One the left actual lesbian characters. On right? Just friends.

One the left actual lesbian characters. On right? Just friends.

Last night was a very…odd night for television. Particularly for queer representation on television.

On the one hand you had all the solid gay but not critical to the plot gayness of Teen Wolf‘s return and Defiance.

Then you had The Fosters, which would be called treacley 7th Heaven schmaltz if it wasn’t for the fact that the parents were two ladies and that’s just not DONE in polite television circles.

And then you had the much anticipated return of H.G. Wells on Warehouse 13, which was promised to be a pretty big gay romp–a claim that’s impressive when you look at all the gay romps already taking up precious DVR slots last night.

Defiance and Teen Wolf did not let us down and provided excellent queer characters and loads of subtext between less canonically queer characters. The Fosters also delivered the goods. This show will be one of those shows that by its very nature earns a place in the annals of television history. Merely because its premise is more radical to a lot of people than a Defiance/Teen Wolf crossover. It’s about two women, in love, and raising a family together. They’re SO secure, in fact, that they’re open to their children have relationship with biological parents, including one woman’s ex-husband and their twin’s birth mother.

While far too many shows are perpetuating a narrative concerning the evils of the foster care system and adoption and insisting that the purest love hinges on biology this show is embracing the ethos that love builds the family and not vice versa. And it’s showing that the foster system can do good work. This is so critical. One of the best movies coming out this year, Short Term 12, shocked a lot of filmgoers at SXSW because it said the same thing. The foster care system isn’t inherently evil. It’s a service that’s dependent on good people and in the absence of goodness it can falter.

But let’s circle back ’round to the moms on this show, because while what the show puts forth about the foster care system is important maybe, just maybe, the show featuring two lesbian moms is important too (shocking).

It’s easy to write off television and say it’s a mind numbing waste of time watched by nerds and mouth breathers and that 90% of what’s on it is junk. This ignores the incredible reach of television. The radio changed the way the world operated and television has perpetuated that change and allowed a lot of radical ideas to get to homes and families that might not otherwise have access to them.

It can be “just tv” to people, but it can also tell a gay kid they’re not alone, or inspire a black woman to become an Oscar-winning actress, or remind a sexual assault survivor that there are others that share their experience or teach a bigot in the midwest that the world isn’t all white and heterosexual.

The Fosters is important because like Modern Family, Grey’s Anatomy, The Jeffersons and The Cosbys is normalizes groups perceived as “abnormal” or “unusual.”

And that ability to normalize, to reach out and tell a certain group that they’re not so different, is why queer baiting on Warehouse 13 was such a gut punch. They have the chance to normalize, but are more content to perpetuate the status quo.

It wasn’t a bad episode of the show. Claudia had a very important, funny, and moving storyline, Kelly Hu showed up to surprise us with her comedy chops. And H.G. Wells returned in what the show’s creators called a “love letter” to fans.

They were specifically referring to fans of the popular Bering and Wells relationship on the show. Myka Bering and HG Wells share a deep personal friendship that has toed the line between romantic and platonic love for nearly three seasons and been the only even remotely successful romantic plotline on the show.

Expectations ran high preceding the episode and Afterellen even sat down with Jaime Murray and Joanne Kelly (the actresses) beforehand to get their take on the relationship.

Only when the episode actually arrived it was less an explosive rainbow of adventuring queer nerdsbians and more a whole heap of subtext wrapped up in a story of how really, really, really, definitely, positively just friends and straight these ladies are. The ladies pretend to be gay in one scene–bringing to mind the epic queer baiting of Rizzoli & Isles or Sherlock, but the rest of the time they’re a woman running from her life by living with a dude and his daughter and another woman who likes her.

In the context of the show and absent the hooplah surrounding the episode, it isn’t such a bad thing. It’s perfectly in character for HG Wells to flee and for Myka to resist revealing her feelings. But after the epic lure the show built leading up to this it feels less like a continuation of a story and more like that time they got Carrie to come to prom just so they could dump pig’s blood on her.

  • Erin Treat

    Wonderful, wonderful piece Alex and exactly right. I’m still so mad today. Not sad, not touched, mad. The ads leading up to this episode on Syfy, the posts on facebook all baited us and promised us something. What we got was a slap in the face. a reestablishment of “normal” hetero sexual order. They took the amazing, powerful genius H.G. Wells a made her a housewife?! I know the character is bisexual, that’s not what I’m talking about. How many queer characters are on TV and this is what Jack Kenny came up with. And don’t get me started on the police station scene. I feel like I and all of us B&W shippers who have supported and tweeted and done everything we could to get the show renewed, were LAUGHED at.

