by Racialicious special correspondent Latoya Peterson
Okay – I’m starting to get bored with the extensive recaps. So, I’m going to leave that to the official MTV blog and just highlight a couple interesting notes from the show.
The Trouble Same Sex Reality Shows
I’m going to let Dan Savage speak on this one, because he nailed it a couple years back:
Sometimes the mail is sooooooooo depressing that I just want to think about other things.
Like Next. Last weekend I was stuck in a hotel room in Portland, Oregon, on account of a teensy, weensy hangover, and I caught a marathon of the MTV dating show. Here’s how the show works: One person—say, a boy—goes on a blind date with a girl. If the boy doesn’t like the girl, he says “Next!” and one of four other girls, all waiting on a bus, takes the first girl’s place. The rejected girl returns to the bus to be cruelly mocked by her rivals. The boy continues barking “Next!” until he finds a girl he likes. Sometimes there are five boys on the bus and a girl barks “Next!”, and every once in a while five gay boys are on the bus and another gay boy barks “Next!”
While the gay episodes demonstrate to MTV’s impressionable viewers that young gay people are really no different—they’re every bit as shallow, vapid, and crude as their straight counterparts—not one of the gay episodes really worked. Instead of anxiously waiting to see which of the five will be chosen, viewers of the gay installments of Next anxiously wait for the five boys on the bus to strip down and get it on. The gay boys on the Next bus aren’t rivals, MTV, they’re all potential matches, which makes the one guy who isn’t on the bus nearly irrelevant. In all three of the gay episodes I saw, the boys on the bus were more into each other than they were into the boy for whose affections they were supposedly competing; in gay Next, the boy who “won” a second date with the boy-who-wasn’t-on-the-bus declined, preferring to run off with one of the other guys on the bus.
Recreating the “five bitchy rivals” dynamic that makes the hetero episodes of Next so entertaining wouldn’t be that hard, MTV. Here’s all you need to do: Put five hairy bears on the bus that are only attracted to pretty twinks, and let them compete for the, er, hand of one pretty twink. Or five white guys that are only into Asian guys competing for an Asian guy. Or five tops and one bottom. Or five Log Cabin Republicans and one CPA. Take a little more care with the casting and preinterviews, MTV, and you’ll be able to solve Next’s gay problem. You’re welcome.
MTV, Tila…why are we acting surprised when some of the non-butch, lipstick lesbians (who are attracted to other, non-butch, lipstick lesbians) start hooking up? You knew that was going to happen. And you’re on a reality show – which means you know at least half those people are lying about their motives/background/sexual orientation just to get on TV.
I personally can’t stand those fucking “Stop Snitching” tee shirts. Every time I see one, I have to forcibly restrain myself from lunging at the wearer and choking them out on the metro. However, while watching Domenico and Ashley screw over Brandi, Rebecca, and Steve, I was overcome with the urge to grab one of those shirts and add the phrase “on yourself.” Seriously, yo! It’s the oldest trick in the book. Domenico said nothing, and Steve snitched on himself. Brandi said nothing and Rebecca snitched on herself. If this was a scripted program, we could have at least got a laugh track. Or a “dun-dun-DUN!”
The Ellen Factor?
Everyone loves Dani. Seriously. From my friends to the commenters on the message boards, it seems like most of the support is behind Dani. According to societal standards, we should not be cheering on the futch as she is outside of society’s prescribed roles for lesbians. She isn’t porno ready. There are other girls who are using their T & A a lot more and accomplishing a lot less. So what is it about Dani? Why is she just so damn likeable?
“She kind of reminds me of Ellen DeGeneres,” commented my boyfriend during the last show.
It was as if someone hit me over the head with a squeaky hammer. She IS like Ellen. Is that why we like her? Has Ellen DeGeneres become the archetype for the acceptable butch? Is Ellen the original futch? Hopefully, someone a bit better versed in queer politics and theory can school me in the comments section…
Intensive Massage and POW camps
So next week, Tila is going to be felt up by….everyone. Already, the scenes are getting heated and people are feeling kind of territorial. Part of me wonders if a reality tv shoot is kind of like a POW camp. Segregated from reality, subject to strange and potentially tortuous situations…who end up forming potentially lasting bonds with each other and their captors. Perhaps this is like a low class Bel Canto, televised for our amusement…
Aside #1: Why the Hell Do Should I Care About Tila Tequila?
I noticed a couple comments spread across the blogosphere which question why Tila Tequila is culturally relevant in the first place.
The quick answer, in two phrases: “Huxtable Black” and “The Spice Girls”.
“Huxtable Black” is a term that gets assigned to certain members of the black community. While Harry Allen noted that blacks are the only group to be consistently defined by entertainment and pop culture (check ATR 65) it is notable that the Cosby is show is credited for helping to humanize African-Americans and provide the first mainstream glimpse of African-Americans who were not mired in poverty. This was Cosby’s intent upon creating the show – to show the evolution of a successful family unit, that was loosely based around his own family. However, as author Benilde Little noted in her novel Good Hair, many white people seem to divide African-Americans in their minds into “ghetto black” and “huxtable black” – and the two shall never meet.
[It is also to be noted that there have been criticisms of the Cosby show. Some scholars believe that by showing an idealized version of black family life, whites were able to close their eyes to the much harsher realities of living while black.]
The Cosby Show is a media represenation of African-Americans which white audiences have internalized and used to make inferences on what they think black life reflects. Luckily, the Cosby show was produced by blacks and created for the mainstream. A genuine interest was taken to show the complexities of the black experience. Considering that television is a cultural influencer in our society, the importance of small screen media representations of minorities cannot be under estimated. Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Latin Americans are ridiculously underrepresented on television. What control do these groups have over their image? Ugly Betty has been viewed as an excellent show, but not a Latin-American show. While America Ferrara is the front woman, the cast is multicultural. Ditto for Lost, Heroes, and the like – ensemble shows, but not considered to be a definitive “blank”-American show. All American Girl was one of the few attempts at an Asian fronted show – and what are the memories associated with that show?
Tila Tequila has stepped into the pop culture vaccum as both an Asian American and as a bisexual. The popularity of her show has not cast any clear cultural indicators of influence as of yet, but who knows what the lasting effect will be? Will she pave the way for an Asian-American fronted show? A prime time/mainstream lesbian drama that is more than just a couple kiss and grope scenes? (The L Word is on Showtime – not included with the basic cable package and out of reach for many casual channel surfers.) Television executives have a major problem with trying to picture minorities (and women) in lead roles. A lot of times, they just can’t see it working – even with something immensely popular with an established, muticultural fan base.
Tila Tequila strikes me as very similar to the Spice Girls. At the time of their popularity, most people viewed them as disposable pop. I wasn’t a die hard fan, but I think I bought one of their albums and I definiately absorbed their girl power, friends forever flavor of feminism. Other than that, I didn’t pay much more attention. Who would have thought out of everything that happened in the 1990s, they would be the most iconic girl group to arise from that era?
So before we dismiss her as a quick ratings scam, we should take a few moments to reflect on Tila’s contibution to television.
What kind of mark will she leave on the television world?