By Guest Contributors Kendra James and Jordan St. John and Managing Editor Arturo R. García
MSNBC’s Transgender in America: Hosted by Melissa Harris-Perry, this 20-minute segment started off with a bang when she gave a definition of ‘cisgendered’ on national mainstream media television and only got better from there, including taking time to speak about the CeCe McDonald case. If you still have a bad taste in your mouth from Barbara Walters’ 20/20 interview with Jenna Talackova (in which every question is somehow worse than the last and Donald Trump thinks he’s clever), Harris-Perry’s MSNBC segment might be just what you need to restore a bit of faith in the media. You can read Autostraddle’s full wrap-up here. - KJ
Glee: From 20/20 to MSNBC… to Glee? This episode of Fox’s musical dramedy couldn’t have aired with better timing. When Wade (a student from rival glee club Vocal Adrenaline, played by Glee Project runner-up Alex Newell, who is not a trans actor) comes to Mercedes and Kurt for performance advice, they discover she wants to perform as her female alterego “Unique.” While at first appearing male to the audience, she reveals to Kurt that she identifies as female. Perhaps this isn’t as much of a traditional learning experience as the MSNBC special but, for a show aimed at a younger viewing audience, it seems to be a fairly big step.
This show tends to be one of those shows that thinks they’re being wonderfully progressive by having characters do horrible things, (Like when Finn outed Santana in the middle of a crowded hallway, and it was all okay because she’d been mean to him and because later he spent an entire episode singing to her? Or when their tribute to The Rocky Horror Picture Show included transphobic slurs?), so one can understand the instant apprehension watching this episode might cause. While I was slightly horrified that Sue attempted to purposely humiliate a transgender student in their attempt to present as they identify, Glee’s treatment of the character was fairly positive. They managed to stay away from the slurs this time and, in the end, Unique is just another student giving an improbably good performance in a high school auditorium instead of an oddity or other to be gawked at. Given the series’ track record, that’s a win. - KJ
Smash: Eleven episodes in, NBC’s soapy drama about the making of a Marilyn Monroe musical is still finding its rhythm. There is always one dream sequence too many and some painful over-acting, but then you get a moment that actually works–an inventive cover of Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” like we saw in the pilot or the just about any moment with the delightfully campy Angelica Houston–and it feels one strong scene away from finding its niche. Also a plus for me is the show’s effort to show a little diversity with its casting.
From smaller parts like chorus girl Sue (African American performer Jenny Laroche) and Linda the stage manager (Asian-American Broadway performer Ann Harada) to larger characters with their own storylines including conniving wannabe producer Ellis (Jaime Cepero) and ingénue Karen’s (Katherine McPhee) politician boyfriend Dev (the very attractive Raza Jaffrey–who I first noticed on BBC America’s Mistresses the show gives it’s POCs more to do than serve as scene dressing.
Favorite this week: The first date between black gay chorus boy Sam Strickland (Leslie Odom Jr.) and show composer Tom Levitt (Christian Borle). Yes, Sam has been chewing up the scenery so much since his entrance that you knew it was only a matter of time before he got more of a storyline than cleaning up after his friend, disgraced former leading lady Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty) and her overmedication problem, and the show finally delivered with a proposed dinner date for these two who have been flirting with each other all season. Tom tried to turn said date into a hookup as dinner devolved into drinks at his place and he made a move for the sex he assumed was coming with his chorus boy crush.
Instead of cutting to both men in bed in the morning, Sam put the brakes on the tryst, called Tom out on his assumption, and left him with a fairly chaste kiss because he’s the dating type and doesn’t want to rush things. Although the show’s efforts to construct Sam’s character have been ham-fisted at best (I understand they want us to know he follows sports but does he have to mention it in EVERY scene) I appreciated they didn’t put his love of sports, homosexuality, Christianity, or desire for a long-term relationship in conflict. Also, rarely do we get to see budding gay male relationships, especially interracial gay male relationships including black men as romantic opportunities with all of the soft lighting, romance, lingering looks, and kisses that hetero relationships receive. For that, I am willing to overlook some issues I have with the uneven, overdramatic writing and look forward to next steps for these two. -JSJ
Eva Longoria’s dating show: Thought these items were interesting in the wake of the racial-discrimination suit facing The Bachelor: Eva Longoria has expanded her production efforts beyond telenovelas and feature films into the dating show arena, as she will serve as executive producer for Ready For Love, which has reportedly been picked up by NBC.
It’s also interesting to note that at least one of the show’s first three subjects could be Latino: an “entrepeneur with a social vision” named Ernesto Arguello will be among the men who will be fixed up with one of four women picked by a team of matchmakers. Give Longoria credit, at least, for getting a POC some visibility on this kind of stage, even if these shows tend to be problematic for various reasons. - AG