How Crickett’s coming out on “Hart of Dixie” matches up with Alabama’s current queer landscape

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Impeccable timing has been somewhat of a theme in my life. I don’t know if this is the experience of most and I am simply taking notice or if the Universe has more of a sense of humor in its dealings with me. I’ve had the privilege of viewing and recapping this season of Hart of Dixie. Coinciding with Season 4 of this southern favorite is the setting of the show–Alabama–becoming one of the most recent marriage equality states. This is positive news, right? A mainstream television show taking place in the deep South has an out lesbian character as the state its characters call home begins recognizing same sex marriages. 

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As marriage equality has proven to be more than just a passing trend, LGBTs nationwide are celebrating.  We are elated to finally see the fruits of our activism and, especially that of those who came before. But we celebrate with hesitation. We know too well that, although the number of allies and supporters we have in our corner is rising every day, the presence of those whose hearts and minds have yet to be changed remains. While some of our adversaries are nothing more than armchair quarterbacks, others are elected officials who have the ability to give and the ability to take away.

Being a native southerner, I felt I would have a connection to Hart of Dixie due to geography. When I learned of Crickett’s coming out, it only served to solidify my affection for the show.  I am a consumer of all things LGBT–music, films, television, talk radio, etc. I have absolutely zero interest in sports, but you bet your ass I’m following the careers of out gay athletes. I may not know who won the Super Bowl, but I know Michael Sam and his longtime boyfriend Vito recently got engaged. I’ve got my priorities straight, y’all. No surprise that I’d follow a television show with an out lesbian. 

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We are all too familiar with the disappointment that often comes with television and film with gay characters. We’re ecstatic to learn that our community will be represented, but upon viewing, we’re frequently left dissatisfied.  The lesbian character left her girlfriend for a man or the gay man is presented as an accessory to a straight woman or the oft seen death of a lesbian. And sometimes our disillusionment is for no other reason than the queer character’s storyline is all but forgotten. 

The state of Alabama is among the most recent of states gaining marriage equality—sort of. In January, a Federal District Court Judge ruled that the ban on same sex marriage in Alabama was unconstitutional. Soon after the ruling, the Supreme Court elected not to intervene, effectively transitioning Alabama to the right side of history.  Same sex marriages were expected to be performed the following Monday. However, on the night before gay marriages were projected to occur, the chief justice of the State Supreme Court instructed Alabama probate judges to refrain from granting marriage licenses to gay couples.  Updates on proceedings following the chief justice’s directive have been rife with sometimes complicated legalese and conflicts between federal rulings and states’ rights.  Although we’ve seen pushback from elected officials in many states as same sex marriage bans have been lifted, Alabama does seem to be one of the more extreme cases.  The power of blind hate and bigotry is evident.

I wonder how the Cricketts of Alabama are feeling–the young, newly out lesbians who came to a place of self love and acceptance. They’ve mustered up the courage to live authentically only to find the state they currently call home views them as second class citizens. While the queer community of Alabama grieves over the failure of their home state to uphold their rights, queer Hart of Dixie fans nationwide are tuning in every Friday hoping Crickett can finally score a date with Jaysene only to be disappointed thus far.  Although one scenario is far more serious than the other, the correlation between the two does have a touch of irony. 

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After three seasons, the writers elect to incorporate a queer character. Gay and bisexual ladies who are Hart of Dixie fans have tuned in almost weekly since December–many with the primary purpose of following Crickett’s story, which has been a supreme letdown. I acknowledge that, prior to this season, Crickett’s screen time was minimal. Expecting this to change may be a tall order. However, I stand by my assertions. Although it is often not executed, television has a responsibility to provide visibility to the under-represented. The Cricketts of TV have narratives that deserve be shared. For better or worse, television is a part of our culture; writers should be intentional with regard to depictions of non-heterosexual characters.  We’ve consumed the heterosexual dominated media for as long as the media has been a thing.  I think we’ve more than earned the right for our stories to be told.

In both fictional Alabama and the Alabama of reality, queer people have not yet gotten the attention they deserve. The comparison is not intended to diminish the severity of the injustices same sex couples have experienced at the hands of discriminatory laws for ages. Real life is exceedingly more important than the television we consume.  However, in this instance, we find injustice in two worlds–both real and fiction. And doesn’t art imitate life? Gay Alabamians, much like Crickett, are waiting for their storyline to take shape.  As for the rest of us, we stand in solidarity with queer Alabama. Keep fighting the good fight, y’all. Do it for Crickett, do it for Dixie, do it for love.

Follow Emily: @EmilyAMcGaughy

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