Monday, January 17, 2011

Hopeful than Hopeless than Hopeful Again

So, my pal Paul is running this series on his blog called Hopelessness Watch. I'm going all big word here, and saying that hopelessness is anathema to me. I am like pathologically hopeful. I am always surprised when I don't win the lottery.

So, I was thinking about countering with a "hopefulness watch." The idea struck me while I was watching the first season of Soap on Netflix. If you are not as old as me, you might not be aware that Billy Crystal played a character named Jody, who was openly gay. That show began airing in 1977. It was something, 30 odd years ago, to have a gay character on TV, and the show should be lauded for its historical significance in not only having a gay character but a gay character who had some depth. In my life, it was the first time I'd ever seen a gay character represented pop culturally beyond just bullshit broad stereotype. And the last I'd see for a really long time.

But there was this one plot development: Jody's boyfriend is a pro football player, who is unwilling to go public with their relationship. Jody offers a solution: he'll get a sex change operation. Because in that show, progressive as it was, wanting to have sex with a man meant you might as well be a woman.

So, I thought "look how far we've come!" I was filled with hope in seeing that even a wildly progressive show like Soap could get simple human sexuality so completely wrong. Seeing the errors of our past makes me feel hopeful about our present. There on my tiny computer screen, I could see real evidence of our progress as a nation.

But then, tonight, I watched this show called Rules of Engagement. And, lo and behold, we meet a lesbian character who we know is a lesbian because she's just like a guy. She likes sports and beer and not communicating and being emotionally retarded. Because she likes to have sex with women, every bullshit, hateful, nasty stereotype about men is extrapolated onto her just like it's 1977 all over again.

And, thus, my hopefulness took a kick to the nuts.

And as I mired in the resulting hopelessness, it suddenly occurred to me that no one watches that show. In all my ample facebooking, I've never seen anyone post "OMG, did you see RoE? David Spade LOLOLOLOL" Why? Probably because it traffics in lazy stereotypes like "men are stupid and emotionally retarded as are lesbians since wanting to have sex with women is all that it takes to make you a man."

American TV is not the cesspool it once was, and we've grown to like a little complexity from our characters, a little depth, a little richness.

And just like that, hopefulness reengaged. Schadenfraudingly.