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Baby, Its Cold Outside – and Queer in Here!

16 Dec Posted by in • Jewelle Gomez | Comments Off on Baby, Its Cold Outside – and Queer in Here!
Baby, Its Cold Outside – and Queer in Here!

In 1944 Tony and Pulitzer award-winning songwriter Frank Loesser (“Guys & Dolls”) wrote ‘Baby it’s Cold Outside’ for his wife Lynn and sang it at private parties before selling it to a studio which put it in a movie. It won the 1949 Academy Award for Best Original Song. And it is original.

A duet arranged like dialogue in which one character persuades another to stay for the night; kind of risqué for the 1940s but with humour so no one would be too alarmed.  It’s been recorded by an amazing number and array of singers coupling up from Mae West & Rock Hudson to Dolly Parton and Rod Stewart. It has appeared on the hit parade a phenomenal number of times and its appeal shows no sign of fading.

The holiday episode of GLEE featured performers Chris Colfer and Darren Chriss doing the first male to male version I’ve heard and I thought:  We’re seeing history here!  Media is an amazing and insidious educator.  People can watch something considered light and frothy and not notice they’ve stepped outside their own personal beliefs or their comfort zones.  I know this is true from writing genre fiction.  If your character is a vampire the readers don’t care if she’s Black or a lesbian!

GLEE has already done a nice job around the queer thing.  Chris Colfer’s character, Curt, is an emotionally balanced (well as much as is possible for a 16 year old), confident high school student in middle-America who is also terrified by bullying. We are shocked right along with him when Curt acknowledges his first ever kiss was from the football player who bullies him.  It’s a complex and painful moment that is way beyond anything offered on ‘reality’ TV. His peers and teachers are challenged more than once to step up and give more than lip service to equality.

Seeing Curt sing this incredibly popular American standard with his crush at their school was an especially satisfying moment.  I was reminded of how far we’ve come and, at the same time, how far we still have to go.  That Chris Colfer, along with two other GLEE actors, Jane Lynch and season one’s Jonathan Groff, are openly gay makes another statement about the road we’re traveling.  Newsweek critic, Ramin Satoodeh, (himself supposedly gay) said Groff couldn’t play a straight romantic character; which says something possibly about Satoodeh’s self-hatred and certainly about his poor critical skills; but was irrelevant to Groff’s stellar performance. (See a great response to the Satoodeh drivel by Linda Holmes at http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee.)

So now it’s all out there in the street!  Not a bad thing really.  Sometimes having things said out loud, even things you disagree with, is the only way to kill the silence—and silence has been killing us.

I’ve been around long enough not to expect a TV show or movie to completely reform the national character or to perfectly represent the many sides of me.  I thought “The Kids are Alright” had some good performances but, like “The L Word,” it didn’t reach me at all…but that they exist is probably a good thing.  I’m more of an “Exes & Ohs” gal.  The show returns to Logo soon and stars out lesbian, Megan Cavanagh (“League of Their Own).”

In the 1980s “Good Times” didn’t ring my bell either and today’s “Undercovers,” which features a black couple who are CIA agents, gives me heartburn; but they make the TV Guide less white.

I didn’t think “Will and Grace” was the media redemption of gay men or crazy, pansexual, alcoholic women but the writing was brilliant and now gay men and crazy, pansexual, alcoholic women will never be invisible again!  Every little chip away at what is perceived to be ‘normal’ American culture opens up a space for us.

There’ve been other media moments when I knew that queer people had slipped into the general consciousness in a way that made it impossible for us to be disappeared again.  If you consider yourself an activist or even just socially conscious it’s important to notice those moments, not take them for granted and not be too cynical.

I know it’s cold out there for TV writers and producers so when they actually figure out how to have a lesbian character that is not created simply to suit the desires of men I’ll have my DVR clicked on in a millisecond.

Jewelle Gomez is the author of 7 books including the lesbian vampire classic novel, The Gilda Stories.  Her new play about James Baldwin will be produced in September 2011. Follow her on Twitter: VampyreVamp.  Or her website: www.jewellegomez.com

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