tv

The Lionesses

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I have been thrilled at how the World Cup has been received here in the UK. Record after record was broken, people were talking about it at work and at home and it felt like there was a real buzz in the air. Could this be it? Could this be the time we win? 

Unfortunately it was not to be, and after Tuesday’s heartbreak (and truly I have spent time mourning that loss), I think it is important to reflect on the impact that the Lionesses have made this past month. I wrote before about the Change The Game initiative launched by the BBC at the beginning of May and how excited I was by this prospect. But my expectations have already been exceeded and it’s only the beginning. 11.7 million people tuned in to watch the Semi-Final, just over 50% of the audience share and the most watched programme this year so far, what a result! 

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I have been far more emotionally invested in this World Cup than I thought I would be, but I think that’s because it has been a real watershed moment for women’s sport. When I was growing up (which wasn’t too long ago – I’m not that old), the only time you could see women’s sport on the TV was Wimbledon or the Olympics. Now, across the country there are little girls turning up to football training sessions wanting to be the next Lucy Bronze, Ellen White or Nikita Parris and that just shows that representation does matter. 

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My friends at work and I have been talking about it. Gearing up for every game. Talking about the one that was on the night before. I even got a wall chart (cool right?). I hope that enthusiasm continues not just over the summer but for years to come (anyone fancy going to watch the Euros in 2021 with me?!). The moment that really solidified what an impact this team have had on women’s sport came on Wednesday when I heard an interview on Radio 5 Live. A 17 year old boy called Abe had phoned in when they were talking about Tuesday night’s match, and he said that at the beginning of the World Cup he and his mates laughed at and mocked women’s football. But on Tuesday they were all down at the pub cheering them on, getting annoyed at VAR when the decision went against us and cheering VAR when it went our way. At the beginning of June, he knew nothing about the team, now he knows all their names and the teams they play for and he’s looking to watch the Women’s Super League come winter. Now isn’t that an achievement! They may not win the World Cup but they have changed people’s hearts and minds like you wouldn’t imagine and that’s arguably bigger than any trophy. Although I would still like to see them bring that bronze back!!

Catch the third place play off live on BBC One at 4pm!!

Radio 5 Live: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0006sq4 

Photo credit: @Lionesses (Twitter)

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TV, Film & Sex Education

TV & Film have always been part of our sex education, and now in 2018 some writers are realising their responsibility and the power they have to change the narrative.

On the rare occasion that society discusses sex education, and the papers are full of opinion pieces, the word that always gets thrown around is ‘pornography’; specifically the dangers of its accessibility. The government, teachers and parents are so terrified of what their children are seeing online, that a debate on sex education in parliament will usually turn into a debate on pornography. While this is an important debate to be had, and we are in a unique time when people are using the internet for everything from banking to dating, in all these debates and articles I can’t help but think that society is missing a big part of the puzzle.

To access porn, you have to know where to look, you have to google and browse and be an active user, you are alone in a room. On the other hand, media within the entertainment industry will always be a communal event. You sit down with family to watch the new Sunday night drama or go with friends to see the latest film release. What always follows is conversation between family, friends, and the wider audience, which thanks to social media is more expansive and immediate.

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Porn is not where people go to find great plot devices, the end goal is very simple, and sex is viewed in the abstract. Whereas TV and film in its nature use sex as a plot device and even when a sex scene is clearly put in for titillation (take Game of Thrones for example), the writers will still argue its relevance. In the last seven years or so I have seen a shift in the stories being told; from Lena Dunham’s Girls to Pheobe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag, there is a need for the narrative around sex to change and for women to control the story.

Pheobe Waller-Bridge has said in many interviews that she wrote the original play Fleabag because she wanted to talk about sex. In 2012 when Lena Dunham’s new show Girls aired in the US and the UK, all people could talk about was the awkward sex scenes. Many journalists described them as explicit and awkward, however, there had been more explicit scenes depicted on TV before Girls appeared on our screens. Game of Thrones was being commissioned for its third season, a show in which it was normal to see at least four sex scenes in one episode and seemingly, an actress couldn’t get through an episode without at least once walking into a room of men, having forgotten to have got dressed. The sex scenes in Girls were new and interesting because Lena Dunham was showing her own experiences of sex and many women responded to this with glee because it allowed them to have the conversations that society deemed taboo.

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Caitlin Moran says in her book How To Be a Woman, “the sexual imagery of teenage years is the most potent you’ll ever have. It dictates desires for the rest of your life. One flash of a belly being kissed now is worth a thousand hard-core fisting scenes in your thirties”. Up to a certain age, and I am aware that age is getting younger, parents can control what their children see on the internet and to a certain extent what they see on their TV screens thanks to the 9pm watershed, however, we can’t control everything.

