The Following’s (Homo/Bi)Sexuality “Deviance” Problem

(Minor spoilers ahead.  If you don't want to have some minor details ruined for you, don't read beyond this point.)

The Following is good.  Damned good.  I'm almost finished with the first season of this Kevin Bacon vehicle, and I love everything from the premise (Joe Carroll, played by James Purefoy, is a charismatic, Poe-obsessed serial killer who uses his genius to create a flock of followers to do his bidding while he rots in prison) to a deep exploration of the cast (including the followers) to the downright cleverness of the plot (Caroll sees everything as a narrative, with rising and falling
action, etc.).  As a picky TV viewer, I had high hopes for this show, and so far it is delivered in every way...except one.[1]
I'm probably not the only one talking about The Following's "gay" problem.  And I'm certainly not the only one talking about the poor representation of LGBT people in television as a whole (though this is changing).  What The Following does with its gay and bisexual characters, however, serves the fantasies of those who perceive non-hetero sexuality as a deviance of the worst order.  All of the LGBT characters in the series also happen to be serial killers (either literally or in the making).  While that's not necessarily horrible by itself, the fact that the only characters shown engaging in threesomes spurred on by nostalgic longing for murder does.  These characters are never presented as sexually "normal" (i.e., they do not subscribe to mainstream ideas regarding social behavior or coupling -- yes, I realize defining this as "normal" is always already problematic).

All the good guys, however screwed up they may be, are seen either pursuing monogamous relationships, expressing socially acceptable interest in the opposite sex, or expressing no interest whatsoever.  Even Ryan Hardy (Bacon), who has a longstanding romantic interest with Joe Carroll's former wife, adheres to these standards, demonstrating a noticeable discomfort with the prospect of having a relationship with a serial killer's ex.  Basically, the "deviant" behavior of the protagonist -- made clear by the fact that he refuses to disclose or discuss it with anyone else -- is never shown with the same phobic gaze that pervades the LGBT scenes.  His romantic interests aren't the sorts of things expected of his sexual persuasion, and he damn well knows it (it's almost as if he's having an affair and, naturally, doesn't want anyone else to know about it; he sort of gets over this over time, though).
And that's the thing:  this is about the phobic gaze (homophobic, you might say).  The LGBT characters are hypersexualized, sadistic, and manipulative, and these behaviors are normalized as, at least in part, associated with their sexualities.  While I doubt this was the intention on the part of the writers, it is nevertheless there, and something the writers must address to avoid this absurd paradigm within which heterosexuals are justified in "abnormal behavior" by their apprehension, but homosexuals are condemned as "wrong" simply because they give in to those behaviors (or enjoy them because they are murderers) and are not particularly bothered by it (except Jacob, played by Nico Tortorella, who seems uncomfortable with his homosexuality -- however, his discomfort doesn't seem to have anything to do with whether engaging in such behavior is wrong, but with whether he himself is gay or simply putting on an act.  For context:  Jacob and Paul, two of Carroll's disciples, played a gay couple in order to get close to Carroll's ex-wife so they could kidnap her child (a.k.a. Carroll's son); in a sense, the question of sexuality as a performance is layered throughout the narrative of The Following, but the question is only asked of the LGBT characters / serial killers, not the heteronormative couples elsewhere).
But this problem has a solution.  While it is pretty much impossible to reveal Bacon's character as a homosexual (he could, at most, be bisexual), the same is not true for some of the other "protagonists."  Revealing other protagonists as non-hetero won't fully absolve the series from falling into the non-hetero-as-deviant trap, but it will provide a more colorful picture of people by having villains and heroes who are hetero, gay, etc.  Instead of a narrative of deviant sexuality, you would have a narrative about deviant behavior in the broadest sense.

And that's all I've got to say on this subject (for now).


[1]:  I started watching this show months and months ago, so this post is about something I noticed at about the sixth episode.  It's an old thought, but still a relevant one, I think.

10 TV Shows I’m Looking Forward to in 2013

There are so many things to watch this year, but I don't have a billion hours to stream every single TV show being made right now.  I've got to be picky.  Very picky.

