Incel town: los peligros de no entender el consentimiento en el cine y la televisión

Se trata de una historia tan vieja como la existencia de los seres humanos en la tierra: hombre conoce a mujer, al hombre le llama la atención la mujer y la invita a salir, la mujer se niega, el hombre insiste, la mujer se niega, el hombre insiste, la mujer se niega, el hombre insiste, la mujer se niega, el hombre insiste, la mujer se niega, el hombre vuelve a insistir pero de forma menos invasiva y más tierna, la mujer se niega, el hombre hace algo valiente o considerado como “bueno”frente a la mujer, la mujer acepta con dudas pero, de alguna forma, sorprendida por la determinación del hombre.

La idea de que los hombres no tienen la capacidad de entender o, peor aún, no les interesa el significado del consentimiento, es algo que el cine y la televisión se han encargado de romantizar y  usar como una característica adorable dentro de una historia de amor una y otra vez. Para ellos, esto no es una forma de acoso, sino más bien, parte del proceso de conquista.

Actualmente, es muy común encontrar este concepto dentro de las historias de los ‘meet-cute’, una forma de representación de la cultura pop que se centra en los encuentros adorables entre dos personas que están destinadas a estar juntos, y que a la fecha, siguen siendo muy populares entre las audiencias.

Podría enumerar, literlamente, más de 100 películas o series de televisión que romantizan el acoso— sobre todo masculino—de esta manera, tal como Sixteen Candles (1984) o Revenge Of The Nerds (1984) e incluso las series como Friends (1994-2004) y How I Met Your Mother (2005-2014) con los personajes de Joey y Barney respectivamente. De hecho, es muy común toparse con este tipo de razonamientos en las películas románticas, muchas de las que se enfocan en la cultura nerd o geek, o en prácticamente cualquier filme de Adam Sandler.

En Pixels (2015), por ejemplo, tenemos el personaje de Sam (Adam Sandler), un mecánico de televisiones, que conoce a Violet (Michelle Monaghan), una mujer que se encuentra en medio de un divorcio y que trabaja para el gobierno, y de la cual —evidentemente— se enamora. Él, desde la primera vez que la ve, la invita a salir y ella, naturalmente, se niega. Lo  que sucede después, y durante el resto de la película, es el desarrollo de un sinfín de escenas donde podemos ver como él la invita a salir de manera insistente mientras ella se sigue negando a hacerlo, y no es hasta el final, cuando Sam salva a la tierra de una invasión, que Violet acepta.

Algo parecido sucede en When We First Met (2018) cuando el personaje de Max (King Bach), el mejor amigo casanova del protagonista que tiene un exceso de confianza y una necesidad de cosificar a todo individuo del sexo femenino, conoce a Carrie (Shelley Henning), la invita a salir y, a pesar de su rechazo constante, decide decide ignorar por completo su opinión, para convertir en un deporte el hacerle insinuaciones inapropiadas.

En el cine y la televisión, este tipo de ideas son siempre depositadas en personajes que podrían ser reconocidos como “perdedores”,  y que es por ello que constantemente reciben negativas de todas las mujeres que conocen. De hecho, no es hasta que estos personajes demuestran lo contrario, al cometer un acto de valentía o al romper el estereotipo en el que se encuentran catalogados, cuando los objetos de su afecto— normalmente mujeres— deciden aceptar su invitación.

El concepto detrás de esta historia es simple:  el acoso y la falta de entendimiento del consentimiento solo es aceptable cuando el hombre que lo hace es “fundamentalmente” bueno o, por lo menos, valeroso. Eso es lo que resulta peligroso de seguir usándolo en los productos que consumimos a diario, el  normalizar la anteposición de la satisfacción de los deseos de un hombre sobre el poder de decisión sobre el cuerpo y los deseos de una mujer. Que un “no” en realidad signifique un “sí” y que no estén dispuestos a tomar otra respuesta.

Dichas representaciones lo único que hacen es reforzar la idea sexista de que, mientras los hombres crean que son inherentemente buenas personas y miembros activos de una sociedad, serán merecedores de tener a cualquier mujer, a pesar de que ellas no sean recíprocas o estén interesadas en ellos. Mientras ellos sean insistentes y demuestren su valía, eventualmente podrán tener al amor de su vida— y la vida sexual que esto conlleva— a sus pies.

