I have been an entertainment writer for many years and a pop culture observer for many more, and I have never seen a phenomenon like the one that compels us lesbian fans to follow our favorite actors and writers into any project, over any struggle, right off the edge of the world if we have to.
Need proof? Check out our AfterEllen.com Hot 100, a list that is always padded with actors we haven’t seen on our TVs in years. Or read through the almost-always empathetic response to Lindsay Lohan’s plights in our comments sections. Or tool around the forums where you can find links to Leisha Hailey’s Yoplait TV spots and Kat Prescott’s ice cream adverts. Yes, our loyalty even causes us to seek out our favorite actors in commercials!
OK, Kat, I’ll buy Cornetto Enigma — as long as you promise not to eat it while trying to ride a bike.
But it’s not just actors to whom we’re loyal. Hands up if you’d sell a piece of your soul to watch everything Joss Whedon writes for the rest of his life. Let’s see, that’s one, two, three, four … 10 badrillion of you.
Our loyalty usually lands on actors who play lesbian characters, or writers who write lesbian characters, or lesbians who play any character.
I think there are a couple of reasons why lesbians stand alone as the most faithful fans. The first is that lesbian characters are worth so much more to us than their entertainment value. Many of us have discovered our sexuality or have come to terms with our sexuality or have explored our sexuality through lesbian characters. They help us identify parts of our psyche that we don’t recognize, they give us courage to explore the parts of ourselves we’ve always been afraid to look at, and they often show us things we never knew we always wanted. That’s the power of story. The characters become an integral part of our own journeys toward self-acceptance. They teach us to love ourselves, and so we love them — and the actors who portray them — with a fierce protectiveness in return.
Another reason I think we are such devoted fans is that we feel a kinship with the struggles of our favorite writers and actors. We want lesbian and bisexual women to succeed in Hollywood because it sends a triumphant message to the world. (And directives from Hollywood are the loudest directives of all.) If lesbian and bisexual actors are accepted regardless of their orientation, then we are, by extension, accepted regardless of our orientation. If they succeed while being out and proud, we can succeed while being out and proud.
It’s not a message everyone needs to cling to, of course — especially not queer Metropolis dwellers. But in small towns across the globe — where people still believe that on the eighth day God created the Remington Bolt-Action rifle So man could protect himself from dinosaurs and homosexuals — it’s a nice reminder that we’re the normal ones.
Gone but never, ever, ever, ever, ever forgotten. Ever. I mean, EVER.
Of course, there’s a dark side to having so much of ourselves wrapped up in the wide world of entertainment. Often we are like Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy: Our good opinion once lost is lost forever. You really don’t have to stray any further than AfterEllen.com reader comments to wrap your head around this particular phenomenon. Just saying the name “Ilene Chaiken” is like dropping blood in a pool full of hungry sharks. And most recently, that determined brand of unforgiveness has surrounded Marti Noxon, the new Glee writer who was at Buffy’s helm when Tara died.
For me, it was Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise and Simone Lahbib in the UK drama Bad Girls that helped me embrace my own sexuality. And I might as well have those names tattooed on my soul in eternal ink for the way I will follow them into any projects they undertake for the rest of their lives.
Do you think lesbian fans are more loyal than other fans? What writers and actors are you most loyal to? And how about the dark side: Any writers or actors you refuse to forgive?