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londovir- by iamsab

Still feeling the wank tonight

(BTW, there's a new challenge on celestial_templ.)

A few disgruntled comments inspired by reading ds9agogo:

Babylon 5 is not some holy temple of gay- I really don’t get the Trek/B5 rivalry surrounding this. If you blink, you miss the whole Susan/Talia thing in filmed canon. And the subtext (which in my humble opinion is comparable to the subtext on Trek, if the popularity of Garak/Bashir is any indication) is exactly that- subtext. Which means it’s open to interpretation. (Except for Londo/G’Kar. Because, you know, theirloveissoobviouslycanon. *g*)

While we on the subject of the gay, I have a confession to make: I’ve never really been all that incensed about the lack of it on either B5 or Trek and, in all honesty, all of these demands for a gay character in Trek or elsewhere grate on my nerves. I explained my reasons for this in short on ds9agogo, but I would like to expand on them a bit.

In my long and checkered career as a fangirl, I have, in some sense or another, developed an emotional connection to a pretty wide range of fictional characters: a Bajoran former terrorist; a middle-aged male surgeon; a man in his thirties who got tomorrow’s newspaper today and his two best friends, one of whom was both black and blind; a insecure but incisively smart middle-aged male vice principal with a passion for classical music; and, at the last, two pouchy aliens with funny hair and tentacles and a lizard-marsupial. On the surface, only a few of these characters have anything in common with me, a 20-something, white, female American who (currently) works in retail. Yet they all spoke to me in some way, whether it was through my aspirations, my desires, my regrets, my values, something I felt I was lacking at a particular point in time, memories of a rocky adolescence, etc. And all of the above characters achieved this connection because they were fleshed out characters with a number of dimensions.

This, I feel, is how it should be with all entertainment media- our attention should be focused on creating whole people to live in the universes we envision. The goal should not be to acquire political approval or to fill some perceived quota. “Hmm, let’s see… since X percent of people in our population are (fill in the blank), X percent of our characters should be (fill in the blank)” This isn’t a paint-by-numbers exercise- you’re (presumably) trying to reach people with your art. Yes, challenge and dissent are legitimate goals as well, but in this, I follow the KISS rule- Keep It Subtle, Stupid. Make people think- don’t bludgeon them to death with whatever ax you’re currently grinding.

As I said, to set out with the intention of creating a gay character is to run the very great risk of creating a character who is only gay and nothing else. In other words, you run the risk of creating a character that is, in fan-speak, “teh suck”- a one-dimensional character with no flaws, no quirks, no nothing beyond the gay. Allow me to show you one way in particular that this might happen without you intending it with a little thought exercise:

Imagine that Londo Mollari is introduced as a gay character- that, for example, he has a brief and passionate love affair with a male Centauri instead of Adira. Assume that every other personal trait is constant and that his story line proceeds as it does in the true canon.

Could you imagine the outcry? And I’m not just talking about right-wing groups. The left would demand JMS’s head for the “blatant homophobia” inherent in making The Gay Character the one who allies with the Shadows. Even though Londo’s choice has absolutely nothing to do with whom he is shagging. Even though Londo evolves and changes and eventually dies doing something profoundly noble.

In this day and age, writing an openly gay character means locking your creativity in an itty-bitty box. Your gay character will constantly labor under the responsibility of “representing.” You can’t allow your gay character to do evil things. You can’t kill your gay character, even if it is appropriate for the plot. You can’t, in short, allow your gay character to be a whole, unique person. And that's why I, personally, object to all this agitation over the absence of gay characters in Trek (or elsewhere).

So, there we are. I’ve said my piece. And I think I’m pretty safe from accusations of homophobia given my recent Londo/G’Kar tentacle pr0n kick. But still…

*puts on her asbestos suit and waits for the wank to begin*


Babylon 5 is not some holy temple of gay

But homosexuality is treated better, is perhaps what it boils down to. I freely admit that you can miss the Susan/Talia - I actually did the first time I saw DL, although I was about fourteen at the time and not really paying attention. ;) But perhaps some of the jealousy comes from the fact that jms was out there on the net, freely admitting that yes, he'd created this relationship and it is there on screen (albeit so briefly), when people asked. There's also the Marcus/Franklin faux marriage thing, which was dropped in just as casually, and no doubt missed by a whole lot of people... but perhaps the point is that you could miss it, but you could also find it, and it's not a 'Look At Teh Gay! See Teh Gay!' sentiment. The times Trek has tried to integrate homosexuality, that I recall - The Outcast, The Host and Rejoined off hand - they've hyped it up to the eyeballs as Trek Does Gay People Too. And then managed, quite skillfully now that I think about it, to both bash everyone over the head with it and cop out so badly that they really aren't dealing with it at all.

