Monday, December 8, 2008

I Have Seen the Future...

Around this time last year, there was a blog meme going around called "pretend to be a time-traveler." I haven't seen anything similar this year, but it made me think of a few times in the past when something happened on TV that made me think "I see the future of the gay community."

Back in the late 80s, there was a pretty good sci-fi TV show called "Alien Nation" (based on a pretty bad sci-fi movie of the same name). The series was about a group of aliens, called Newcomers, that came to Earth and were trying to incorporate themselves into human communities.

In one brief throwaway scene on one episode, a group of these Newcomers couples were getting married. The futuristic bit? One of the couples was two guys. It was the smallest thing, but it made quite an impression on my teen-age self.

Science-fiction often offers glimpses into a future where oppressed groups have achieved some kind of equity. The sci-fi TV series "Babylon 5" from the mid-90s had two of the main male characters go undercover as newlyweds. In the Babylon 5 universe, sexual orientation is an unremarkable quality, like a person's handedness.

Fantasy TV also has a history of gay-friendliness, ranging from the lesbian overtones of "Xena" in the 90s to the explicit lesbian love on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" in the early 2000s.

Buffy was particularly remarkable in how it developed its gay love story over a period of time, with one of the main characters, Willow, slowly coming out to herself as she fell in love with her friend, Tara, after previously having shown an interest in one of the male leads.

The series was also notable in how it pushed the envelope on how explicitly same-sex relationships were shown on television. Initially the network wouldn't even show two girls kissing, but by the end of the series, it regularly showed woman kissing and sleeping together.

Sometimes television can set the tone for our society, but more often it simply reflects changes that are already coming. Gay marriage is quite simply and clearly the future.

After all, TV says so.

-Shawn Long

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