De hecho, la reproducción de este tipo de ideas es tan común y natural que ya podemos ver estragos catastróficos de ello en la actualidad personificados en varios individuos: los incels (involuntary celibates o célibes involuntarios en español), un grupo de hombres enojados con la vida — pero sobre todo con las mujeres — debido a que no tienen la vida sexual activa que la sociedad, las películas y, sobre todo, sus programas favoritos, les prometieron. Los invito a darse una vuelta a cualquier foro de reddit que sea habitado por ellos, para darse una pequeña idea de los niveles de odio y frustración que esto conlleva.

La reproducción de estas ideas también puede ser visto en series como Final Space (2018), donde un astronauta llamado Gary (al que le presta su voz Olan Rogers) conoce a la mujer que el asegura que es el amor de su vida, Quinn (doblada por Tika Sumpter) y se dedica a lo largo de 10 capítulos a invitarla a salir, a coquetear incesantemente con ella y a hacer con constancia insinuaciones francamente incómodas, a pesar de que ella lo rechaza una y otra vez. Sin embargo, esto cambia  para el final de temporada, cuando él actúa valientemente y demuestra su valía ante una Quinn enamorada.

Esto tambié sucede en Passengers (2016) donde el astronauta Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) no solo toma la decisión de condenar la vida de Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) al despertarla antes de llegar a su destino, sino que logra convencerla de que lo que hizo no fue de ninguna manera egoísta o insensible, sino heroíco y romántico, al demostrar su valía al arriesgar su vida para arreglar la nave espacial y asegurándose de que puedan vivir su historia de amor tranquilamente.

Al ver la cantidad de productos audiovisuales que mantiene esta idea todavía en la actualidad, podemos entender que los escritores y directores de cine y televisión no tienen una idea clara de lo que es el consenitimiento y, si la tienen, no les interesa en lo más mínimo respetar lo que ello significa y los resultados catastróficos que significa no hacerlo. Para ellos vale más una “historia de amor” con tintes de acoso, que las repercusiones peligrosas  que de esto puede devenir.

Si viviéramos en un mundo utópico donde más mujeres compartieran sus experiencias con el consentimiento al habitar los espacios de escritura, producción y dirección de las películas y series, esto no sucedería.

Sin embargo, la realidad dista mucho de ello, por eso, es de suma relevancia comenzar por entender lo que significa el consentimiento y la importancia que existe en siempre tomar en cuenta, antes de cualquier cosa, el poder de decisión que tiene una persona sobre su cuerpo y sus deseos sexuales e individuales, que los propios.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nicole Kidman and her Unbreakable Women

Fair warning: This post contains spoilers for The Killing Of A Sacred Deer, The Beguiled and Big Little Lies. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend you to stop reading it.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you must certainly have seen, heard or know at least one movie where Nicole Kidman has been a part of. She’s been active since 1983 and has won multiple awards for her diverse set of performances.

From Eyes Wide Shut to The Beguiled, Nicole Kidman has always managed to draw people’s attention to her striking and nuanced portrayals over the years. She’s dedicated, hard-working and totally devoted to the art, and that’s something is reflected on everything she’s doing and has done in her career.

In fact, one of Nicole Kidman’s many assets is her ability to choose the right characters for her. Make no mistake, many of them haven’t been random choices. She has played lots of different characters, yes, but if you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed that most of them share one particular trait:  they are strong and unwavering women.

Women who have been violated, taken for granted and pushed aside by the patriarchal society as a way to maintain control and power over their bodies.  Women who had been to hell and back but always get back on their feet with their heads up and standing tall. In hindsight, Nicole Kidman’s women are unbreakable.

The unbreakable woman she represents is the irremediable daughter of the patriarchy. She’s strong because her misogynistic upbringing has made her that way; she’s cautious but never stopped fighting for what she believes is right, even when every man around her insists on telling her to do the exact opposite; she’s opinionated because the world wants to silence her constantly and she will retaliate when the situation needs her to do so.

As I said before, her decision to play these characters is not random, she’s been trying to tell something to us with her body of work and the portrayal of these particular traits. In a way, she’s been representing every facet of womanhood since the very beginning.

