Dear Hollywood

Meet that sassy subversive construction of femininity: the femme


I’m not a lesbian but I play one on TV.

Wait, is that right? No, no, I am a lesbian and I occasionally play one on TV. Very occasionally.

There was my brief stint as a baby dyke on the first season of The L-Word. Most recently I played a scripture-quoting ex-gay who had given up my filthy lesbian ways. Oh, and I guess you could count the time I played Velma’s number one fan in Scooby Doo. We’ve all long had our suspicions about Velma, haven’t we? Jinxies!

However, the lesbian parts I get to play are rare. It’s not for lack of trying; I audition to play dykes all the time. But apparently I’m not very good at it.

Now, I’m not one of those people who are all up in arms about the supposed misrepresentation of lesbians on The L-Word. The show is set in Los Angeles. Ever been to LA? That’s what the lesbians look like.

So I’m fine with The L-Word and its very naturally applied mascara world. I see that show as a wedge shoved into the Hollywood door and, now that it’s firmly in there, hopefully the gap will keep widening and we’ll see more and varied representations of lesbos in films and TV.

But I’m not holding my breath. It looks like we’re all going to be straight-ironing our hair for a while longer, girls.

Butches complain all the time that they’re not represented in the L-shows but I can attest to the fact that parts are being written for them. There is no shortage of Diesel Dyke, Tough Butch, Mannish Woman parts being written in Hollywood. The fact is, there’s nobody to play them! An industry where the ideal female is malnourished yet perky is not the ideal career choice if you’re butch.

There is also a general lack of a clue as to what butches actually are. At a recent film audition I stood listening as a casting assistant explained the two roles being cast. “X is a lesbian. She’s feminine, she’s attractive, she’s sexy,” she told us. “Y is the opposite; she’s butch.”

So what happens when they need a butch actress? They call me, of course.

Yes, one of the perks of being an actual, for real, honest-to-god lesbian is I get to audition whenever there are lesbians flitting about a script. Oh, not any of the lead lesbians. Or the attractive lesbians. Or any of the lesbians who ever get to kiss anyone. No, just the butches.

There was the knuckle cracking, no-nonsense butch bouncer. Didn’t get it.

There was the won’t-take-no-for-an-answer butch hitting on the uninterested lead. Didn’t get that either.

 

The list of butches I haven’t been cast as is endless.

Now, you may be asking yourself what business a cutesy, curvy femme like me has auditioning to play butches and you wouldn’t be alone. I ask myself that every damn time I head out the door, photo and résumé in hand.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll audition for pretty much whatever’s going, but the fact that I never land any of these parts makes a girl wonder. I dress the part, I know my material, I understand what my character wants out of the scene and I go in and do my best.

Then later I watch someone else play the part when the show airs and I laugh at my utter inability to play a dyke and wonder how many decades it will be before queer girls like me get on TV.

Yes, despite the regular appearance of the unattractive butch, there is no sign of her sassy subcultural counterpart-the femme.

Now, I’m not talking about the pretty, just-this-side-of-androgynous women or the lipstick lesbians. I think it is safe to say that group of queers is well represented.

Sure, there’s something to be said for the “they look just like us!” depiction of dykes but, you know, some of us don’t. Some of us stand out in our femininity as much as butches stand out in their masculinity.

It’s a certain subversive construction of femininity we do that defies the traditional “masculine equals active, feminine equals passive” idea. While usually misunderstood as a replication of traditional heterosexual roles, there’s something very queer about us femmes. We pick and choose our gender traits from the cornucopia of what’s available and create ourselves as women who are anything but straight.

So here’s a hot tip for you, Hollywood. Be the first on your block to have femmes in your screenplay! We’re sexy, we’re strong, we’re a threat to the heterosexual paradigm! And we’re an integral part of the queer community.

Oh, and I’ve got just the actress you should see.

Read More About:
Culture, Power, Identity, Arts, Vancouver

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