Looking for Love: Homos on the Telly.

Homos on the telly.  I ask you, whatever next.  A black man in the white house perhaps.  But wait…..

In reading one of the many blogs on LGBTQ news out there I came across the details of a new television series that is premièring on HBO, a US premium television channel, in January 2014.  In checking out the trailers that have been released, the series seems to be a contemporary look at gay male life in San Francisco. It’s called “Looking” and is focused around dating.  Now I should caution you all here; I’ve only watched the trailer and seen a couple of comments on a blog.  But two things; it looks interesting and controversial as well.  To bring you all up to speed you can check out the trailer here.

I don’t have HBO so I’m not sure if I will get to see the whole show or not.  But the premise seems straight forward from what I can tell.  Ordinary gay people, in San Francisco, on TV.  The trailer features people looking for love, going to dinner, hanging out with friends, kissing, working, doing all the usual stuff that folks do.  But on telly.  Now I am sure that there is going to be more than the normal amount of drama on the show as well, simply because it is television.  After all, who wants watch boring TV?  A lot of people are trying to escape their lives through TV, not to find out that people on the box just plod on relentlessly too.  Dull TV is not the advertisers friends.  But I digress….

What’s worthy of note here are two points.  First, this is not a comedy or a seemingly a sex show (so far).  From the trailer it seems pretty ordinary.  Let’s think about some of the other shows that are out there at the moment that represent LGBTQ people.  Modern Family is the one that immediately springs to mind.  It’s fun, yes, but represents perhaps a niche and stylized aspect of LGBTQ life with the gay couple it represents.  Yes, it deals with some topical issues for sure, but it uses some largely stereotypical devices to do so.  Because it does so it is also pretty inoffensive.  When you use safe things like Mitch and Cam, the two characters in Modern Family (who I love, by the way) to demonstrate a point, it’s very comfortable for the audience.  It hardly pushes any boundaries of acceptability to show everyone’s favorite “gay uncle” kind of image does it, even if they are dealing with some topical issues.  It’s still slapstick.  Same goes for Will and Grace if you want to go back in time.  Now before I get any hate mail from folks, I’m totally supportive of these shows.  Their role in visual culture from an LGBTQ perspective is very important.  They have created dialogues that couldn’t have existed if they hadn’t.  But that doesn’t mean that they are without issue or problems.

Queer as Folk is another show that needs discussing while we are at it too.  But I need to check myself.  This isn’t a blog about LGBTQ rights.  So it’s important to remember that my comments are about the representation of LGBTQ folks in visual culture and politics, and in this case, TV shows.  Queer as Folk is an interesting example as there was a UK version and a US version.  The UK version ran for two seasons and the US for many more.  There were also about a million more episodes in the US version too.  The UK version was very gritty, suburban, and seemed to attempt a much more realistic portrayal of life.  The US version was quite a bit more airbrushed, glamorous, and had a lot more hair gel and make up.  There was not a lot in common between them and they also dealt with very different issues as a consequence, although both reflected aspects of the culture that they were based in.  One was in a working class town, while the other was in a gay neighborhood that was, by comparison, fairly well-to-do.  Visual Culture in action…. airbrushes, hairbrushes, and all in the US version.

Now, I haven’t seen anything other than the trailer for Looking yet.  There is also the caveat that this is, according to what I have read, a show about guys who are trying to date in San Francisco, so it could very well turn into a sex show.  The trailer does show someone wandering around in a bath towel after all so we will have to see how that goes.  But dating is a fact of life for folks and it’s a large part of gay culture.  Importantly, it’s also something that doesn’t really get talked about much in a serious way in many of the shows that feature gay characters.  Will and Grace covered it from a comedy/sanitized perspective, Modern Family doesn’t cover it at all, the US version of QAF did cover it, and that’s really it to my knowledge.  When LGBTQ people get dealt with on TV they are usually either safely coupled up already or the dating is done nicely, humorously, or it just sort of happens.  There hasn’t been a show that revolves AROUND it (at least not for the guys).  That’s quite a big thing and is another milestone in reflecting an aspect of LGBTQ culture in the visual realm that I don’t think I have seen before.  Dating involves kissing, body parts, relationships, and all the things that seem to scare the general public the most about gay people at the moment.  So to see such a big part of LGBTQ culture arriving on TV is a big thing.

So what of the second aspect that I mentioned?  It all seems very white according to the trailer.  I don’t think I really saw anyone who is non-white in a lead role.  That’s also something that a lot of people seem to be discussing online too.  If this show is about representing culture visually, then it should surely be representing all aspects of a culture.  Judging by the trailer they have so far failed and there are a lot of pissed off Asians, Blacks, and Latinos out there already.  That’s not a good start.  That’s the thing with a visual medium like the telly; when you miss things out, it’s really noticeable in a lot of ways.

So, will you watch it?  I’d love to but I don’t have HBO and chances are won’t subscribe to it just for this.  Maybe one of you can tell me what it is all about.  Otherwise I’ll have to wait for it to arrive on Netflix in about 10 years…..

Big love,

DMx

Bats, Lesbians, and Comics.

I’m discovering that this visual culture of politics thing is both difficult and interesting.  Or interesting and difficult depending on which way you want to look at it.  As I look around at images I can see lots that have political leanings to them.  Some are overt and some less so.  Most images can be taken to have a meaning of some sort if you are hell-bent on giving them one and want to argue your point hard enough.  But that’s not really where my interest for this particular blog lies.  I’ve had a bit more of a difficult time so far finding images that fit with what I wanted to explore on this blog, mainly images that deal with the LGBTQ political sphere and visual culture.

