Thursday, August 19, 2010

How to become a lesbian in 60 minutes..?

I don't watch high-brow TV. I watch TV when I feel like turning off my brain and having something just to keep my eyes busy. So last night, I stumbled across "Dawn Goes Lesbian" on Watch.

The premise of the show was the Dawn Porter - a straight woman - would see if she could understand lesbians, and see whether she was capable of becoming one herself.

So - rather than just ask herself the question "I'm a woman, do I fancy other women?" - she decided to go on a personal quest - complete with TV crew - to find out about lesbians and see if she was capable of falling for another woman.

Whilst Dawn herself seemed likeable enough, the show was beyond trash and at times went beyond patronising into the borders of offensive.

To investigate whether she was a lesbian, she moved into a house with some lesbians (did she think it was contagious and so she may catch it from one of them..?) and then went out to a lesbian bar to see what lesbians do on a night out. Apparently, lesbians like to drink, dance, chat and sometimes snog other lesbians - who'd have thought it..?

When one of the women in the club tried chatting up Dawn, she acted as though she'd been physically attacked. In her piece to camera afterwards, she seemed genuinely surprised that lesbians may want to chat up other women. If she didn't want to get chatted up by lesbians then making herself look pretty and spending the evening in a lesbian bar was probably a bad move.

At one point, she strapped down her breasts, put a lemon down her knickers and dressed like a man to see if that'd make her feel more like a lesbian. Yes, really.

And so the show went on. She took a job for a night in a lesbian club, and snogged a couple of women. But the show was starting to come to an end - her month long quest to turn herself into a lesbian was starting to look like a failure.

All of these low-budget documentaries have to end with an epiphany towards the end, and this one was no exception. In the last couple of days in the house, Dawn suddenly realised (decided?) that she was quite taken with one of the other women in the house, and they snogged and then cuddled up together. How convenient that she should find herself attracted to another woman at exactly the right point to make an interesting narrative.

The fundamental problem with this documentary was that it was trying to make something out of nothing. Our lovely Dawn was not a lesbian - spending a month living in a house with lesbians did not turn her into a lesbian and she found snogging other woman fun but didn't fall for any of the other women. Which is hardly surprising, given that she's not a lesbian.

So - you could say it was all harmless fun - and why do I care so much about a low-rent documentary. But I found the whole thing treated lesbians as strange, mysterious creatures who needed to be discovered and analysed. I don't think this was malicious on the part of the documentary makers, I think it was borne out of the desire - as I said earlier - to turn something really rather simple - "some women fancy other women" - into something more complicated. It's just a shame that nobody involved in the production of the documentary was able to stand back and say "hang on, is just just a little bit offensive"...

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