It used to be that if you wanted to find lesbians in pop culture you had to seek them out. You had to buy a Tegan and Sara album or torrent the L word. I remember in high school calling my friend to tell her to turn on MTV for Katy Perry’s premiere of “I Kissed a Girl.” The video sucked, but we were so excited a song like this existed in mainstream pop culture. Looking back, “ I Kissed a Girl” is a biphobic song that promotes hiding your lady loving feelings because you don’t know if your boyfriend will like it. Similar to more recent hits like Ray Lavender’s “My Girl Gotta Girlfriend,” it promotes hiding your sexuality.
“Do you know your problem, shawty?
Could’ve told me
That you was sleeping with a chick”
Luckily, lesbians have been dominating pop culture lately. There is a platter of good and bad gay music, movies and television to pick from. Lately, it’s hard to even find a program that doesn’t have at least one gay character. There are a variety of songs celebrating homosexuality that do not ask you hide anything about yourself. If you are having trouble sorting out what might be “good” or “bad” in gay culture, I am here to ladle you a piping hot bowl of truth.
“Girls like Girls” — Hayley Kiyoko
This LGBTQ-positive song took the web by storm and had lesbians cheering for this accurate representation of falling in love. Kiyoko commented on her video and said, “A big point for me was to respect that and keep it real, so people can realize it’s not just a joke or, you know, ‘Oh, that’s hot.'” Not to spoil the video for those who haven’t seen it, but the biggest triumph of this video is the classic tale of love conquers all. When the girl beats the hell out of her love interest’s very intoxicated boyfriend, you can’t help but clap for this win.
“Cool for the Summer” — Demi Lovato’s
Every time I hear someone say this is the perfect gay anthem I cringe. Any gay anthem that urges you to not tell your mother but die for a woman you’ve been kissing for a summer needs to chill out. The worst part about this song is:
“Tell me if it’s wrong
If it’s right
I don’t care
I can keep a secret, can you?”
I am so over the secret, tragic plotline bisexuals and lesbians are always handed. This is not cool. There is nothing sexy about keeping this a secret. The Sapphic imagery about cherries is unoriginal … stop referring to this fruit, please.
ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder”
This one is tricky because for gay men, this show is full of progressive gay drama. But, sorry guys, this isn’t about you. This is on the “not hot” list for lesbian pop culture. If you are not a HTGAWM fan or you haven’t caught up to this season ATTN:SPOILERS AHEAD! In recent episodes, the show’s protagonist, Annalise Keating asks her “friend” (played by Famke Janssen) to defend her ex-boyfriend. It is soon revealed that Janssen’s character was not just a friend from law school but actually her ex-girlfriend.
The show’s creator Shonda Rhimes (Greys Anatomy, Scandal) is the reigning drama queen and is notorious for creating a “rainbow” cast of different races, sexual orientations and ethnicities. I am always team Shonda. I think her commitment to “normalize television” by featuring a diverse cast has changed television, but this felt forced. Annalise has never even hinted at liking women, married a man then cheated on him with another man. Also, this Janssen’s character is not just some one-night experiment Annalise has in college. She describes their relationship as something she is still hung up on. Look, I get it they are trying to make interesting television, so I can’t fault them for jumping on the lesbo bandwagon to appeal to the masses, but this feels forced and random. Dear Hollywood, please do not throw in random lesbian storylines just to boost your ratings for the week.
MTV’s “Faking It”
At first glance, it would seem that this show would be on the “not hot” list because it is about faking being a lesbian to gain popularity in high school. NOT OKAY. However, this show is actually a first for lesbian pop culture. This show reveals an all-too-common problem for lesbians — falling in love with your (straight) best friend. The main character, Amy, is in love with her best friend, Karma, who is just trying to get a boy to notice her. Karma is a self-obsessed popularity junkie who will do anything to get noticed by her crush. It is easy to hate her, especially since Amy will do anything to make her happy in hopes she might fall in love with her. This is why this show is on the good list. Any lesbian who has felt the pang of unrequited best friend love will relate to Amy’s struggle and cheer for her when she finally has the courage to reveal her feelings.
Feel free to file this article under “whining ” if you want, but these complaints are important. If we do not keep demanding progress we might get stuck. I don’t want pop culture to encourage LGBTQ youth to hide their feelings or who they are. Doing so would be a slap in the face to all the progress we have made.