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Marriage First, Divorce Later. Much Later

Netflix's streaming show JESSICA JONES wants to be cutting edge.  We have a hard-bitten female protagonist who is smart, mouthy, drinks too much, sleeps with men while deliberately emotional contact, lives in a squalor she ignores, and has super-strength. She fights a psychotic, slimy villain who's been able to control the minds of everyone around him since he was ten years old.

I like the show quite a lot, except for one area: one of Jessica's main contacts is a cold, steely attorney who is a lesbian married to a woman.  The attorney, however, is cheating on her marriage and spends much of the series trying to get her wife to sign divorce papers.

Wait--what?  Back up the truck.

Same-sex marriage has only been legal nationwide for six months.  And already the media is ready for us to get divorced.

Netflix is no doubt thinking they're progressive, cool, and edgy.  Lesbians getting a divorce!  A nasty divorce!  This is new and awesome!

No.  It's terrible.

For hundreds of years of media (poems, books, plays, movies, TV shows), LGBT people were almost entirely absent in Western culture.  The few times we were mentioned, we were villains, or pasty wimps, or masculine women, or confused transgender people.  Finally, perhaps in the 80s or so, we got a halfway decent showing as sympathetic characters in popular literature, but always in tragedies.  LGBT relationships nearly always ended in the death of one of the partners, leaving the survivor to gather a shattered life.  By the 2000s, when the equality movement was gaining steam, LGBT characters started getting happily-ever-afters.  Once in a while.  It was always bittersweet, though, because no LGBT relationship could enjoy full equality, and there could be no "real" marriage.

And then a major victory.  The biggest victory.  Marriage equality became legal nationwide.  At last LGBT people everywhere were legally able to get married and enjoy all the marriage benefits opposite-sex couples had enjoyed for hundreds and hundreds of years.

Now the happily-ever-afters I had been dying to read about in literature or watch in the visual media could start rolling in.  People LIKE ME could have the same, happy ending everyone else did.

But less than half a year later, the main LGBT issue explored by a hit show isn't a romance (like nearly any straight couple has on any show you like), or a will they/won't they relationship (like Ross and Rachel of FRIENDS or Amy and Sheldon of THE BIG BANG THEORY), or a race to the altar (like Penny and Leonard of BIG BANG), or a newly married couple adjusting to married life (like DHARMA AND GREG).*  No, the first issue they explore is an ugly divorce.

This isn't edgy.  This isn't progressive.  This isn't cool.  It's homophobic and horrible.  We haven't even adjusted to married life yet, and the media is ready for us to get divorced.

It's made worse by the homophobic jokes told by right-wing nutjobs, as in, "Yeah! Let those queers get married. Why shouldn't they be must as miserable as the rest of us? Haw haw!"  Yeah.  If you think marriage is that rotten, there's something wrong with YOU.

I fought long and hard for the right to get married, and I want to see the fruits of that labor reflected in my media, not trampled into mud.

*Yes, I'm aware of the show MODERN FAMILY. I would enjoy that show a lot more if the gay characters weren't a stereotypical screamy-queen and a stereotypical fusspot.


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( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 11th, 2015 06:25 pm (UTC)
I'm a different demographic than you, but I watch Jessica Jones too, and I see what you mean. Aside from the divorce storyline, I thought the Carrie-Anne Moss character (says a lot that I can't remember her name - something with an "H", I think) was wholly unlikeable. I was disappointed that what had the potential to be a major lesbian character turned out to be so unsympathetic and downright nasty to everyone around her, including her new lover. What kind of sociopath repeats the same romantic gestures on her mistress that she used on her wife? Opportunity seriously squandered here.

Let's not forget that the production tree on Jessica Jones runs from Netflix up to Marvel up to Disney. I don't expect The House of Mouse to be positively progressive on matters of same sex relationships. If they ever try, it will start with something innocuous, like an admission that Chip and Dale aren't actually brothers.

The one positive aspect I see to these Netflix Marvel shows is that they appear to be very loosely linked. Only one carryover character from Daredevil to Jessica. I don't expect more when they get to Luke Cage next year. It's very possible that this particular lesbian couple won't be seen again, and if they are, it probably won't be in as personal a manner as on Jessica Jones. By the time they get through the next two series and The Defenders, who knows if we'll even get back to them in a second season of Jessica Jones.

BTW, related topic. I've stuck with Supergirl, and think it much improved. Cat shows signs of being humanized. The Henshaw reveal had me crowing with joy because I always loved that character in the comics. Looking forward to more.
Dec. 11th, 2015 11:01 pm (UTC)
Oh yes--squandered lesbian characters for sure! Sure, the show is dark, but after years of being crushed, smashed flat, and ground into invisibility, there is no reason right now to make your unhappy, abusive couple a lesbian one.

Supergirl is indeed improving. Cat's speech about women being unable to get angry at work was very true.
Dec. 15th, 2015 06:46 pm (UTC)
I didn't see LESBIAN "love" triangle. I saw a Lawyer divorcing her wife (a Doctor) so she could carry on guilt-free with her Secretary. I saw a very unlikeable Lawyer character doing a bunch of despicable things. The fact that they were all women was treated as a big Nothing. It didn't matter.

Yes, it's the ugly side of marriage. But there's now legal recourse for couples who suffer messy break-up after co-financing the assets.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
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