and TV studios, but to fire Jacobson over the phone, after 8 years, while she was at the hospital after her partner had given birth to their third child? That’s just wrong. Isn’t having to live with the knowledge that she made a movie starring Rob Schneider punishment enough?

ANOTHER LESBIAN STEREOTYPE
The new indie sex comedy film Another Gay Moviea gay America Pie or Animal House, but not nearly as funny–includes a beer-chugging “bull dyke” lesbian chick-magnet named Muffler (Ashlie Atkinson), who refers to her lesbian lair as “The Maxi Pad.” No, I’m not kidding.

When out gay director Todd Stephens was asked by Film Threat this week how lesbian audiences have reacted to this character, he responded, “It has been mixed. Some have been put off by the stereotypical nature of it, but some people want to party with her. It’s a movie where you just have to check political correctness at the door.”

I couldn’t agree with Todd more. I’m sick and tired of all the complex, nuanced lesbian characters that we see in movies today, especially in movies created by gay men. Like…well, there’s…hmmm, I know there must be at least one…oh well, I’m sure I’ll think of one later. But the point is, if there’s anything American cinema needs more of, it’s one-dimensional, stereotypical lesbians, and I’m grateful to this courageous director for bravely fighting the tide of oppressive political correctness with his beer-chugging Muffler. Bravo, Mr. Stephens! Bravo!

THE WITCH IS BACK!
Buffy comic
Willow fans rejoice: Buffy’s favorite lesbian sidekick is back in action. Not on TV, unfortunately, but in comic book form: Dark Horse comics announced at Comic-Con 2006 that Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon is writing a comic version of Season 8, scheduled to hit the market this October (but it may be as late as February ’07).

The comic’s storyline will pick up where the television series left off: the slayer army has organized, and the tide turns in favor of the good guys–but only for a short while, and then the bad guys get stronger, meaner and uglier. And from the looks of the new cover (pictured, left), Buffy also gets leaner. An anonymous source tells me that in the new season, Willow and Kennedy have broken up, Kennedy’s now dating Faith, and Willow is currently taking Tony Robbins “Unleash the Power Within” seminar in a desperate attempt to resurrect Tara. But since the “anonymous source” is my second cousin in Kennebunkport, Maine, who owns all the Willow-Tara action figures, I’d say that info’s iffy at best.

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