B5 treats homosexuality as another part of life. Trek just can't seem to do that. I don't really want a gay character in Trek for the reason you said - it wouldn't be a person who loves someone of their own gender, or two guys travelling under a fake marriage license. It would be a complicated, trip-over-our-feet story about a one-dimensional character who god forbid! should have life beyond his or her sexuality.

When TNG and DS9 were on the air, I would have believed they could treat an LGBT character fairly and well, but they messed it up. And if they messed it up back then, I really wouldn't want to see how they'd massacre such a character with the staff they've got in the franchise now.

Imagine that Londo Mollari is introduced as a gay character- that, for example, he has a brief and passionate love affair with a male Centauri instead of Adira. Assume that every other personal trait is constant and that his story line proceeds as it does in the true canon.

Could you imagine the outcry?

Imagine it? I've seen it happen in Buffy fandom regarding Tara being shot. So many people sent hate mail because Tara was killed, because they couldn't keep from seeing her as 'the Gay Character'. The automatic response was that Joss Whedon hates gays because he killed a gay character in his show. The opinion that seemed in such short supply was that he'd had a gay character on his show, explicitly, for longer than some of the title character's boyfriends had ever been around - and she was a real character, with other things to recommend her, but all that disappears the instant something bad happens to her.
In this day and age, writing an openly gay character means locking your creativity in an itty-bitty box. Your gay character will constantly labor under the responsibility of “representing.” You can’t allow your gay character to do evil things. You can’t kill your gay character, even if it is appropriate for the plot. You can’t, in short, allow your gay character to be a whole, unique person.

I agree that this has, historically, been a problem. But the only way it's going to change is if we have more gay and bisexual characters of all varieties on TV. That goes for other minorities, as well - the more black, female, disabled, etc. characters there are the less any one of them is expected to act as some kind of representative of the group they happen to belong to. If you have several female characters, it's easier to make it clear that none of them are some abstract Ideal Of Womanhood, and the same goes for non-straight characters.

I agree that introducing a character just to represent a minority is incredibly annoying, mind, and for that reason I hope we can get to a point where characters can be gay or bi and nobody from either side of the fence feels the need to get excited about it. We're probably getting there now - although there were people who screamed 'homophobia!' when Tara was killed on BtVS, there were plenty of others around to point out just why this was nonsense.

I think B5 is actually very good at treating its same-sex relationships well, although since it was made in the early nineties JMS had to be subtle about it.
Sadly, I think you're absolutely right about what would have happened with Londo. However, I also agree with andrastewhite - just as the solution to moving away from the Token Female was to have more and varied female characters, the solution here would be to have more than one homosexual/bisexual character, and make them characters who happen to be gay, not Gay!Characters. And I think we're getting there, slowly, but surely.

(BTW, what leyenn says about the Tara storms is basically what Drew Greenberg, one of the actual writers on the show, said, plus he added that as a gay man himself, he was especially ticked off to be accused of homophobia, and to see Tara reduced to the Gay!character. However, as andrastewhite points out the reaction was by no means unison, plus Tara wasn't the only gay/bisexual character on the show.)

As for DS9: honestly, I never had a problem with this. I always took Jadzia to be presented as a bisexual character, not just because of Rejoined; they were pretty consistent in including stuff like letting Worf get jealous of other women, not just other men and giving her the occasional comment like the one about Klingon women being more fun at parties. At the same time, except for Rejoined where the Reassociation taboo was intended as a clear allegory (see also Avery Brook's comments on the DVDs - he directed the episode), it wasn't a big issue, or the milestone around which her characterisation resolved. Moreover, since Kira in Rejoined doesn't understand why Lenara and Jadzia, two women, can't get together, and Jadzia in Rules of Aquisition assumes Pel is male and in love with Quark and thinks that's sweet (and normal), I went by the assumption that in the Trekverse, same-sex relationships were as legal as het ones.