The following are my top picks for the year.  Do with it what you will...

Here goes:
Sherlock (Season Three)(BBC)
Need I explain why I cannot wait for the third season of Sherlock?  Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are simply amazing as Sherlock and Watson, so much so that I cannot imagine anyone else in the role.  Plus, I am chopping at the bit to find out what happens next!

Bonus Point:  A clever, modern take on the classic character is always fun.

Game of Thrones (Season Three)(HBO)
I've reviewed enough Game of Thrones to make it clear that I would probably sell a kidney to afford cable for the remainder of the show.  The first two seasons were amazingly good, with knockout performances from a wide range of cast members.  Fantasy television has never been this good.  Ever.

Bonus Point:  Finding serious, well-written, compelling fantasy TV is impossible...until now.

Defiance (Syfy)
Original programming on Syfy.  By that I mean original programming that isn't B-movie drivel that makes Christmas TV Movie season look like a joyride...  I'm intrigued by the premise, if only because I have some vain hope that it will be much better than Fallen Skies, which may be the most predictable TV show next to Walking Dead...

Bonus Point:  Syfy is taking the show seriously enough to work with Trion Worlds to create an MMO to run alongside.  Pretty cool.

Color me psychotic, but I love dark crime thrillers.  The Following feels something like Millenium, but with a stronger, more connected storyline.  The idea is intriguing.  Plus, James Purefoy plays the villain, which should work just fine!

Bonus Point:  Kevin Bacon.  I've loved the man since Tremors.

Anyone who knows me also knows that I call them communists every chance I get.  Why?  Because I find it amusing to resort to political hackery for the sake of comedy.  Thus, The Americans has a plot similar enough to my hobby to make it interesting enough to try.  Considering that there is so much garbage on TV right now, I could really use a good old fashioned non-genre drama with a little political spunk to it!

Bonus Point:  Keri Russel = heaven.

Doctor Who (Season Seven Part Two)(BBC)
Doctor Who has fallen in the ranks for me.  I really love the show, and Matt Smith is a decent Doctor, but the stories are getting a little tired for me.  If I see one more Dalek, I'm going to throw something, if only because every major series surprise always includes the Daleks.  That's not entertaining anymore.

But I'll keep watching and hoping that things will improve.  I'm hoping for some amazing story connections, some brilliant plotting, and some old time Doctor fun!  We'll see...

Bonus Point:  It's science fiction and still better than 90% of the stuff on TV that has the audacity to call itself science fiction...

I'm quite fascinated with BBC productions at the moment (if this list isn't enough of an indication).  Some of the best writing is found there, and I suspect Ripper Street will be no exception.  The show follows the aftermath of the Ripper murders, which tells me that it will be less about the Ripper himself than about how a police force regains its respectability after failing to bring the Ripper to justice.  Intriguing, methinks.

Bonus Point:  Jerome Flynn.  You know, the guy who plays Bronn in Game of Thrones?  I know, right?

Hemlock Grove (Netflix)
The first Netflix beast on this list.  And I really hope it turns out well.  Netflix has the perfect platform for original television; if Hemlock Grove and Arrested Development do well, then say hello to a new generation of online-only entertainment.

But to Hemlock Grove:  it's a kind of urban fantasy crime thriller staring Famke Janssen and Bill Skarsgard. What else do you need to know?

Bonus Point:  Aaron Douglas of Battlestar Galactica fame plays the Sheriff.  Woo!

Orphan Black (BBC America)
BBC America has big shoes to fill with this one.  Its UK mother has already produced some amazing shows, so I'm hoping that Orphan Black is the American branch's response to great cable SF/F.  And it's about clones, which is always fun for us academic types.

Bonus Point:  It's coming soon!

Arrested Development (Season Four)(Netflix)
I do not need to say a damn thing.  It's Arrested Development, and it's coming back to us through Netflix.  Thank you, Netflix!  Thank you so so so much!

Bonus Point:  It's Arrested Development...completed.  What more do you want?


And that does it.  Which TV shows are you looking forward to in 2013?  The comments are yours!