With that in mind, Kidman’s unbreakable woman portrait can be defined by one of the most important narrative choices that she has ever made during her career, to represent her in two very nuanced ways: The Retaliatory Unbreakable Woman and The Cautious Unbreakable Woman. Two types of women who choose to confront the same problems in different ways. Two women bound by loss and divided by empowerment.

Both these women know that the world they live in is made by men and for men and that they need to fight their own battles because no one is going to support them or save them but themselves. They know they are under constant threat and that the only way to fend for themselves is to face their problems up front and not perpetuating the misogynistic actions they’re surrounded with.

The Cautious Unbreakable Woman is the one that has suffered more of the two of them. She’s the one that has to put up with the awful society standards that have been bestowed upon women, but also the one that is capable of defying them by not letting them affect the way she lives her life.

She’s often portrayed as a rebel woman who is really fed up with the ways that women are supposed to get by on each day. She’s opinionated, very vocal and will always find a way to circle around societal norms in order to get what she wants, especially when it comes to standing for what she believes.

She is Satine in Moulin Rouge (2001), a woman who works at a cabaret as a showgirl — one of the few jobs women could have at the time —that is often sold to the male visitors as nothing more than an object. She is a rebel because, although she lives in a world where women’s bodies are the most requested type of currency and sex is the only way they’re able to connect with someone, she chooses to follow her heart and fall in love with someone, even if that may cost her way of living.

She’s the one that’s constantly defying the societal norms around her by not letting the Duque (Richard Roxburgh) and Harold (Jim Broadbent) control her body and by living her life the way she chooses to until her last breath, in the hands of her love, Christian (Ewan McGregor).

She is Gilly in Practical Magic (1998), a (very witchy) woman comfortable with her body, her autonomy and independence, who is not willing to compromise any of that for anyone, even if that means to stand up to her boyfriend (Goran Visnjic), and to follow up with the lie behind his demise on her sister’s hands.

She is also Anna Murphy in The Killing Of a Sacred Deer (2017), a woman who is capable to stand against someone who’s trying to harm her family and go to the final consequences in order to protect them from a sudden menace embodied on Martin (Barry Keoghan), a teenager who forces her husband (Colin Farrell) to choose to save the life of one of its members: their two children or her, as a personal vendetta.

In the movie, she decides to confront Martin knowing the type of person he is and the danger he represents, but putting her family first. She is also constantly fighting against her husband wishes to push her around by neglecting her opinion and diminishing her.

She is Evelyn in Stoker, (2013) a woman who will stand against Charlie (Matthew Goode), her violent brother-in-law who wants to take her daughter India (Mia Wasikowska) under his wing as a serial killer, even if she’s not that fond of her and doesn’t want to know anything about her.

One of the main traits that stand out from The Cautious Unbreakable Woman is that she may find herself in odd and violent contexts, but she will not act on it. She will stand against a threat, yes, but she will never fire back. The Cautious Unbreakable Woman doesn’t believe that violence solves violence nor it helps to make her point across for that matter, but rather does so by showing fortitude and keeping her head high.

Unlike her, The Retaliatory Unbreakable Woman does believe that the better way to face her problems and the male violence behind them, is by acting on it. She also is a daughter of the patriarchy, but one who is really fed up with dealing with the everyday misogynistic attitudes towards her. She will stand against her perpetrators and she will not endure any type of injustice or act of violence against her.

The best example of this is Grace in Dogville (2003), a woman who will not hesitate to fight back when she feels threatened. Sure, she will live and put up all kinds of abuse and acts of violence against her if that means she can hide from the people who are looking for her, but she will remember it and hold people accountable for their trespasses. Even if it means to kill everyone involved in it, including the man (Paul Bettany) she thought was in love with her but did nothing more than taking advantage of her.

She is Martha Farnsworth in The Beguiled (2017), a woman who will do anything to protect the young girls at her care, even if that means poisoning John McBurney (Colin Farrell), the civil war soldier staying at her school, once he starts making violent threats against her and scaring her protegées.

