ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON 11/09/09
Two seasons and like four years ago, The Venture Brothers, an adults-only cartoon that has always prided itself on being as hillariously offensive as possible, introduced a transexual character. We met him as a dude, actually, Colonel Hunter Gathers of the OSI, a thinly-veiled parody/hommage to Hunter S. Thompson. (So thinly veiled that I don't know why they bothered, apart from the name "Hunter Gathers" is pretty damn funny). I assume - without being interested enough to look in to it - that this is the first major recurring transexual in a cartoon.
Yes, yes, I know, Homer Simpson's cousin Frank/Francine/Sister Shabooboo came first, but that's just a one-off gag, you know? Maybe two-off, it's not a recurring character, not a major element of the stories, just a cheap laugh and move on.
On the show "Defying Gravity," one of the characters, a hot German chick who's unusually overtly sexual, has been having hallucinations, all of which involve her with a full beard and no discernable breasts. The assumption is that she was born a guy, but had a sex change at some point prior to the start of the show's story.
On the show "Flash Forward" there's a doctor named "Bryce," who, as the series began, was fixing on killing himself in an oddly public location. He saw something in his flash forward that calmed him, and made him happy, and now he wants to live, though we're not told what it was (As yet). Several astute viewers have pointed out that (A) a recent storyline involved a character who was gradually changing from white to black, and only Bryce believed in this, and (B) that Bryce drew a picture of a woman from his vision in his sketch pad who's not...ehem...particularly feminine looking, to be polite. The strong suspicion here is that it's Bryce himself - he wants to be a chick.
What the hell is going on? Why the hell is this going on?
Well, as we've discussed here in the past, Science Fiction is, by it's very nature, kind of liberal. This isn't something to take issue with - if you're an SF writer, or an SF fan even, the you're sitting around all day dreaming up neat new ideas of how life can be lived, what the definition of human is, and all sorts of cutting edge stuff like that. That doesn't leave a lot of room for extoling the virtues of old verities, and while such things are underepresented due to media and cultural bias, it's not like we can say SF authors are *wrong* to do this. SF is, at its very root, all about change. Change is, at its very root, the opposite of conservative. hat's fine, that's the way it should be, really, despite what the naysayers may believe of us, none of us really oppose this in general because we've seen the opposite - thoroughly awful, stifling "Lawful Science Fiction" - generally, but not always religious - where people try to screw the entire universe of possibilities down in to their own pre-existing worldview. So that's just as bad, really. Maybe worse, since it's kind of inherently disingenuous in an "I'm pretending to ask questions, but I'm really just towing the party line" sense.
SF is about asking questions, and there's certainly nothing wrong with that. Check some of the other conservative boards around, you'll find that I'm frequently annoying the hell out of the locals by doing just that.
But, in a larger sense, some of that 'asking questions' nature can very easily be subverted, corrupted, put to work carrying an agenda beyond simple inquiry or the quest for wisdom. Again, this isn't a new thing, or something I'm particularly alarmed about, it's just the way things are and the way things have always been. I mean, people aren't giving this stuff away for free, right? People are writing SF to make money, the worker is deserving of his wages and all. Even Jules Verne got censored to avoid pissing off his potential markets (Ever wonder why Captain Nemo had a race change between books? Ever wonder why he went from being a Pole to being an Indian? Didn't want to anger the Russians...)
But sometimes a person isn't being terribly open in their questioning, they're being rhetorical, but not letting you know that. They put forth straw man arguments for their adversries, or they simply pretend to be asking The Big Questions, when, in fact, they're towing the party line, just like the disingenuous religious SF does.
Which is kind of sad, really.
The Left largely defines itself by it's opposition to the Right. To a somewhat lesser extent, the Right does this as well, but I like to believe that at root our not inherently negative ("I'm not this, neither am I that, nor will I be the other"), and that our views are based on an actual culture and on tradition. I'll be the first one to admit we're not always right, but I do think we have some solid roots to justify our positions, even if, ultimately, all positions are based on faith. The Left, by and large, simply defines itself by not being us. If we accept this as true, it's an exclusionary viewpoint, a negative one since it doesn't tell you what you are, only what you're closed off to.
Of course part of this is picking fights, and when those fizzle down, picking other fights. The whole 'gay thing' was the issue in the 90, both in SF and entertainment as a whole. Suddenly every show had to include gay storylines, gay characters, blah blah blah. We've seen it. I jokingly called it the "International Homosexual Agenda" on this site a while back. But what does a liberal do when suddenly their agenda becomes old hat? Well, obviously, they move on to the next thing that they know will bug the hell out of us.
Because, let's face it, Gay is passe. No one's really willing to fight too terribly much about it anymore, even a lot of gay people (Including a couple I know) are sick of it. Gay people still can't get married, really, but it does seem like victory is theirs, and given the short attention span Hollywood and the Left have, a victory in the future is as good as one in the present, so time to move on.
Where to next? Bisexuals? No, that seems wishy-washy and a step backwards. Necrophiliacs? No, that's too much...for now. Beastiality folk? Again, too much...for now, but not for long. Furries? Better, but still a bit much...hm, oh, hey, I know! How about people who have surgically altered their own bodies to resemble the opposite gender! Sure! Yeah!
And there you have it: "Gay" is so very 2008. "Transexual" is the new "Gay."
Just thought I should warn you, since we'll unfortunately be seeing more of this in the years to come.