Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Blog Post #3: Workout Episode 4 Season 2

As I sat down to watch the episode of Workout, I expected the show to be a typical stereotype-reinforcing program, simply because so many other reality shows have fallen into that pattern. However, I was somewhat surprised to find that most of the people represented on the show, specifically the gay people, were all unique individuals who did not conform to stereotypes associated with homosexuality. That being said, certain characters did adhere more than others to what society would expect of them, specifically Jesse and Jackie. Jesse, one of the trainers at Sky Sport, is very much the type of gay man that most Americans would expect. He’s extremely concerned with his looks (although for that matter all the characters are since they work at a gym), and he’s very flamboyant and effeminate. Rebecca comments on that fact that Jesse is being too sensitive after she and Jackie sneak off to make out in the bathroom of a restaurant and Jesse is noticeably uncomfortable, leaving almost immediately after they return to the table.

Jackie, the owner of the gym and successful entrepreneur, is openly a lesbian. She fits into the category of the intimidating, butch, short-haired, ‘lesbian for as long as she’s known what the word meant’ type of woman. Her lover Tiffany, on the other hand, as well as Rebecca, both seem like women who are experimenting with lesbianism but have been straight for most of their lives. These two women are more classically beautiful than Jackie, but Tiffany admits to having become more comfortable with who she really is. One of the most positive aspects of the show is that it allows each character to be open with the others and with the audience, and no one feels as though they need to hide anything about their sexual orientation. Jackie more than likely at some point in her life experienced what Linnea Due describes in her article Growing up Hidden. “I functioned as another person, someone I became in the morning and shed in the evening when, safely in my room, I could pore over my romances and daydream about kissing my own raven-haired beauty” (Due 154). This type of existence, at least for a lot of homosexuals, is no longer necessary, and people in the glbt community are now feeling more comfortable than ever before to embrace who they truly are. Shows like Workout may reinforce certain stereotypes, but they also show that all gay people are not cookie cutter versions of all other homosexuals, a fallacious notion to which far too many Americans ascribe.

Jackie does a lot to define who she is as a person, and she is not afraid to assert her beliefs. After Jesse claims that “lesbians can’t just casually date”, Jackie quickly assures him that they can, and that she is simply trying to have fun after being stuck in a five-year relationship that left her depressed and miserable. She is very comfortable with her sexuality, and she even discusses this with her girlfriend and lover Tiffany, telling her how impressed she is that Tiffany has improved in bed. As a general rule, Workout may show certain stereotypes, but it succeeds where Diane Raymond feared it would fail. “Hardly ever shown in the media are just plain gay folks, used in roles which do not center on their deviance as a threat to the moral order which must be countered through ridicule or physical violence” (Raymond 101). In this case, despite the fact that the relationships and interactions on the show can be dramatic at times, they are no different from any other encounters that might occur anywhere else with people of any sexual orientation. For this reason, Workout has been embraced in the gay community as a show that realistically portrays the lives of gay people. Doug Blasdell, a trainer on the show who tragically passed away early this year, perhaps described it best when he said the following: "The people they picked represent our community very well. I mean, there's drama, of course. There is in any community. But the three of us give different examples of what it is to be gay. And none of it is negative" (TV’s Workout…). Blasdell, in referring to himself and the other two homosexual members of the cast, was very proud of the way in which they represented the gay community.

In looking at the show as a whole, anyone could criticize Workout for showing gay people adhering to various stereotypes. However, there are times when all of us, gay, straight or otherwise, act in ways that society expects of us. Workout is no more or less offensive or detrimental than any television show that features characters that conform to various societal norms. But the show revolves around the life of a woman who has created a highly successful company, who is comfortable with her sexuality, and who is not afraid to be brutally honest with herself and everyone around her. Certain questions arose when other characters feared that she might be “turning” Rebecca gay, but the concerns were less about homosexuality itself than about jealousy that Jackie had something they couldn’t have. Ultimately, this show does better than most programs that preceded it, simply by allowing the characters on the show to be themselves. Perhaps if more shows that depicted gay people allowed this to happen, there would be less negativity and ignorance directed towards them for unfounded reasons. There will always be closed-minded people, but by showing homosexuals simply as ordinary people who also happen to be gay, some of these stereotypes can be eliminated.

Works Cited

Due, Linnea. Growing Up Hidden. (1995): 154.

Raymond, Diane. Popular Culture and Queer Representation: A Critical Perspective. (2001): 101.

"TV's "WorkOut" trainer Doug Blasdell dies." www.gay.com. 24 Jan 2007. 12 Nov 2007



Jessie said...

Adam- your post does an awesome job of taking an interestingly different approach to the complexities and contradictions in this show. I think you've really grasped the idea that the multiple conflicting hegemonic and counter hegemonic depictions can coexist in this "hegemony of conflict" (to borrow Lull's words) and that the lgbtq/a community may not forever be relegated to Raymond's analysis of TV several years ago. The one thing I'd point out is that the show is on Bravo...which is a bit different in the scenario of network-power that Raymond discusses in her piece on ABC/NBC/CBS-level power on TV.
Overall Bravo (okay, the pun's intended) Adam! Awesome job with your blog!


Lula said...

Good post.

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