She is also Celeste Wright in Big Little Lies (2017), a woman who will endure all the violence perpetrated by her husband Perry (Alexander Skarsgard) in order to protect their family, specially her children, but will not hesitate to fight him back when he starts to act violently against her best friends.

With her body of work, not only Nicole Kidman has managed to portray effectively different facets of the male violence that women have to endure every given day, but also, she has given a voice to all the female victims that society has refused to acknowledge along the way.

 

 

 

 

Female rage: agency, power and retaliation

Warning: Major spoilers of The Handmaid’s Tale, Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies ahead. Proceed only if you have finished all their seasons.

TV and movies have been getting their audiences used to see men represented as a variety of angry, revenge-seeking psychos, just because. Often, these characters are portrayed by typecasted angry men.

We will always have the Bryan Millses (Liam Neeson in Taken) willing to bring the world down in order to find whichever loved one they’re missing, and the Robert McCalls (Denzel Washington in The Equalizer) willing to go to the last consequences to make the world know they’re angry at it. Hell hath no fury when angry men are in the loose.

We get it, men are supposed to be angry, violent and enraged. It’s not like this special set of features has been shoehorned onto men for centuries as a recognizable trait of masculinity, or anything; or that the perpetuation of these very ideas has been more harmful than ever as the time goes by, and certainly it’s not as these type of stereotypes and high expectations bestowed upon them haven’t increased the percentage of suicides on men each year.

These traits, shouldn’t necessarily be linked to men and masculinity, rage is not a feature that should be bestowed upon men, but—as with any other gender stereotype out there—TV and movies have been very good at keeping this trope alive and well. Nevertheless, they have tried to separate them —especially TV shows—from their masculine characters.

Lately, several networks have been making big efforts to balance their series by producing and airing female-led projects based on female-centric experiences of mostly female authors, that have been focusing its perspective on female rage.

One of them is HBO, this enormous powerhouse has single-handedly achieved to release one season of Gillian Flynn’s adaptation of the intriguing thriller Sharp Objects, lead by Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson, and one season of Liane Moriarty’s enthralling portrayal of her sexual abuse novel Big Little Lies, lead by Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley,

Hulu and Netflix have also their very own female-centric series on the air, as the former has released two seasons of Margaret Atwood’s adaptation of the feminist thrilling dystopia The Handmaid’s Tale, lead by Elisabeth Moss,  and the latter has aired two seasons too of Marvel’s noir series Jessica Jones, lead by Krysten Ritter, all of them with one theme in common: stories that stem and develop from female rage.

Most of the times on these shows, the rage will come from of a place of retaliation, specially against the male dominance that is creeping around them, trying to control their bodies and the decisions women try to make for themselves.

The Handmaid’s Tale is plagued with enraged women that have been stripped of their agency, their capacity to decide over their bodies and their ability to fulfil their basic human needs. The series begins right when its women have reached their boiling point, women that are fed up with being objectified and are starting to act on it.

Women like Emily (Alexis Bledel), who was separated from her wife and kid by Gilead’s Republic—a men-lead new society—in order to become a handmaid at service of the family that owns her, and who, by the back half of the season, starts to kill soldiers, generals and anyone who have been complicit with the system, as a way to take her agency back from their captors.

Or like June (Elisabeth Moss), who was also separated from her family, and has been acting like a human vessel whose only function is to deliver babies for other families, and has started to fight back at the general and his wife that own her, her body and her baby.

Rage is the perfect embodiment of agency for these women because it’s the only thing that makes sense to them, and is capable of making them feel like they matter, like their life is theirs to use and their decisions are theirs to make, and even though they know there’s almost nothing they can do unless Gilead is over, they will try to take back what is theirs by being enraged.

In Big Little Lies, rage appears as a consequence of a threat and also as an embodiment of empowerment. When Perry Wright (Alexander Skarsgard) starts hitting his wife, Celeste (Nicole Kidman), in front of her friends, they attempt lots of things to try to defend her but is not until Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz) pushes him down the stairs on a rage attack that they fully understand the power of the bond they all share. Women will do anything to help their friends, even if it means killing someone in self-defense.

In other cases, female rage will make an appearance not as a response but rather as a result of one of the characters’ upbringing, as a unique trait that will shape their personality entirely. Something so inherently personal that it would be difficult to separate from its owner. Something that it may come from the same place but translate differently between each person.

