From Ellen to Lindsay
Wednesday, September 24, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
So, the buzz around town right now is that Lindsay Lohan has finally officially outed herself. I say "officially", because it's been fairly well reported that she has been in a long term relationship with DJ Samantha Ronson for some time now. What's interesting is that while the news outlets are mentioning it, it's without the salacious gossip-y feel that you might have gotten 10 years ago. It's sort of more of a "Well, it's about time" sort of sentiment that I pick up when I read the various reports.

It's interesting how far lesbian visibility has come since I was in college. I still remember the firestorm that erupted when Ellen Degeneres showed up on the now famous cover of Time with the headline, "Yep. I'm Gay." People went bananas. Jerry Falwell dubbed her "Ellen Degenerate" and the pressure eventually caused her show to collapse and get cancelled (now, I've always contended that the problem was that the show just wasn't that good, not that people were particularly upset about the gay content, but I can't really prove that). Now, fast forward 12 years, and here's Ellen on the cover of a major magazine again. Only this time it's People Magazine, with a glossy glamourous 5-6 page photo spread of her wedding.... to Portia di Rossi. And it's almost the same exact sort of cover and story the magazine did for Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' wedding.

Really, what's remarkable is how UN-remarkable this is in today's culture. I mean, yes, there is still rampant homophobia and so forth (believe me, as a gamer I still hear the term "fag" and "you're gay" slung about as insults all the time), but there's definitely been a gradual shift where mainstream America's panties are just slightly less in a bunch about gay and lesbian issues than they used to be. A dude like Clay Aiken can come out, (see this week's cover of People, where he outs himself and shows off his cute new baby at the same time), and no one really gets excited. Again, there's this sort of "Aaaaand?...." reaction, because homeboy wasn't fo0ling anyone.

This of course brings me to my last piece of optimistic evidence that America is slowly becoming more tolerant of gay and lesbian people being out. I was in the supermarket, pretending to examine my can of Goya beans at the checkout, but secretly glancing at the ABC Soaps magazine sitting there. Yes, it's time for me to out myself.... I am an All My Children fan. It's shameful, I know, but I have come to love that goofy daytime soap, with its wild over-acting, crazy stories, and of course... La Lucci. The storyline that was running when I became a first time viewer was when Erica Kane's daughter Bianca was just about to come out of the closet. Since then (circa 2000), Bianca has pretty much stayed a major character and has shockingly stayed gay. She even has had some romantic storylines of her very own (chaste though they were).

Anyway, I picked up the magazine because of the cover story announcing that Bianca was returning to AMC for a long term storyline (Eden Riegel, the wonderful actress who portrays her, had taken a break from the show for about a year or so). Inside, they talked about how Bianca was returning from France, and what that would mean to the other residents of Pine Valley, etc. But what really caught my eye was a side bar speculating about whether she would be bringing Maggie back to town with her. The exact text was, "Will Maggie, Bianca's true love, be returning with her?" That really surprised me, because this is the sort of magazine that's geared towards a traditionally socially conservative base comprised of housewives from middle America and so forth. And yet the magazine was guessing that a housewife in Peoria would be very interested in whether Bianca's "true love" would be coming back. The use of that term was really important, simply because it was the same sort of language and writing style they would have used to talk about any heterosexual pairing on the show.

The magazine described Bianca as one of AMC's most beloved characters, which was also fascinating. I know that every AMC fan I've run across does indeed adore Bianca. And again, that's a remarkable thing. To me, that's amazing to think that a legion of mostly heterosexual fans would be cheering for Bianca to find true love, even if it were with a woman. Now if only poor Bianca could get a storyline that allowed her to do more than occasionally hug her partner, we'd be on a roll.

I could go on and on about the importance of gay and lesbian characters in TV and movies, in terms of how it helps sway public opinion on gay and lesbian rights, but that's a post for another time, I think. In the meantime, head over to AfterEllen.com to read more about the "Walmart-ing" of gay and lesbian visibility.

*note: AMC still has a long way to go in terms of their gay/lesbian storylines, but they're making an effort, misguided as it sometimes is (i.e. the dreadful transgendered Zoey/Zarf fiasco)

Edited to add: I'm not sure Lindsay identifies as a lesbian, which is fine. She outed her relationship with another woman, but I wouldn't be shocked if she dated a man in the future, either. Just wanted to clarify that.
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3 comments:

On 1:27 PM , foolsjourney said...

They're much happier with lesbian couples. I'm not sure if on that soap the couple had been composed of two men, whether the reaction would have been quite the same. Not to say they're not getting more tolerant of gay male couples, too - but the tolerance is higher for lesbians, I think (insert feminist explaination here, I'm sure you know the stuff I mean!).

 
On 6:04 PM , Mad Typist said...

Oh, absolutely. That's why I focused mainly on lesbian visibility (in fact over at Open Salon I sub-titled the article "Lesbian Visibility"). There's a definite double standard in terms of how society reacts to lesbians versus gay men.

 
On 8:32 AM , Johnathon Sykes said...

I hope so...for the sake of the people who have to live in quasi-fear (or very real fear depending on which part of the country) because of their choice of mate.

What I find funnier then anything is that the gay community is kind of in the same position (though not entirely) then the African American community some 50 years ago. The opportunity for change is there, I just don't see the overwhelming motivation and organization to get it done.