Tag Archives: AfterElton

Race, Ethnicity, and ‘The Vampire Diaries’

In a fairly inoffensive, if silly, roundtable discussion post on AfterElton about The CW’s brilliant, The Vampire Diaries, this jumped out at me:

There’s yet to be much of a gay presence on the show. (Sorry folks, Caroline’s deceased Dad doesn’t cut it). Do you think a gay vamp making all sorts of snappy one-liners about the pretty boys in Mystic Falls would be a good thing?

Robyn Ross: I love that the show often blissfully ignores race, ethnicity, etc. because these kids have a lot more to worry about than those kinds of social issues. But sexual orientation (and sex in general) is such a huge part of the show that I think taking on a handsome gay vampire could add a lot to the mix. And let’s be honest, the banter between him and Damon would be priceless.

Because race and ethnicity are “social issues” one has to “worry about?” Wait…what?

Race and ethnicity should be central to creating character, particularly if you’re going to have a diverse cast, as The Vampire Diaries does. And so this is the one area of the show that drives me fucking crazy.

bonnie-bennett-profile

Bonnie, one of the all-powerful Bennett witches

I mean, this is a show that is set in Virginia, with frequent flashbacks to antebellum South and constant celebrations of antebellum Southern culture that conspicuously sidesteps the fact that that period was defined by American chattel slavery. This is a show that nearly always casts black actors to play witches but provides no mythological reason for this even though it’s clear that the producers are consciously deciding to always. every. single. time. cast a black actor as a witch.

Not even for the Bennett witches, who are central to the show’s mythology.

But here’s the thing? The vampire Katherine Pierce, who is also central to the show’s mythology played by lead actress Nina Dobrev, is Bulgarian because Dobrev is Bulgarian and speaks the language fluently.

The show’s producers are aware enough of Dobrev’s ethnicity to not only reference it in the show, but also make use of it (via Dobrev speaking the language in flashbacks), but there can be no indication in the show at all that the black actors are playing black characters with history, ethnicity and perspective.

In other words, race and ethnicity aren’t ignored, blissfully or otherwise. Just blackness.

On Monifah and White Construction of Sexuality

This AfterEllen (the lesbian sister site to the gay AfterElton) interview of R&B singer Monifah is a perfect example of how the largely white constructs of “gay” and “lesbian” don’t really fit black homosexual people.

AE: I want to talk about the past and I want to talk about now. Did you ever fear being outed back when you were 23, recording your first album?
MC:
 Lindsey, hell no. No! Let me tell you this: I have always lived my life authentically and exactly how I wanted to. I was dating women. People in the industry were very aware of who I was and what I was into at that point. They knew. I never hid it. I didn’t hide it.

AE: Who hid it? I mean, you weren’t out publicly.
MC:
 No! I was out publicly. I would be at parties with my girlfriend. It was very clear. It may be unspoken, but I didn’t feel like I needed to make an announcement. I just lived! You know what I’m saying? I just lived! Like most people I know.

AE: Absolutely. Well have you ever dated anyone that was in the closet?
MC:
 Um — I don’t think — no. In the closet? No. I wouldn’t say in the closet.

AE: What would you call it?
MC:
 Not in the closet, but not necessarily making any public statements.

AE: I guess that’s my question then.
MC:
 [Laughs] What’s your question?

AE: If you are a celebrity and you are gay and you are asked “Are you gay?” by press and media and you choose not to discuss it, to me and to a lot of people, that is in the closet.
MC:
 OK, got it, got it!

AE: So I guess that’s the divide. Do you feel that living an openly gay life or being open and honest, that there is a line drawn at press and media?
MC:
 Well yes because that’s still a personal thing. Your personal life is your personal life. Heterosexual couples do it all the time. Men and women that are in the business or whatever — whatever they choose to do! I am gonna say with entertainers and people in the public eye, I think that it’s a personal choice. I don’t discredit — I don’t have a problem with anyone not discussing certain aspects of their personal lives at all. It doesn’t bother me. What I chose to do was what I chose to do was because I never had an issue anyway. The show was about my life, and my life emcompasses the person I love and who I’m sharing my life with, which means my mom, my daughter, my girlfriend now, and whatever else is going on! I’m in a place where I’m walking in transparency. I’ve been through some struggles and I have nothing — you’re as sick as your secrets. I mean that in the things that can harm us — not with my sexuality; I mean drug addiction, sex addiction, things like that. I have to walk the truth. And so I was fine with sharing my personal relationship, which has uplifted me and given me a great new perspective and has given me such great support. This woman has been such a blessing to me and so I would never even think twice about celebrating that openly.