    Our only hope is that now that the show is cancelled Kenny will pull his head out of his ass in the final season, but I’m much less hopeful now. I used to think he was indifferent to Bering and Wells, but this episode seemed outright hostile.

    Fosters does show a lot of promise. I’m kind of annoyed at how prominently the ex is featured. If this show had a straight couple of foster parents I doubt the ex would be featured in all the promo materials and made a big part of the show. I want to see two women raise a family without a man sticking his head in. That thing about forcing his way in as her partner was pretty offensive and asshole-ish.

  • EvilMonkeyPope

    It is my new fondest wish that HG’s ultra-dull boyfriend will get fridged so she & Myka can raise his daughter together in the Warehouse as a full-on romantic pairing.

  • Linden

    Holy Crap! Them coastal elites are
    pushin’ their dam’ gay agenda on our young folk!

    Glorious!!!

    This “W13″ letdown reminds me
    of waiting for the ST:TNG ep “The Outcast”, which POed the
    fans who had been given promises of a decent exploration of gay/
    gendered sexual discrimination but instead got a gutted, cack-handed
    rip-off of Le Guin’s “Left Hand of Darkness”, and also
    members of Roddenberry’s staff who had believed the promises. Frakes
    was right. The fem-leaning androgyne should have been an played by an
    male to get the idea across properly.(They just should have done
    “LHoD”: Can you imagine Riker trapped by a blizzard in a
    cave, mackin’ on a dude?)

    On the other hand, that “W13” did
    the same sorta thing bears out Berman’s excuse that it was not a Star
    Trek problem but a sci-fi problem in general. But its still just an
    excuse.

    It seems to me that H-wood treats
    lesbianism differently than male homosexuality. Am I wrong, or are
    there more sexually active gay women than men represented on TV as
    series regulars? Certainly, I’ve seen a hell of a lot more female
    bi-curiosity on TV (“Judging Amy”, “Crossing Jordan”
    etc.), almost as if it is a rite of passage on female fronted shows
    to kiss another gal. When have we ever seen a male lead on a major
    network, “broadcast” or otherwise, side-eye a a gay male
    guest star with erotic consideration? Let alone actually kiss before
    going “Oh. I guess not. So sorry.”?

    Which made me wonder… how seriously
    did Joss et al truly consider Xander over Willow as the the gay
    Scooby? I would have loved it, and given the vast body of Spike/Angel
    fanfic out there, so have many others. It still seems that Willow was
    the easy way out, given that fewer gals have an “Ewww!”
    moment when seeing members of their own sex in a liplock than guys
    do. (We are such delicate li’l stamens…)

    Ever since “Clueless”, I’ve noticed
    that not only more but better gay representation in youth oriented
    material. In that movie, the only gay character was not only not
    mincing of swishy, but butch and heroic, rescuing Brittany Murphy at
    the mall. On “Dawson’s Creek” a gay man might lose his job
    because a straight woman would not leave him alone. A job as a girl’s
    soccer coach.

    And the scene at the all ages gay club
    on “Teen Wolf”… “You guys are good friends.”
    Wonderful.

    Same with the HS party, where kissing
    in the background can be seen boys on boys, girls on girls and combos
    of the two.

    @Ellen Treat

    “…forcing his way in as her
    partner was pretty offensive and asshole-ish.”

    I felt the same way. His protests in
    the next two eps that his forced re-penetration of his ex-wifes job
    and family is not for revenge, but is only an effort to reconnect
    with his son before college doesn’t ring true. It sure as hell felt
    in ep 3 that what he really wants to do is rescue his only son from a
    sea of lesbian dominated estrogen. The piano was touching, though.

    P.S.

    Alex, I would love to hear more from
    you not only more on PLL (which I love), but also something on
    “Orphan Black”. Not only does it have another lesbian
    bioengineer, but a golf club wielding soccer mom, a psycho Russian
    serial killer, and a street criminal, all clones played by the same excellent
    woman. It may not be the gendered soup that is “Lost Girl”, but
    there is enough in common for comparison.

    I hope this is not over long, but this
    article has been percolating in my head since it was posted.