A show about a MySpace star calling herself something as absurd as Tila Tequila who is making the claim to be bisexual and giving a group of strangers a “Shot at Love” – a miserable play on words – is a very ridiculous idea. My initial reaction was this: if this is an attempt to equate homosexuality with seeing who can survive on an island or eat the eye of a mountain goat the fastest, then count me out.
And another thing: I feel I had every right to be suspicious. We’re supposed to tolerate the bastardization of homosexuality (and sexuality in general) almost constantly in entertainment, whether it be the typification of the gay best friend or the grossly homophobic “I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry,” et. al., which finds every way to make fun of homosexuality and reassert outdated and absurd gender stereotypes while somehow maintaining their slender, “socially acceptable” physiques.
No, if you are tolerant, or at least remotely intelligent, you are aware that this is not a playful way for a culture to make light of itself – it’s a direct attack emerging from blatant mockery. I had no reason to believe based on evidence that my world was changing and no reason to expect an MTV reality show about bisexuality to be any less grotesquely thoughtless.
But now I’m confronted with the best and worst possibility of all, which is that I was wrong. The show from my observation seems to be having a relatively positive effect on its viewers – whether watching out of curiosity or eaten alive by the irresistible draw of elimination-based dating shows, people are watching, and, in the act of watching, there is the inevitability of instilling questions in people.
Though the base of people watching the show are from a young and more tolerant generation whose children will be baffled by the notion that at one time gays couldn’t marry, it’s still a hell of a lot more realistic than we could have expected from a show about a sexually-charged MySpace bisexual searching for love in a mansion where everyone drinks a lot and sleeps on the same bed. After all, for all we can tell, she does appear to actually be a bisexual person, which is something, perhaps with a certain bias, I was not expecting from television entertainment.
I applaud the show for making at least a detectable reference to the fact that bisexuality (especially for bisexual women) extends beyond experimentation and exhibitionism. I respect the show for keeping a gender queer person in the competition for longer than would be necessary to simply avoid a social criticism. I respect the fact that the show addresses the issue of coming out to families, even if the families on the show may have been more tolerant than average.
I recognize that the show falls short of being entirely representative of what it is like to live in this culture as a bisexual or homosexual person, that as far as gender equality it does relatively little, that a show about a bisexual male finding love is still a few decades ahead of us. But the fact remains that this is a sign that steps are being taken – baby, spoon-fed steps, but steps nonetheless – and even if not making the strongest social statement, the show is at least successful at avoiding social criticism.
If I can go to a bar and witness a group of (evidently) straight men change the channel from ESPN to “A Shot At Love” and have a conversation, albeit drunk and limited, about sexuality, I’m a satisfied customer. After all, it’s those people who move the world, and I think it’s the responsibility of the civil rights movements to take these people by the hand and lead them gently into an intellectual understanding of things that should be, but are not, innate in our culture.
In conclusion, I stand corrected. If Tila Tequila is what it takes, so be it. If no one else was worried about this or even thinking about it, then I stand corrected as well as embarrassed, because there is a distinct possibility I’m talking to myself right now, or at least writing myself a love note about how great my insights about reality television are. Regardless, my opinion this week is that I had one, and that opinion, in my opinion, was wrong.
Fornarola is a member of the class of 2009.