Camille (Amy Adams) and Amma (Eliza Scanlen), from Sharp Objects, are affected sisters who only know how to act through their rage, the only difference they have is the way they inflict it. Camile does it to herself and her body, Amma, to their friends.

Both are young troubled women whose mother, Adora (Patricia Clarkson), belittled and smothered, always trying to make them feel bad for everything they did and every decision they made. So, evidently, rage will be the only way they know how to cope.

Whilst Camille decides to canalize her rage at hurting her body with every dark thought she has, Amma acts on it by injuring others. Rage is shown as a weakness in Camille’s head, but it means power on Amma’s. These are two women raised in the same context but with different perspectives of how rage works on them and what can they do with it. In their minds, rage is a power of destruction.

Something similar happens to Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) on Netflix’s Jessica Jones, where its protagonist’s rage stems from a violent upbringing and a series of situations she’s gone through in her life. In Jessica’s case, her special abilities are the living embodiment of her rage, the motor that sustains them and the only way she knows how to face a threat.

Unlike Camille and Amma, Jessica tries to canalize her rage by using her powers to make a difference, to change the reality she’s put herself into and the ones who love her. Instead of being a power of destruction, rage becomes the vehicle from which Jessica tries to rebuild her life.

As we can see, female rage can mean a lot of things. It could very much be a form of retaliation, but also an embodiment of empowerment as a mean to take back one’s agency. It can also be a power of destruction, or a beacon of hope to make great things with one’s life.

What these shows have shown us is that rage is not and should not be a stereotype linked only with men, not only because is harmful but because it’s also a sexist idea. Women can also be angry and do great and bad things whilst being enraged, that’s why we need to be certain about one thing: both men and women can be enraged at the world, we only need to separate it from masculinity and redirect it towards more fruitful things.

 

 

 

Mujeres dentro de refrigeradores: un modo violento de avanzar la trama en el cine y los comics

Hoy en día, analizar el rol que las mujeres tienen — y han tenido— a lo largo de la historia del cine, significa encontrarnos inmediatamente con una historia muy accidentada que ha sido injusta, en todos los aspectos posibles, con sus personajes femeninos y las actrices que les han dado vida. Desde el surgimiento de la damisela en peligro hasta el abuso y sexualización continuo de los cuerpos femeninos, el cine se ha encargado de reflejar perfectamente lo que la sociedad piensa de sus mujeres y lo que está dispuesto a hacer con ellas.

Aún, a la fecha, es muy común toparnos con Smurfettes y cuerpos femeninos sexualizados por el male gaze o con mujeres protagonistas despojadas de total agencia por sus contrapartes masculinaso con el terrible doble estándar con el que se sigue juzgando a las mujeres en el cine y que sigue reptando las películas taquilleras del momento. Y, aunque ya existen grandes esfuerzos para tratar de resarcir el mal que se ha hecho y se han comenzado a contar historias desde una perspectiva femenina matizada y bien elaborada, Hollywood insiste en seguir quedándose atrás en cuanto a representación femenina se trata.

Lo que me lleva a hablar de una práctica común que sigue haciéndose y que, francamente, me sorprende que aún exista: Women in Refrigerators. Éste hace referencia a los personajes femeninos —que son casi siempre tratados como desechables— cuyo único propósito, y motivo de existir, es ser atacadas para motivar al héroe a vengarse y poder avanzar con la historia. Estas mujeres no son más que herramientas narrativas a la merced de los escritores.

Este término, también llamado fridging, tiene su origen directamente ligado al mundo de los cómics, donde la escritora Gail Simone decidió llamarlo así después de ver las formas tan violentas con que las mujeres eran tratadas. Éste surge a partir de la brutal muerte de Alexandra DeWitt, en un número de Green Lantern, donde su cuerpo es dejado dentro de un refrigerador para ser encontrado por el protagonista Kyle Rayner (Green Lantern).

La escritora luego abrió un sitio web con el mismo nombre, donde se encargó de hacer una lista de personajes femeninos pertenecientes a diferentes cómics, que fueron violadas, despojadas de poder y agencia, torturadas o asesinadas con la única intención de motivar a los personajes masculinos a vengarlas y avanzar la trama. Normalmente este puesto es tomado por las novias, esposas, madres o hermanas de los protagonistas masculinos.

