02/22/2017

Why queer love needs to hit the mainstream

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Growing up in the Philippines means that you get acquainted with love teams very early on. For me, it was the GMA noontime show T.G.I.S.’s Bobby Andrews and Angelu de Leon as Joaquin and Peachy were my original OTP (one true pairing), way before I even knew what an OTP was. Their dynamic involved a lot of annoying pa-cute, but their chemistry — even at its most innocent — was palpable. I think this is a familiar feeling for many young people growing up: finding a “real” relationship in the form of a love team that they’d like to have in real life.

This is the underrated power of love teams; we root for them because we like to think that even offscreen, they’re just as sweet and loving. That’s the real fantasy they’re selling, that the fantasy is, in fact, real. But in a sea of Jadines, Kathniels, and AlDubs, where are those whose ideal versions of love aren’t quite what they see on TV? Representation for all kinds of love in local television, including those in the LGBT community, has never been as essential as it is now.

Any failure in today’s current roster of love teams lies solely on a lack of diversity. It’s not easy to launch a love team, let alone become a successful one. Because of that, there seems to be a tendency to stick to what works — traditional romantic tropes, basically. If one is to look at today’s most successful love teams, they play with variations of a good girl/bad guy with a heart of gold dynamic, or a strong willed woman paired against a boy with a knight in shining armor complex. It’s a very homogenous narrative.

This is why having an LGBT love team would be the perfect disruption to the existing narrative. It isn’t because love teams don’t work, but because they work so well at making fantasies feel real. More so, it would be a strong political statement, one that helps normalize LGBT relationships in the same way we have always perceived heterosexual relationships. This isn’t the tokenism that we see right now, where gay best friends are expected to make the punchline when the heroines fall short. To show on television that two men or two women can fall in love, get married, and have a family says, “Hey this is perfectly normal.” Guess what, it is.

We can’t even argue that this wouldn’t be widely accepted. In the last few years, the response to LGBT stories have always been strong. Dennis Trillo and Tom Rodriguez’ forbidden romance in the GMA show My Husband’s Lover was perhaps the first mainstream show that portrayed a homosexual relationship; these days, more and more filmmakers are making films and shows that portray LGBT relationships. GMA also created The Rich Man’s Daughter, which portrayed a love affair between two women. Independent gay men’s magazine TEAM recently put up a web show called Hanging Out that portrays gay relationships in a post-coming out period. In the last few local film festivals (Cinema One Originals, Metro Manila Film Festival), LGBT films were some of the most well-received.

There is clearly an audience for LGBT in media, as seen in the way films and shows have been received these days. What’s the next step? Keep the ball rolling, letting more and more people normalize these relationships. It’s about time we realize that there are a lot of different people watching TV — and they’re waiting for their ideal romance to come on-screen.

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