"...a series that portrays lesbians in a positive light...""....an historic event for lesbians...""....has the guts to show what network television never has...""...accurate depictions of lesbian characters..."
These are all comments that have been made about Venice: The Series, the first five minute installment of which has all but been declared the Sapphic Holy Grail by a fan base that is far from objective. Readers of this blog won't be surprised to find that I disagree with the party line that Venice is groundbreaking, and that it's portraying lesbian relationships in a positive light. Not only do I not subscribe to the belief that Venice is the best thing since sliced bread but, based on what we have to go on, I think it's actually pretty awful for lesbians.
What We have To Go On
First off, any declaration that Venice is important or significant in a big picture way is premature, plain and simple. No one has seen more than maybe 8 minutes of footage, including the teaser for episode 2. There is absolutely no way anyone can know what, if any, significance this series will have on lesbian culture, entertainment aimed at lesbians, or the success of series developed for the web. This is not negativity on my part, or mean-spiritedness: it's a fact. 5-8 minutes of footage is significant if you're talking about Dr. King's I Have A Dream speech, but 5-8 minutes of a web soap is not anything earth-shattering. Nothing happened during those 5-8 minutes that hasn't happened on mainstream television before: two women kiss, sexual intimacy is alluded to, some routine relationship talk transpires. That's it. That's all any of us has seen of Venice. It's all stuff that has been on The L Word, E.R., Friends, All My Children, Queer As Folk, Anyone But Me, Exes and Ohs, and dozens of other television and web series. And before you write to call me a bitch for pointing this out, or to tell me to shut up, stop and think for a minute: what, exactly, has Venice offered so far that you haven't already seen elsewhere? If you can come up with something, I'd love to hear it.
While I refuse to even entertain the idea that 5-8 minutes of footage is enough to say that Venice is making a significant statement and a difference in lesbian history, I'm open to the idea that, given time, it certainly could have an impact...even a huge impact....on how entertainment is marketed, how lesbian characters are developed, and how lesbian relationships are viewed by the public. This is very possible.
This, in my opinion, is not a good thing.
What do we have in Venice, so far? I keep reading about Venice portraying lesbians and lesbian relationships in a positive light. I must have watched a very different episode than other people. The episode I saw featured a textbook case of co-dependence: Ani wants a real relationship and commitment. Gina wants no strings and can't or won't make a commitment. Ani has sex with Gina in the vain hope that this time things will be different, and Gina will decide to settle down and make a commitment. Gina has sex with Ani in the vain hope that this time, things will be different, and Ani will agree to be sexually intimate without expecting an emotional commitment. It's a dance they've been doing for years, a cycle they can't get out of. Even Gina's brother, Owen, knows how tired the whole routine is, and how it always leads to someone getting hurt. This, people, is not romance. It is not a positive portrayal of healthy lesbian intimacy. It's about as dysfunctional a relationship that two people can have short of one that includes physical violence.
I have a feeling that, when Ani says "I'll never give upon you", there are fans who think that's just the most romantic thing, ever. If she were saying that to a man who'd just fucked her, and then rolled out of bed to answer his cell phone, declared he couldn't be what she wanted him to be, and who'd done that sort of thing to her before, would it be romantic or sweet? Nope. Most people would think such a scenario was kind of pathetic. Because it is pathetic. It's the scenario we've all told some best friend to run from, and run fast.
Co-dependence is not cute or sweet or sexy or healthy for heterosexuals, and it isn't any of those things for homosexuals.
If there's a shortage of media depictions of homosexual relationships lacking depth and emotional maturity, I hadn't noticed. If America hasn't been exposed to the idea that same-sex relationships are totally fucked up and unhealthy, it's news to me. If what the so-called "lesbian community" wants is a show about two people who can't break free of the incredibly dysfunctional cycle they're stuck in, when it comes to love, sex and relationships, I must have been out of the country when they took that vote. Because this is what Venice, as we've seen it, is all about: two very fucked up lesbians who keep making the same mistake, over and over again.
People became interested in Venice because of their passion about Otalia. For me, the real draw of Otalia was more than the fact that it was a story about two women in love. It was the fact that it was a story about two women for whom love and relationships had never previously worked out. For both Olivia and Natalia, Otalia represented the first mature, equitable, healthy romantic relationship either one had experienced. It started out as a redemption story: Olivia Spencer's redemption story. The love of a good woman was, in and of itself, the vehicle of redemption. Now that was groundreaking television. Not a story about how fucked up lesbians and their relationships can be, but a story about how two pretty fucked up people might actually be redeemed by giving in to same-sex love. For Olivia and Natalia, pretty much everything in their lives was a mess until they found one another.
Olivia and Natalia's trials and tribulations weren't centered on their love for one another, but on outside forces: Rafe, Frank, religion. The entire story line turned to custard when the decision was made to block their intimacy by any means necessary. This wasn't just annoying because they were two hot chicks we wanted to see getting it on - it was annoying because they were two characters who, by all logic, should have been together. Their love was healthy and nurturing, and a joy to watch, until a wrench was thrown in the works. And when did it truly stop being any fun to watch? When it became completely dysfunctional...when it stopped being about two women whose love for one another was their sweet salvation, and became about two women who spent all their time hiding their love for one another, not having sex, lying about who and what they were and, eventually, about one woman being incredibly cruel and hurtful to the other.
I'm not naive enough to think that lesbian relationships are perfect, or that dysfunction doesn't exist in the LGBT world, but here's the thing: if I want to hear that homosexuality is bad or that same-sex relationships are a mess, I don't need to watch Gina and Ani dance their dysfunctional dance on Venice. If I want any of that, all I have to do is turn on the news, or evangelical television, or check out Fred Phelps' website. Entertainment geared towards lesbians that portrays lesbians as neurotic, immature, desperate and unkind to one another? That's not groundbreaking. And it's not positive.
With friends like Venice, who needs enemies?