Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Television! Teacher, mother, secret lover.

Yes, that's a quote from The Simpsons up there. I found it appropriate. Now, this won't be a negative post. Well, it will be in a sense but I'm not ranting by any means. I'm simply sharing some thoughts I've had recently.

On television shows, the writers seem to be focused on making an important issue they tackle as real as it can be. That's fine, it's good even, but it seems as though it is the only thing they think they can do. They never seem to consider, "How about we show this differently in our made-up world where everything else is unlike the real world." What I'm talking about is when a show tackles a story about, say... cancer or the gay community, to start with two separate examples. One specific example I want to start with first is The L Word's 'Dana'. She had breast cancer and the show runner killed her off because "Women do die from breast cancer and I felt it was important to show that, especially with a character everyone loves so much." What she failed to understand is that we're all aware women die from breast cancer, we're well aware many people die from all sorts of cancer. (What she also failed to understand is that killing off a fan-favorite doesn't bode well for your show.) To address my point re: this issue though, how about showing the process of fighting cancer year after year? I personally think that'd make a bigger impact. I mean, if you really wanted to "remind" the audience of the possibility of someone losing their battle, then introduce a new character Dana could have befriended and ultimately lost along the way. There's a lot more available there story-wise; there are three big stories I can think of off the top of my head, actually.

As for my other example, I've decided to use a different topic instead because of a show I've been watching lately. Degrassi has a transgender character, which is impressive considering I can only think of one other show that has done this, but I am frankly scared for this character. The show has a tendency to kill off someone every other year and I fear they may go the more realistic route with him eventually. By 'more realistic' I mean that half of transgender people attempt suicide (this Degrassi character has inflicted pain) and many are raped/murdered. I've been wondering lately if it'd be best for the show to create a better, more accepting environment instead. Mind you, only the 3 bullies (who pick on everyone for anything at all) have bothered 'Adam', while everyone else is very accepting of him. But why not create a story to have at least 2 of them reconsider their views? It may not seem realistic to most people, but I think it'd be much more beneficial to the audience. I mean, even with how well the show's been addressing this, I've seen a few forum posts and video blogs on YouTube of viewers still saying things like "Well, Fiona won't be with Adam because Adam's actually a girl and Fiona's not into girls that way." Even after an entire season of episodes, including one almost completely devoted to Adam's story - showing Adam will not accept being referred to as a female by anyone and when changing to "Gracie" for his step-mom, he started hurting himself again - viewers are still not accepting it themselves even though they claim to "not have an issue with Adam". Some of them still refer to the character as Adam/Gracie or he/she. Mind you, it's a lesser amount than one would expect, especially with a big teen audience that are most likely learning about trans people for the first time. The show really has positively informed many about this topic, which is wonderful. It could do even more with handling Adam's story in the way I mentioned, especially if they were to have Fiona remain interested in Adam after finding out he is transgender. To those unfamiliar with her character, her choosing to stay with Adam would definitely fit the character as she has quite a handful of issues herself and doesn't judge anyone for theirs. It's curious to me why half of the fans assume she won't, though, but I think that may be a general assumption of their own and not one of Fiona.

I do know it's important to show these very real situations that people go through in their lives, but again, sometimes I wonder if it's just as important to create a "less realistic" community of characters that are entirely accepting. I just feel that the only way people are going to start changing, or even re-considering their views, is if they witness little to no negative behavior. None of us are born close-minded and ignorant. And true, bringing up these issues even with the best representation is never going to change every person's views, but I think it'd help a large percentage to one day help us get certain laws passed without heavy resistance. Think of it as tv adapting a sort of zero tolerance policy, if you will.

Am I completely off-base here?

To sum up, I just wish television programs would mix things up a little. As I mentioned before, I find it so odd they make up these fake places with occasionally over-the-top situations, but then any sort of real issue has to be dealt with in the most "realistic" and dramatic way. I feel like they could say so much more by tackling these stories differently, in a more positive light. If you don't think you can create an interesting story out of something like that, then your characters are clearly not at all interesting on their own. Here's where shows could learn a thing or two from AMC's Mad Men.

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