Tuesday, July 22, 2008

"Coronation Street" Residents Prepare for Potluck Dinners...

"All My Children's" Erica Kane: "I love my dead gay son!"

... Upon hearing they're finally getting a lesbian neighbor. A source at Granada (the TV production company, not the Andalusian province; they already have lesbians in Spain) has told the News of the World that writers of the popular British soap will introduce a lesbian character at some point in the (presumably near) future, explaining, " 'Corrie' lags behind on issues of race and gender. Executives want to create a soap which is representative of society in 2008 and they are acutely aware they need more gay characters."

Which: duh. "Coronation Street" has been on the air for approximately five hundred thousand years, and this will be its first lesbian character. To put this in some kind of historical context, lesbians have existed in England since at least 1965, when Mrs. Peel first appeared on "The Avengers" and the sight of Diana Rigg in a leather catsuit turned thousands of schoolgirls across the UK gay overnight. That means "Corrie" writers have been ignoring us for decades, which is more than a little ludicrous when you consider that lesbians have been stealthily infiltrating seemingly ordinary streets in seemingly ordinary towns in Great Britain and the United States for many years now, ever since Elton John and Billie Jean King reorganized the Velvet Mafia and unveiled a newer, more aggressive gay agenda around the time "Philadelphia Freedom" hit the charts in 1975.

Anyway, here's hoping the "Coronation Street" lesbian, whoever she ends up being, is treated with a little more respect than America's token lesbian soap opera character, Bianca Montgomery of "All My Children," has been shown. Bianca -- and correct me if I'm wrong about this, because I'll take a Douglas Sirk melodrama over a standard TV soap any day of the week -- fell in love with a corporate spy, was raped by a family enemy (who later became her brother-in-law), became pregnant from the rape, had the baby in the middle of some kind of disaster, was told her baby died, eventually found out the baby was alive and had been switched at birth, and then annoyed viewers by falling for a male-to-female transgendered character whose name was Mork or Alf or Nerf or something stupid like that.

In between all of that, Bianca killed her rapist and lapsed into a coma for some reason or another; eventually she woke up and headed off to Europe, the better to oversee the international goings-on of her family's cosmetics empire. (You might call Bianca Montgomery the ultimate lipstick lesbian.) It all sounds pretty fucking moronic, doesn't it? Yet I have to admit that back in 1999 or 2000, whenever it was that Bianca's coming-out storyline was first announced, I tuned into "All My Children" just to see how they'd handle it.

It seemed like it took Bianca, who was a teenager at the time, months to come out, but once she did the hilarity factor went through the roof. Every conversation she had with her mother, the legendary Erica Kane, included a half-dozen mentions of Bianca's sexuality. The words "gay" and "lesbian" always came after long, dramatic soap opera pauses, so a scene might play out like this:
Erica: I, I don't want to talk about ... this.

Bianca: What, Mom? What don't you want to talk about what? That I'm ... gay?
Then there would be a commercial break, after which the action would continue:
Erica: I don't know what you're talking about. This has nothing to do with your being... Your being...

Bianca: What, Mom? Why can't you just say it? Gay. My being gay.
Then there'd be another commercial break, before the conversation would resume with more of the same:
Erica: Oh, that word. That word --

Bianca: What word, Mom? Gay?
It was hilarious. Cheesy soap music would play in the background and Susan Lucci would do a "Love Me, Emmy Voters!" flinch every time she heard the words "gay" or "lesbian." One or both characters were often on the verge of tears during these heated exchanges, and then ABC would cut to laundry detergent commercials with happy-bouncy music and sunny images of toddlers and golden retrievers before diving right back into a Straight Mom/Gay Daughter throw-down.

It made me want to spice up my own interactions with my mom by getting similarly defensive about my orientation. Every time she'd ask whether I'd done my homework or unloaded the dishwasher, I imagined turning to face her, fists clenched defiantly, my chin quivering with emotion and my eyes filled with glycerine tears as I raised my voice to demand, "Is this because I'm a lesbian?" (It was like stepping into the Twilight Zone years later when I learned of this now-infamous "Law & Order" clip. My "Is this because I'm a lesbian?" would have been so much better than that one.)

By the way, in a perfect world, this post would end with a link to video of the old SNL sketch "All My Luggage," which starred Susan Lucci. Alas, NBC Universal are bastards -- or bastard people, as Corky St. Clair would call them -- and I couldn't find the clip online anywhere.

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