When I first heard the title of NBC’s latest stab at the progressive sitcom genre My Best Friend is a Lesbo, I flashed back to Sci-fi titles of my youth: My Step-mom is an Alien. My Teacher is an Alien. Right off the bat, what a way to make a clear reference to science fiction and establish the wacky otherness of being a lesbian. All whilst avoiding using the term “lesbian” and opting for it’s slightly juvenille and silly nickname. It’s better than Will & Grace’s original moniker, House of Homos. Although honestly I never watched Will & Grace, but I’d have tuned in every night to watch House of Homos.
A thought popped into my mind yesterday: is adding a dimension of science fiction, even just in the title, just NBC’s lazy way to make chronic gayness more palpable to a network audience?
Even if not intentionally, the title’s homage to sci-fi concepts of the other being placed in a comical situation with the normals is obvious. Is this ALF (Alternative Lifeform!) for sexual orientation? Science fiction has been an accessible medium for writers, studios and networks to use as an acceptable way to explore topics and issues not yet deemed appropriate for the mainstream. Fantastical elements and a story set in a too-far-off time or universe make it impossible for the mainstream to refuse the product; it’s a way to discuss topical issues out of the dangerous, topical context.
Rolling less than acceptable ideas like overthrowing governments and open and happy homosexuality in with magic, spaceships and time travel makes it easier to ignore the very reality of those former elements, and therefore more palpable to variety-phobic midwesterners. Science fiction has been used by authors George Orwell and Margaret Atwood, and television shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly in addition to an infinite number of comic series. So perhaps the title is a quick grab at some of that science fiction piece of mind in an effort to avoid the most concerted efforts of conservative media watchdogs and parent groups.
As I’ve said before, complete and sexually functioning gay characters are sorely lacking on network television. So the possibility of a fully fleshed-out-and-functioning dyke serving as a protagonist on a new sitcom, especially considering there’s a possibility that this dyke might have a close, platonic bond with a similarly whole straight chick is appealing. I’m completely down with the concept, and very curious how far the network will be willing to probe its dick down the conservative, fundementalist throat of the midwest while pissing at the threat of those rotting, jagged teeth. My guess is not far; in all likelihood we aren’t going to see any boundary pushing or narrative risks to explore a gay character and her friendship with a straight character. And I think that’s why the title makes me uneasy; if this show was going to break barriers and signal a new era of gay media wholeness, it would be different. But the wacky and zany image this title places on gayness as a character trait is concerning.
My prediction: this sitcom will come, and maybe it will be a huge hit and maybe it really will signal the beginning of a new era of gay normallcy in mainstream media. But they will change the title. America is more than ready for wacky gay characters; but I’m not confident in the culture’s ability to accept a wacky gay title.
The semi-autobiographical comedy, My Best Friend is A Lesbo, is based on the real-life friendship of writers and longtime roommates Sascha Rothchild and Randi Barnes (pictured above) and has been picked up by NBC.