La razón de existir de esta práctica es jugar con la idea del fracaso del arquetipo masculino y la idea de lo que significa ser un hombre, ya que atenta directamente contra la masculinidad del héroe, al adscribirse a una de las ideas centrales de los roles de género tradicionales, donde la labor del hombre es proteger y cuidar a las mujeres que lo rodean.

De esa forma, podemos ver este concepto perfectamente alineado con el arco de Barbara Gordon en The Killing Joke, de Alan Moore, donde los actos de violencia y brutalidad que The Joker realiza en ella —incluyendo una violación— son tales que motivan a Batman a vengarse en su nombre para avanzar la trama.

Esta práctica también forma parte de una larga lista de películas que ha usado, y abusado,  de sus personajes femeninos para avanzar la trama en favor de los masculinos y que los filmes de superhérores y las revenge movies se han encargado de liderar.

Deadpool 2, haciendo honor a sus raíces del mundo de los comics, decidió usar el fridging no solo con uno de sus personajes, sino con tres de ellos. Primero, al asesinar a Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) al principio del filme con el único propósito de arrancar la historia y motivar a Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) a vengarse, y después al decidir matar a la esposa e hija— los cuales ni siquiera se molestaron en darles nombre— de Cable (Josh Brolin) para obligarlo a cruzar su camino con Deadpool y avanzar la narrativa.

Lo mismo sucede con The Equalizer y su secuela, The Equalizer 2, donde la historia de venganza de Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) comienza cuando decide castigar a los perpretadores de la brutal golpiza que le propinan a Alina (Chloë Grace Moretz) en la primera película y a los asesinos de su amiga Susan (Melissa Leo) en la segunda. Ambas relegadas al papel de damiselas en peligro desde el principio del filme.

Recientemente, los hombres también han sido víctimas del fridging, ahí tenemos al tío Ben en la película de Spider-Man, Odín en Thor: Ragnarok  y T’Chacka en Captain America: Civil War, sin embargo, y a diferencia de las mujeres, sus muertes los han convertido en modelos a seguir y figuras inspiracionales que ayudan a trazar el camino que el héroe recorre en su arco narrativo, mientras que los personajes femeninos han sido transformados automáticamente en  damiselas indefensas que son torturadas y desposeídas de toda agencia, sin respeto alguno por su existencia o lo que intentan representar.

La forma en que tratamos a los personajes femeninos en los medios, la cultura pop y en general en la vida real, determina la manera en que seguimos tratando a las mujeres y los modos en las que las representaremos. Por ello, es importante no solo contar con una amplia variedad de los mismos, sino comenzar a darles historias ricas y bien formadas que no las impliquen en actos brutales que las transformen automáticamente en recéptaculos de violencia necesaria para motivar a un personaje masculino a comenzar su historia.

Las mujeres son personas  complejas, no objetos ni herramientas narrativas que existen detrás de las historias de los hombres. Por ello, debemos comenzar a tratarlas como tal en los productos audiovisuales que creamos y consumimos, así como en los entornos sociales en los que nos desarrollamos a diario.

 

 

 

Honey, I shoehorned heterosexuality on the kids

Let’s all agree on this, the media doesn’t like to portray queer children. We can have lots of wonderful and nuanced gay couples flourishing in front of our eyes accompanied with some transgender characters in our TV shows, but don’t even think about getting a beautiful coming out story of a child with an identity crisis, because kids watching it might “get confused” and ask things we’re not prepared to answer as the grown-ass adults we are.

We don’t like to confront the things we’re not able—or don’t want—to understand. That’s why most of the audiences, especially parents, get usually startled when even a hint of queerness stands out on their children’s TV shows because talking about it will automatically imply we want our children to be themselves and live a full life instead of living within the borders of the idea of life we have for them.

We like to see our children depicted as five-year-old heterosexual boys holding hands with five-year-old heterosexual girls yearning for long-lasting relationships since the first day they were born and dreaming with being home-steady moms and dads who provide for their families. Basically, the perfect family picture.

