Pathos was, to Dean Martin, the worst kind of flag-waving. Just keep em laughing, was his philosophy. Keep it cool...
Flag-waving, in this instance, means the kind of performance that is excessive, or even fanatical, in begging for an audience's love. In other words, the kind Lewis gave 95% of the time and from which Martin distanced himself.
I said I was going to try to post about what style of show business I think each man represents; well, Lewis is the side that makes me feel ashamed of even wanting to be in show business. There's undeniable talent, but there's no charm, there's no coaxing, there's no, for lack of a better word...seduction. Martin, on the other hand, was all about seduction. There's little charm or seduction (not speaking only sexually) on The L Word, either
As a writer, if I have to lay something out (no play on words intended) for an audience, I'd rather not do it. And yes, this is another thing I hate about The L Word: They flag-wave their pathos, and the characters speak in billboards.
One woman tells her mother her shrink "doesn't have a problem with my sexuality." Another stands and makes a big speech to her father insisting that he recognize her love for her then-estranged partner as just as gosh-darned real as his for her late mother. A third...well, this is my favorite. A character on the show is, in the first season, gay but not comfortable being physically affectionate with women in public. She has a speech that begins...it actually begins..."I'm gay, and when I deny that, I deny the best part of myself..."
Cut to Ben shouting "Oh, shut up!" at the screen.
I suppose I can see how some people might see scenes like these as breaths of fresh air or even that these women are insisting upon their dignity, but to me they're doing just the opposite...and they're about as subtle as Jerry Lewis.
And that's saying nothing about last season's "male gaze" subplot with the male housemate hiding cameras to spy on a few of the women having sex. Get it, get it, huh, cause straight guys only think of the lesbians as sex objects...get it, get it, huh? Clever.
Dignity of characters is of increasing importance to me, and one thing I think you'll never (or rarely) see mine do is beg for someone's esteem or respect. I'm not just talking about my gay characters, but yeah, Keitha would die first.
I like characters who know they're deserving of estreem and respect, and if you don't, they have no time for you. I like brave characters, which I think Keitha is (for that matter so is Nancy-for those one or two of you who know my first play). And one of the rules of bravery, at least for me, is that you don't talk about it.
It's not exactly a new observation, but one of the reasons Martin & Lewis hit so big is because they balanced each other. Martin had in spades the dignity that Lewis simply never wore comfortably, even on those rare occasions when he tried.
If Lewis represents the shameful side of show business then Martin, oddly, represents the side to which I aspire. He pleased, but was not eager to please.
The L Word is not exactly a guilty pleasure for me (it's not like, say, the Blue Collar Comedy Tour movies...). It's more like...you know when you have a sore tooth and you can't stop touching it with your tongue? That's the feeling I have when I look in on an episode; how long can I watch this before having to zap away or mute?
Why do I keep trying? I dunno. Maybe because it seems like I should like it (which, of course, is a dumb reason to do absolutely anything). Maybe I'm just trying to figure out why it's successful enough in the ratings and with the critics not to be cancelled. Certainly I think I know something about the eagerness of lesbians to see themselves represented on television, even if it's not on a great, or even good show.
Maybe I'm just looking for a window into a world that I can use when returning to "my girls." Maybe because on a show that prides itself on offering six-or-so different lesbian or bisexual women characters, I can't believe I can't find one to identify with...given my writing proclivities.
Of course not, stupid, you don't identify with "lesbians" you identify with us. Face it, it's a commitment.
Shut up, Keitha.