“The New Normal” doesn’t have a lesbian problem


Only three episodes of The New Normal have aired on NBC and there’s already been protests by One Million Moms, a Mormon television station and lesbians who don’t like to be joked about as frowny-faced gingerbread men. Some of us have been quick to curse Ryan Murphy, one of the show’s creators, and declare him an enemy to gay women, but it’s just not the case.

Bear with me, Brittanaholics.

First, Ryan’s co-creator is a tried and true lesbian: Ali Adler. She’s also a mom and a seasoned television writer who is just as much a part of The New Normal is Ryan is — if not more so, considering Ryan is also working on both Glee and American Horror Story at the same time. For the record, both of those shows have lesbian characters.

I digress. In a conference call today, I asked Ali about the criticism of the lesbian jokes the show has made thus far, which, in all actuality, is very minor compared to other racist, homophobic or otherwise offensive things the characters might say. (Mostly Ellen Barkin.)

“What I would say of lesbian jokes is that we make jokes about everybody and so we are equal opportunity offenders,” Adler told me. “If we start censoring ourself on any different type of person we’re just going to hurt our own process.”

Which is kind of what I thought she’d say, because that’s what all good writers should say. Being careful never won anyone an Emmy. Ask Tina Fey!

In a new profile of Murphy in Vogue, Adler explained how her partner thinks and writes.

Because Murphy himself is not a liberal moralist, his show is more politically nuanced than one might at first imagine, especially given the personal nature of the subject material. “He’s literally color-blind, gender-blind, homosexual-blind. So The New Normal is not so much a grand gesture of “We’re going to teach the country a lesson” as “This is something you should already know.” It’s like the alphabet. Everyone should be able to read.

So when Murphy tweeted that the show would be getting their own lesbian couple in the near future, some people were skeptical, despite the fact he puts lesbians on almost every single television show he works on.

“We will be seeing them shortly,” Adler said of The New Normal‘s lesbian pairing, “and hopefully in the future as well.”

Shortly after the call news broke that the lesbian couple had been cast: Leisha Hailey and Constance Zimmer will first appear in the show’s seventh episode as Victoria and Tiffany, respective. Tiffany is an accountant and Bryan’s (Andrew Rannelis) business manager and Victoria is described by The Hollywood Reporter as “sunny” and “isn’t as bitter about not being able to have a family with her partner.”

Leisha Hailey and Constance Zimmer

Photos courtesy of IMDB

Adler also referenced being a gay mother herself during the call and wanting to show all kinds of families on a show about creating your own happiness in those you choose to surround yourself with. So when it comes to showing bigoted Nana discriminating against a masculine pair of lesbian moms, is it the lesbians that come out looking bad? Probably not.

“As a same sex mom with another mom, I obviously don’t think it’s controversial,” Adler said. “I hope people are surprised at how relatable it is to their own experience. I think it looks very similar to our own experience. We’re all just complaining about getting up in the middle of the night or being tired from work and our parenting. So it’s all pretty much the same and hopefully we’ll see that.”

June Thomas of Slate wrote a piece about the show last week, praising its undeniable gayness.

Earlier, I denied that The New Normal is a gay show. I lied. It’s actually the gayest thing I’ve ever seen on network television. Created by an out gay man and an out lesbian mom, it speaks my language and parrots my paranoias. In fact, I’m almost convinced that some sections are broadcast on a frequency only Kinsey 6 homosexuals can hear. Although some of my fellow gays found Bryan and David too stereotypically butch and femme, to me they read as a loving, settled couple of a type that is so familiar, I’m sure I must have friends in common with Murphy and Adler. Nana’s homophobic comments—she describes a lesbian couple as a pair of “ugly men” and seems perpetually to be playing mad libs with the words fruit, candy, fudge, and packer—are exactly the kind of things I suspect straight people say about us when we’re not around. In Episode 2, when Bryan recalls a time before he and David “fully morphed into an old lesbian couple, minus the frowns and the gingerbread-man bodies,” it’s both funny—go on, I give you permission to laugh—and just what I imagine pretty, fit gay men say about their Sapphic sisters. It’s the type of joke you might hear in a lesbian comedy set—though the dynamic’s different there, because we’re in our own world. When the whole of America is listening, it’s tempting to deny the humor. But I admit it: I laughed.

So did I, June. And I don’t think that makes me a bad lesbian. In fact, I’m hoping it doesn’t make me a humorless one, which is a stereotype we’ve been battling far longer than having frowny faces. And I can bet you Ali Adler thought it was funny, too, even if she didn’t write it herself.

That’s another thing. Besides Adler and Murphy, there is at least one other gay in the room: Karey Dornetto (Community, Portlandia). And with the addition of Leisha Hailey playing one half of a lesbian couple on this NBC series about being different and amazing at the same time, how can you not be watching? Did we laugh when Leisha was on another show with some stereotypical characters and jokes and storylines? Oh yes we did.

Forget what you thought you knew about Ryan Murphy shows and embrace this one, because there are some women at the helm of this too and I trust them to keep it hilarious, relevant and all in good fun.

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