And don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad with wanting to have the family, the house, the children and the dog visualized in the future. The problem here is that the media is not capable to look beyond that stereotype, especially when our reality is really different and far from it. Every day, there are more and more queer children embracing their identities and feeling good about themselves than we can handle, and that scares us.

That’s why most TV shows, especially the ones that have a younger audience, prefer to depict their children as heterosexuals —especially men— from the very beginning. In fact, they would probably establish them as such on the first or second episode of the season to leave no doubts about it.

We can’t have a little boy on television who is sensitive and caring without clarifying upfront his heterosexuality. We also can’t have a child who doesn’t have a romantic interest (or even intentions of having one) without giving them one immediately, because being single would probably mean that they’re indecisive or gay. Sadly, that’s a direct reflection of our reality and the ways we reduce children’s identity.

Nowadays, is really easy to find stories of little boys falling in love with little girls —and not the other way around— from a very young age in TV shows, as opposed on investing in creating meaningful stories that centre on them being alone and discovering themselves; that would leave no space to believe that they are nothing but heterosexuals. People actually prefer to create a love arc between their little heterosexual children before considering the idea of, I don’t know, letting them be children.

There isn’t a better example of this than the characters of Jackson (Michael Campion) and Max (Elias Harger) from Netflix’s Fuller House (2016): a pair of thirteen-year-old and seven-year-old boys respectively, who have been problematically paired up with several girls since episode one of their three-season run, with lots of excuses, narratively-wise, to justify this.

Jackson has been portrayed, from the very beginning, as a teenager experiencing his wonderful blossoming into manhood, and as such, he has been doing it with the help of his manliness. The problem with it is that his character is constantly reduced to his heterosexuality and his “manly appeal”, making it his only recognizable trait. Jackson’s arcs have always been about him trying to make girls like him. If we strip him out of it, there would nothing left of him, leaving behind a blank of a person.

Max’s heterosexuality, on the other hand, is so frustratingly shoehorned, that any story −and believe me, there are lots of them−that develops around him and his love life automatically feels superficial and out of character. Why? Because he is portrayed as a sensitive child that is in touch with his emotions and, as we have learned, emotions and sensitiveness are not usually related to manliness and heterosexuality in boys.

The people behind the show is so invested in proving that Max is heterosexual that they have essentially devoted all of the entirety of his season 2 and season 3 arc into orchestrating a feud between him and his neighbour over the love and attention of a girl, named Rose (Mckenna Grace), —who’s title actress looks always uncomfortable— in order to become her boyfriend. It’s important to mention that none of them has asked her if she would like to date them or even if she’s interested in any of them.

Something similar has been happening on another Netflix show, Stranger Things (2016), where it seems that the love lives of a group of thirteen-year-old boys are more interesting than the mysteries surrounding them. Or at least, that’s what the creators of the show, the Duffer brothers, have been trying to tell us on the two seasons that have been aired.

First, they stripped Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) of all agency by giving her the role of Mike’s (Finn Wolfhard) love interest on season 1’s finale, then, they brought a new girl character, called Max (Sadie Sink) to fulfil the role of the Smurfette of their group that Eleven left when she was gone, and with no other reason to exist than becoming Lucas (Caleb Maclaughlin) and Dustin’s (Gaten Matarazzo) love interest and object of desire.

Also, like Fuller House, Stranger Things has their very own Max problem with one of their leads, Will (Noah Schnapp), who is also a sensitive, caring boy who also happens to be in touch of his feelings and the only one who has not being paired with any other girl. But, as he becomes more and more important, I can already see him meeting a love interest for season 3, especially because lots of media outlets and forums devoted to the show have been asking to the creators to have him be a gay character.

What’s really dangerous—and also disingenuous, I might say— about the narrative that the creators of these shows are trying to tell, is first, that girls’ only purpose in this world is to become a symbol of heterosexuality for adults to use as love interests in order to justify the heterosexuality of their boys and, second, that children need to be paired up before they have the chance to even try to think about themselves, their identities and what they really want.

Representation will always matter, especially when it comes to children and their identities, if we want to set a good example, we need to depict them as to how they really are and not by the idea we have of them.

 

 

 

 

 

Un espacio para la desnudez.