AE: You talked earlier about how everyone deserves the same rights. And I think that is something we all have to stand up for and I can tell by the way that you’re talking you believe that. So how do you feel about role models. You say it’s a personal choice but if we are fighting for equal rights —
MC:
 Right, I agree. Let me back up on this Lindsey, I got you. I do wish that it wasn’t such a big deal but I think that’s still, again, a private and personal thing. Because I think people are conflicted within themselves. It’s not even about what other people think; I think that’s the second door you have to open. The first door, is the acceptance of self. So if you’re still conflicted with acceptance of self, how do we expect for you to be honest and feel comfortable? I wish people really — it’s a scary thing. I get it, I’ve done it. I’m doing it. It’s an everyday process. It’s not some “Oh now it’s over.” I wish that people would take those steps and move out of the self-loathing pocket and more into the self-acceptance pocket. Once you’re not conflicted within yourself, speak out because this needs to be normalized. It has to stop. We do need to see these images of self. These children do need to see that there’s nothing wrong with them. They do need to see that so-and-so is amazing, talented and is taking over the world, handling his business and so can I. And they’re just like me! We need to see these images. Our children need to see them.

AE: Absolutely. Did anyone ever tell you, even though you were living an open life, did they say you might not want to speak publicly about your sexuality?
MC:
 Oh yeah, all the homophobes in the business. Yeah, oh my God, yes! Mostly everybody who was in control, who runs the industry. It’s a male-run industry, basically. And in my opinion, a gay-male run industry. That’s crazy to me. Overall! It’s Jewish gay males, right? I mean, am I crazy? [Laughs]

AE: No, I think what you’ve seen what you’ve seen, for sure! [Laughs] I think it’s really important to understand the reasons why that someone as famous as you, nobody knew until now!
MC:
 Yeah. I do think that Middle America, across the board, may not have known, but the people that are kind of privy and in the circle you run in – I’ve hung out at Girl Bar parties. I’ve lived my life! And I didn’t really — People would say “Oh she likes girls” especially now with blogs and stuff. It’s way more prevalent with social media and technology is more prevalent; way more in your face. In the entertainment industry, it’s become such a tool. It was definitely out there. People can believe what they like to believe and that’s depends on what they need to believe.

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My 11 Favorite Television Characters of All Time

The folks over at AfterElton.com are doing a really fun rundown of their favorite television characters of all time (no Kanye).

So I figured, why not make my own list? So I did.

Check it out after the jump.

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Some Thoughts on the ‘Greek’ Series Finale

Greek cast

Greek cast

Greek was, without question, the finest college-set television show I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. It had a tremendously rich sense of place, a strong, clear voice, great stories, and instantly definable three-dimensional characters played by one of the finest ensembles on television.

Tonight’s finale was perhaps a bit too pat for my personal tastes, but I can’t say that moments didn’t hit me exactly the way they were designed to. When Rebecca (standout Dilshad Vadsaria, who is a fuckin star) hugs Casey. Evan’s reaction to Cappie and Casey’s plans. Rusty’s speech to Cappie. The way Rusty says “I love you” to his sister Casey.

I’ve written about the show’s aspirational colorblind casting before. It was a glaringly obvious problem with the show. It was a choice that I understand given our country’s racial fatigue, but it sometimes resulted in bizarre casting and sort of forced the writers to not give the characters portrayed by actors of color histories or backstory to avoid dealing with or acknowledging race. Ashleigh and Calvin suffered a bit as a result, though Calvin as a gay character got a little more to do*. In this way, Greek becomes a fascinating study of just how limited colorblind casting truly is.

That said, I still really enjoyed the show. And I’ll miss it.

 

*This AfterElton article with writer and creator Patrick Sean Smith shows that Smith knew exactly what the colorblind choice meant and he acknowledges the challenges of writing for some of the characters. His thoughts on Ashleigh in particular (“I was trying to imagine even for Ashleigh what the black sorority sister experience would be and the only things that came to mind were things I’d seen a million times.”) are very interesting and track very much with my frustration with the character at times. And his views on race and the millennial generation (“I never felt race, for the millennial audience, was that important to them for their reality. Dealing with sexual orientation and race is less of a thing for them than it has been even for my generation.”) are understandable, but completely absurd.

…and You Missed One

So I was shocked that Brent Hartinger did a list of "Ten of the Most Romantic Gay Moments in Entertainment" over at AfterElton and didn't include the kiss from Trick.

 

 

Trick is, for me, the most romantic gay film ever made*. Ostensibly, it's about two men who spend the night trying to find a place to fuck, but it turns into so very much more.

The film does a superb job of building both characters – played magnificently by John Paul Pitoc and Christian Campbell – so fully that you get heavily invested in their carnal desire, and later, in their burgeoning romance. There is nothing cloying, or manipulative, or insincere about Trick. And that only makes the kiss – their first – more erotically charged and romantic than perhaps any other gay kiss in film.

And it slays me every single time I watch it..

 

*Rivaled only by Beautiful Thing, which made Hartinger's list.