Thursday, December 17, 2009

Why Venice is NOT the "Great White Hope" for Lesbians

"...a series that portrays lesbians in a positive light..."

" 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.

Enter Otalia

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?


Anonymous said...

A big problem is that people are trying to transpose what Otalia could have/should have been to Venice. And, as you say, we have yet to see proof that this is, at all, happening.

Stating that we would be seeing the "Otalia" kiss on Venice was a big mistake, because Venice isn't Guiding Light and Olivia and Natalia are not on Venice.

I'm happy to see more lesbians in stories, even soaps (and their typical stories). But we've got a huge case of apples and oranges going on.

Simone said...

Completely fucking agree. I think I have the most problem with the delusion by so-called family that this web series is groundbreaking anything at this point. I fail to see anything other than trite cliches - and worse - people cheering on an unhealthy relationship that does not seem on the verge of any change.

I was surprised when people continued to call Otalia the greatest lesbian love story ever told long after the fuckery began. I'm actually horrified this many people think this crap is anything other than mediocre re-treading, based on what we've seen so far. Believe me, I'd love to be wrong, but so far it's the same crap.

Now obviously, it's a soap, so I expect dysfunction to abound. However, it's fair to say that nothing truly new is being done here.

On top of that, there are a number of well done web series with lesbian couples and characters, so I really wish people would stop waxing poetic about how important this is for our community. Please. Many of these people need to expose themselves to more gay entertainment ASAP, because that's just embarrassing.

Anyway, I <3 you, as always.

DJ Bixby said...

I agree with most of what you've said. I think on a previous blog I commented that Ani was pathetic. This is dysfunction, this isn't healthy relationships. This can make for later redemption, character growth, etc, but certainly doesn't appear to be setting up for any new territory as far as story telling. Am I ok with this? yes. I'm interested in watching and seeing how it plays out. I never bought into the hype that this was ever going to be revolutionary (I wish it hadn't been promoted in that way and the fans pimping it as such is quite annoying). Knowing CC's love of soap, I expected a retread of relationship drama and am not shocked by the direction.

However, the part that is groundbreaking is the fan support which has led to their success so far with the subscription business model. I panned the move, harshly, but it has me opening up my view of web distribution. THIS is the only thing about Venice that may be revolutionary or ground breaking.

And I broke down & bought my subscription last night. I'm along for the ride, good or bad.

Anonymous said...

Snapper, when you tweeted last week that Venice (or, as you put it, "that trainwreck") was dead to you, I assumed that you would be giving the (non-Venice) web-based programming you claim to support some much-needed attention. Since I doubt you're a Venice subscriber (correct me if I'm wrong) and therefore in a position to comment on the rest of Season 1, I hope and expect that you will turn your attention to web shows that, unlike Venice, are sorely in need of publicity.

As for Venice, Gina's a fucked-up character so it stands to reason that her relationships are dysfunctional. I don't expect her character to be static. I anticipate a gradual journey to some degree of emotional health over the course of Venice's run.

In any event, I'm prepared to give Venice time to find its feet. Writing it off after a mere six minutes would be a tad premature.

Anonymous said...

In keeping with DJ Bixby's comments, I'm far more interested in Venice's business model than the show itself.

Snapper said...

Venice IS dead to me, in terms of: I have no intention of watching any more of that trainwreck, whose business model seems to be "take their money and consider delivering a product at some point in time." And I will never, at any time, pay for this particular show.

This doesn't mean I don't have an opinion,or that I won't voice it. If you haven't noticed, I have an opinion about everything, and I'm not shy.

And, yes, I will be dedicating space and time to other web series. I've actually been talking this week with the creator of what I consider to be the best web series I've seen thus far, bar none. If all goes well, a full interview with him will be posted here in a few weeks. And, no, I won't tell you which series it is (but it isn't Venice or Gotham or any of the series I mentioned in my last blog) There are also two other web series developers who I'm in contact with and hoping to secure substantial one-on-on time with, with an eye towards covering their projects here.

DJ Bixby - totally down with everything you've said, and you know i have tons of love for you, kiddo. If they'd just marketed it as a typical show, fair enough. But it's been agressively marketed as groundbreaking entertainment that presents a revolutionary and positive portrayal of lesbians. Huh? Where? Why not just call a spade a spade?

Anonymous said...

I am along for the ride too and agree on the fan support as being ground breaking and only getting bigger. Most of them are still riding that high left over from Otalia and there is no end in sight.They are gonna be there through all of Gina's flaws and unhealthy relationships because they know in the end that Gina and Ani will be together if it takes 3 or 4 seasons of Venice for them to get there.Sounds familiar! that only spells WIN for Crystal and Kimmy.

The fans have already started nominating Kimmy for best writer of a web series after only watching one episode and a few teasers. This is my concern with the fans not being able to be objective when it comes to evaluating Venice. The fan girl thing is so out of hand.

Considering all the setbacks and issues with the site, they came out big on the subscription deal for the first season. Crystal has brought in a new editor/producer. It's like destiny is on their side for Venice to be a huge success.

Thermos said...

I really don't see any destiny, and the only ground-breaking issue I see here is that they are getting people to pay $10/hr for it. Tack on the frenzied masses shelling out $15 for a pair of panties, and then add on another $10 or so for the season DVD, and viola! The web series has become a cottage industry. It's only a matter of time before broadcast TV starts charging for the extra content they post online, and eventually, we will all be paying-per-view for the shows we watch. Shows will be given even LESS time to make an impact on the masses and creativity will suffer...It has a very "Player Piano" feel to it.