Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Sexuality, TV and the Limits of Law

I've watched a couple of programmes this week that caused me to pause for thought and reflect on a recurring theme in the class workshops we've had this year. People have repeatedly come back to the point that the law can only get you so far. It is meaningless without a commensurate shift in societal values and those values and attitudes vary within out disparate communities, between different ethnic groups and different classes. Between different religious groups and different geographies. A major factor in this for me is what we see on television. I think back to landmark series such as Queer as Folk in 1998 and how they were so significant for a whole generation but also the general shift in television coverage. The British TV series Shameless is a mixture of comedy and drama and has been a smash hit. It focuses upon modern working class life in North Manchester (yes it even recognises the different approaches within one city). In the latest episode screened on E4 (to be shown next week on the far more watched bigger brother station Channel 4) you see the revelation of an inter-generational relationship. There seems to have been nothing in the UK media so far and I'm fascinated to see if that changes this weekend when the TV reviews for the following week become public. The story line focuses around a 26 year old police officer and a 15 year old girl (approaching her 16th Birthday they are keen to point out). The trailer for the next episode suggests that people find out and the fall out ensues. International readers probably have no idea about this show so I've embedded the credits below:

The other show is the US programme Nip/Tuck now showing on FX in the UK. I've pasted a trailer for the current season (5) below. In the latest episode it was revealed that a long standing character, wife of one central character (currently filed for divorce) and former mistress to another is about to move in with a new partner and yes you guessed it the new partner is female. The new take though was the way sexuality was discussed. Julia (the female character played by Joely Richardson) talked about this not necessarily meaning she was a lesbian - she was simply in love and the other character happened to be female. It was the general contrast between those who viewed sexuality as a fixed state and those who would argue it is of a much more fluid nature. For me, this small scene in a popular global show represented a subtle change in how society starts viewing sexuality. In another ten or so years will we sit in wonder at how our laws (at least English law) reflect sexuality as a fixed rigid state. You saw it on TV first.

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