|Creative Differences Blog|

Creative Differences

Gay teen werewolves & zombies enjoying sexy TV afterlives

Gay marriage has arrived just in time for TV’s supernatural gay teen love explosion. The world of fictional young romance has quickly opened up to same-sex love in all its forms — even human/werewolf and zombie/zombie! Why let the straight kids of “Twilight” have all the fun? They just mope about it, anyway.

“Teen Wolf” now lets its gay werewolf and high school jock get it on like any other MTV couple — in cheap motels on school field hockey team trips to away games. None of the other kids (or werewolves) even questions the happy new couple; they’re just cool. A teen lesbian couple recently shared a special night in a candle-filled (yeah) tent in the woods, too; one of the girls was sacrificed by druids before the big moment (she was a sacrificial virgin), but their high school classmates were all sympathetic to the survivor, and totally got that the victim was excited to cash in her V-card with her hot girlfriend.

BTW, werewolves on “Teen Wolf” are not exactly cursed, as in “An American Werewolf in London.” They spend most of their time as very buff, sexy, regular humans, and their torsos stay smooth even when they choose to turn vulpine. Hey, if we can buy human/wolf transformation, we can make the extra hop to magical depillation, can’t we?

The BBC’s “In the Flesh” gives us a more nuanced view of gay teen after-life. Zombie Kieren suffers from PDS - Partially Diseased Syndrome - he returned from the dead to eat braaains, which he stopped doing when the doctors found a cure for zombie-ism. Kieren originally killed himself because his secret boyfriend had died as a soldier in Afghanistan. Naturally, Kieren’s boyfriend also rose from the dead and their gay romance resumed, post-life.

Kieren and Rick (Kieren’s boyfriend) don’t have it as easy as the kids on MTV’s “Teen Wolf.” They’re on the BBC, after all, so they have to be more Shakespearian. And they live in a small village in Northern England, so it would be totally unrealistic for their families and classmates to just accept them as a gay couple. Or as zombies, for that matter. They face a lot of prejudice. “In The Flesh” plays it all very realistically (for a fantasy), digging deep into the emotions of gay teens in the kind of rejecting society many people really grow up in. Adding “zombie” to Kieren’s hyphens only heightens his sense of Other-ness, and brilliantly so.

Is TV ready for supernatural romance between people of different races, now? Say, an Asian vampire and a Latino mermaid? Or is that just too fantastical to imagine?


‘Big Brother’ hides & reveals bigotry

Racism and other prejudices tend to hide from public view like cockroaches these days. Most bigots know to save their ugly words for private conversation, for the speakers’ own self-preservation if nothing else.

Reality TV has changed the equation. “Public” can now mean “on the main TV show,” while “private” means “on the Internet-only feed.” So contestants on “Big Brother 15″ — “the most racist show on television,” as aptly named by Angry Asian Man — express their most vile racism and homophobia on segments that only appear online, leaving the weekly TV show mostly free of explicit bigotry. TV viewers think they’ve seen the worst of contestants’ private bad behavior; they’ve been fooled into believing they’ve peeked behind the curtain of public decorum.

Makes your head hurt, right?

Of course, the “Big Brother” contestants don’t know when their rants are going to appear online or on TV. They just do what they do. So it’s perversely telling how the producers divide the recordings. The producers of “Big Brother” actually half-censor racism and homophobia on behalf of cretins who don’t know how to play the Paula Deen game of selective prejudice.

I can only hope the contestants (and, in a different way, the producers) on “Big Brother” represent only a small, sad segment of our society.

And I take satisfaction from the fact that one “Big Brother” bigot lost her job as a result of her ignorant, inhumane blather.


Bollywood Carmen funks up BBC

Opera has such a funny place in our cultural imagination. Is it more melodramatic than soap opera? Pretension on the grandest scale? High art or just a fancy version of MTV music videos?

The BBC has gone totally pop with Bizet’s “Carmen,” staging the opera as a modern musical mash-up of 21st-century radio hits with Bollywood style in the the newly-revitalized Northern England city of Bradford (just declared Unesco World Heritage City of Film), as reported by BBC News. How exciting! Sure, the original music of “Carmen” is mostly roadkill (replaced by Rihanna, Adele, Cee Lo Green and others), but the essential story remains the star attraction. You can catch the full show on BBC YouTube.

I think it’s really cool how “Carmen” moves across time and world cultures, as described in a Guardian news story. Beyoncé made it a “hip-hopera.” Before that it was Broadway and movie musical “Carmen Jones,” starring African-American Hollywood pioneer Dorothy Dandridge. Now it belongs to England’s Indian artistic community (and many grooving friends) for one bright, Holi-colored moment.

What’s next? “Carmen” set in booming China can’t be far off — and I want front-row seats!


Moms on TV, movies stuck in 1950s

Joan Allen made a great leap forward in one of my favorite movies, Gary Ross’s “Pleasantville.” Her repressed 1950s housewife literally transformed from black-and-white to color when she discovered the proto-feminist spirit of the era.

Sadly, few 21st-century movie or TV moms have followed that lead, according to an interesting report by NPR’s Neda Ulaby.

Ulaby visited the Geena Davis Institute, which promotes strong roles for women in movies and TV. Davis herself played President of the United States in the TV show “Commander in Chief.” The Geena Davis Institute partnered with USC to produce a study, “Gender Roles and Occupations: A Look at Character Attributes and Job-Related Aspirations in Film and Television.”

TV and movie women are almost as likely to work outside the home as are women in real life, that study found. (Ann Romney could learn something from Geena Davis.) However, almost no working women on TV have children, and even fewer in movies. In the real world, 60% of mothers have jobs outside the home, the report says.

In another dispiriting finding, women over 40 represent only 26% of female TV characters, about half the number of over-40 women in the real U.S. (47%). Maybe for that reason, TV and movie women tend to be less powerful in their jobs than real women are: 14% of TV shows feature women heads of companies, although 25% of real U.S. companies are actually run by women.

Geena Davis tells NPR that the most realistic portrayals of working mothers appear, Snooki and Honey Boo Boo’s mom not withstanding, on reality TV. As Neda Ulaby says:

Look past the parade of housewives, bachelorettes and dance moms, and you’ll see women flipping houses on HGTV, designing high-end suits on Project Runway, or running restaurants like Robbie Montgomery on Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s. The success of reality programs like these proves that showing women working really works. For everyone.

Clearly, our collectively imagination has a way to go before we can conceive of healthily integrated working and personal lives. Ironically, even on the show “Modern Family,” none of the women works outside the home — modern, indeed.