Well, I found an interesting one today in drifting around online while not feeling 100% (Boo for summer colds).  It’s all about DC comics, marriage equality, comic book writers, and the fact that Batwoman is untitledlesbian.  Yep, you got it.  I didn’t know either.  It seems that I have been living under a comic book rock for a very long while and that Batwoman is the highest profile out female gay character in the comic book world.  Who knew?  I certainly didn’t.

From an LGBTQ news perspective there is a bit of a kerfuffle going on as the writers of a Batwoman have just resigned from DC comics.  You see awhile back Batwoman got engaged to her girlfriend Maggie, a policewoman in Gotham City, and DC comics were cool with that.  Of course they would be, I hear you say.  Why go to though all the hoopla and criticism of having a lesbian caped crusader if you aren’t going to let them get married, right?  Not so fast….  It now seems that DC comics are not going to let them get married after all.  So the writers say on their blog as to why they are resigning.  But I digress.  I am getting caught up in the politics and this is supposed to be about the visuals, right?

So why mention this at all?  Because comics (and their close relation, cartoons) are an almost eternal part of our SawyerBatwomanculture.  Almost all of us grew up with them in some way or another.  We either bought them as kids, got them out of the newspaper, read them at the dentist/doctors, and some people also read them and collect them as adults too.  Witness the sheer number of people involved in things like Comic-Con, the international corporation that talks about comics for proof of how many people see comics as relevant in our lives today.  They are also a pretty much entirely visual medium.  The fact that they are reflective of some of the social issues of the day shouldn’t be a surprise at all, though it caught me be off guard in this case.  If you are interested you can read the full news story about the writers at this link.

So Batwoman is a lesbian.  With a fiancée.  She has a utility belt and can kick your ass as well, just to prove that stereotypes are alive and well in comics too.  She’s visually dynamic and culturally relevant.  It’s also really political too.

Homos in comics?  Real life my friends.  Personally, my money was always on Spiderman…

Big love,

DMx

Homoworld – The Return

So, Homoworld is back up and running for a bit.  That’s a surprise right?  It was for me too….

You’ll recall that I put the blog on hiatus at the end of 2012 when I finished my yearlong project of self portrait photography and writing about LGBTQ news issues.  The photography side of things fed my MFA thesis at the University of Kentucky (book incoming shortly…) and the writing and news aspect helped to thin out my friends list on Facebook somewhat.  It also helped win me some new friends and also prompted some wonderful comments from other friends and family, some of which were quite unexpected!

So why is this blog back?  Don’t I have enough to do?  Yes, is the answer to THAT question.  I’ve just started my final year back at school, this time in my second Masters degree program.  I completed my Master of Fine Arts (Photography) program in May (Huzzah!) and now I have one year left of my Master of Arts (Art History).  One of the classes I am taking this semester is the “Visual Culture of Politics” and it so happens that there is a blog project involved in the class.  What’s the blog project about?  Well, that’s going to be evolving over the semester but it will be basically discussing imagery in visual culture with a particular leaning toward politics.  There’s a surprise, eh?  Me and politics back together again.  So rather than start a brand new blog off it seemed appropriate to dust off Homoworld once more…this time with a different slant.

This time around then Homoworld won’t be dealing with my images.  It will still be dealing with politics but it will be dealing with politics in relation to images from other people and places.  That may be traditional photographs, film, video, magazines, web, etc.  Who knows?  I guess as the class unfolds and the assignments take shape the blog will unfold too.  It will be interesting to see where it leads this time.  One thing is for sure and that is that I’ll welcome your input as the blog develops, so feel free to chime in as before in the comments section.

So with that, onto the first assignment which was to provide a definition of what politics means to me and to provide an image that relates to that definition as well.  Well, the standard dictionary definition of politics refer to all the usual things like “The science or art of political government”, “The practice or profession of conducting political affairs”, or the “methods or maneuvers” in achieving a goal, etc.  I particularly liked the “use of intrigue or strategy in obtaining any position of power or control, especially in a business or FullImageuniversity”.  Those all came from dictionary.com by the way.

However, I prefer to use one of the definitions that comes from my trusted source (of course) the Oxford English Dictionary, which is “The assumptions or principles relating to or inherent in a sphere, theory, or activity, especially when concerned with power and status in a society: the politics of gender (or sexuality) [I added the bit about sexuality]”.  That ties in quite nicely with my main point of interest on sexuality and equality.  That also fits in with an area that I’d like to look at some more with regard to politics, imagery, and LGBTQ issues and news.  Of course the term politics can have many definitions and we can pick and choose the term that best fits the purpose that we are looking for but in this case, with regard to LGBTQ issues, I would say that this fits rather nicely, wouldn’t you?

So what of an image that I would consider to be political in this context which was the other part of this opening assignment?  I chose to include this rather cute picture of Lance Bass proposing to his fiancé that he posted on Instagram the other day.  What, I hear you cry?  This is hardly political, you say!  Oh but it is.  Sex is always politics, especially when it comes to dealing with Homos here in North America.  You certainly also don’t get much more political than being one part of a pop group aimed at a young heterosexual audience and then coming out as a big old queer and proposing to your boyfriend on Instagram.  That’s a big bold statement for power and status in a majorly politically and visual way.  So there is my definition and my first example of an image related to Visual Culture and Politics.  From NSYNC, I give you Lance Bass with no “Girlfriend” but a boyfriend via Instagram.  How modern is that?  Welcome to the culturally relevant social media world and “Bye, Bye, Bye” to the old way of doing it.  This image communicated all we needed to know and in a very political way too….

Cheers,

DavidM