This being said: they did chicken out of say, letting the guest star of the week arrive with his male partner instead of his wife. Still, if I'm asking myself whether that would have added anything to the stories being told, the depth of characterisation etc.? No, it wouldn't.

"Gay people" vs "People" who may or may not be gay

I think you make good points. But I also do think that B5 did a better job of showing homosexuality than Trek ever did. I'm not hugely in favour of Trek using gay characters, because they simply do not know how to be subtle. It's always head-beatingly obvious when they're trying to use allegory, and they very rarely have actual homo- or bi-sexual characters (at least, outside of DS9 and the Trills).

B5, on the other hand, includes storylines which are not about "gay people", but which *are* about "people", some of whom happen to be gay. The Marcus-Franklin marriage was *exactly* the kind of thing I want to see in sci-fi; a situation with a gay couple in which their sexuality has precisely zero relevance. It could just as well have been Franklin and Ivanova for the amount of heavy-handed allegory they put into it.

But it is still true that there are very, very few homosexual characters shown anywhere, and this is something which could certainly stand to be changed. If you have a writer who can write about homosexual characters without making their homosexuality the defining point of their existence, then that is A Good Thing, at least in my book. But tokenism - there I agree entirely. It's horrible.

gays in the media

One of the problems with integrating gay characters into tv shows is that, unlike say, color, the only way you can indicate sexuality is through word or action. You can't have a character be "indicated" gay without falling into stereotypes that are even more hideous than outright invisibility.

So then you're faced with the question of "how do I write this character and his/her involvement with someone of the same sex." If its a one off thing, people get mad because they feel like it's a throwaway relationship, placed into the show just to prove that a character is "gay" (eg: Talia/Ivanova.*) But why spend valuable airtime on an ongoing romance that may not have anything to do with the plot if all you want to do is establish a character's sexuality. I think that most writers in the industry are working so hard just to get to the stories they want to do, that they just don't want to spend the time.

Does that make sense? I'm in no way endorsing this, BTW. I just think that the whole question is immensly complicated.

I mean, unfortunately, part of the outcry and the need for "visibility" is that when you look at a show, the viewing audience simply assumes that unless they see "gay" behaviour, the characters are het. Joss Whedon said that the majority of the letters he received came after New Moon Rising. Because until that ep, people just didn't seem to get that Tara and Willow were involved.

I personally don't understand it. One of the reasons I loved the whole Willow/Tara arc was that they took their time and let us watch them fall in love just as slowly as they had developed the Oz?Willow relationship. And they even had many of the same markers, always being together, holding hands, the introduction to the Scoobies. By the time NMR happened, I sure as hell knew they were an item!

But for many, many people, they didn't know Willow was bi and in a relationship with Tara until it was explicitly spelled out to them.

I liked the way B5 normalized homosexuality, as much as I liked the way the Jossverse contextualizes it in a world that doesn't see same-sex love unless the relationship is spelled out explicitly. I think the fact that they used "gay" characters differently has a lot to do with that very difference in context.


*Personally, though I was sad that they hadn't built that relationship from the beginning, which would have made that episode so very much more painful, I was glad they put it in, especially since it informed the Ivonanva/Marcus dynamic so much.

Small amplification

While I felt that the venom of the reaction was over-the-top (and may have had a deleterious influence on aspects of the plot of S7, and I'm not just talking about Kennedy), I think that it's a severe over-simplification for most of the comments here to portray the Dead!Tara controversy as simply "You killed the Gay Character!". There was a whole lot more to it, mainly the way that Willow became a deranged arch-villain as a result, the fact that she got talked down by a male character, and the manner in which magic use was first used as a metaphor for homoeroticism and then turned into a destructive addiction. While I felt that it was entirely accidental, and that the accusations of homophobia were over-stated, I also felt and still feel that ME showed a failure to consider the implications of some of their plot decisions.