Remember the time when you were younger, on the brink of adolescence, and woke up past your bed to go to the toilet? On your way back to bed you heard the noise of the TV and the chatter of adults, and intrigue led you down the stairs. You poked your head over the bannister and saw your parents and their friends glued to the telly, then you looked up to the screen to see an image that you knew not to be looking at. Laying in bed, your mind boggles and so many questions arise, but you don’t know who to ask. It feels like being on the last word of a crossword puzzle and knowing on seeing the answer it will make sense, but at that moment you feel lost. Instead of talking to your parents and friends out of embarrassment, you seek out the same image in books and films. It takes you years to finally have those conversations with friends and eventually partners when sex has become a reality. Only then do you start to question the scenes you watched and the depictions of sex in your favourite films.

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Now, in 2018, we are having those conversations, whether that be the writers of The Affair making sure every sex scene pushes the narrative along, or Rachel Weisz discussing the importance of the sex between the two female protagonists in her new film Disobedience. I truly think that one of the many reasons famous actresses who have the money and the platform are turning to producing is so they can control the narratives they are telling about female sexuality. Sex is still a taboo subject, and we still cut off conversations with the excuse of being British, but we can’t shut down conversation and then worry about the lack of sex education children are receiving, or what they are seeing when they turn on the TV.

In the wake of the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements, the industry is trying to be more inclusive and give everyone a voice. People are asking for the narrative to change and the choice of stories to grow. The conversations about sex in the last year have revolved around power and abuse and what we want the next generation of women to know and experience. If we want to carry on making change for the better, and the film and TV industry wants to take responsibility, it needs to take sex seriously.

Just as we need diversity in the stories we tell, we need diversity in sex scenes and the relationships we see. Teenage girls and boys should see LGBTQ+ stories more than just once a year, and be shown different relationships and the multiple reasons people choose to have sex with each other. Our government, parents, teachers and most importantly our storytellers can’t be scared of answering questions and giving children the power of information and choice.  

 

Words: Lara Scott
Images: BBC/Two Brothers Ltd, Jessica Miglio/HBO, Sky Atlantic

 

‘The L Word’ is coming back!

The show that gave me hours of joy and the confidence to come out has announced its return and I couldn’t be happier.

It was an ordinary day in October of 2016 when I walked into the living room and told two of my flatmates – I had come to the realisation, and finally had the confidence to say that I was bisexual. Even writing these words I feel myself breathing out. It feels as though I’ve been wearing the wrong size jeans all my life causing me to pull and tug trying to make them fit, but now I’ve added an extra button and everything has fallen into place.

As the weeks went on, I slowly came out to my family and close friends. The more I said the words, the more the jeans started to fit. Of course I had done a lot of thinking and tracing back through my life. I realised that this had always been a part of my me, but I had never been able to admit it to myself. I hadn’t had the words to describe my feelings, I couldn’t put two and two together. As I talked to friends and they asked all their questions, I kept coming back to early 2014.

s1Lquiz480I was living in Bethnal Green with my sister and friends, all of whom had just graduated from University themselves, as I was still completing an access course in order to get there. I was drowning in essays and projects, and my room became my study. The only way to get through it was to escape into TV & Film after a long day of work. I had also just discovered the joys of Netflix and the copious amount of entertainment it had to offer. One night I was trying to choose something to watch when I came across an American TV series called The L Word. The series followed the lives and loves of a group of women; all of whom were gay or bisexual in LA. I should have known that night, having chosen out of hundreds of options to watch such a specific show. A few episodes in I knew something had changed, or to be more precise, something had been found. I couldn’t stop watching this funny, warm, honest and human show.

These women weren’t stereotypes, they were people. As is my want, I started to investigate and discovered just how groundbreaking this show had been when it first aired in 2004 (and continued to be in its six series run). So rarely on American television does a project centred around women, with an entirely female main cast, creatives, and crew get commissioned. The L Word storylines echoed my own, at exactly the right time, and when I needed it the most. I was investigating and asking questions and the women of the L Word gave me the answers.

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As with all ensemble shows, you pick a favourite character, and as is true for many The L Word viewers, mine was Shane played by the wonderful Katherine Moennig. At the start of the first series, Shane is introduced as the Lothario of the group; a woman who other women are drawn to, if only for one night. As the series goes on she becomes so much more, and evolves into a three dimensional beloved character. I related to her because she was the youngest cast member, like me in her early twenties, and unlike the other women, had no intentions to settle down.

She is a character who is comfortable in her own skin, never compromises herself for others, and a woman who always goes by the beat of her own drum. If truth be told, it was love at first sight and a love which grew with every series. From one night stands to almost saying ‘I do’, Shane’s storylines were never boring but funny, moving and at times heart-breaking. I was overjoyed when she appeared on the screen and missed her when she wasn’t.

As the series went on I felt as if the women of The L Word had become friends whom I was checking in on with every episode. I came to love them all in their own way, but Shane would always be different. Here was a woman who I fell for as soon as she came on screen, the first woman I had been attracted to, and someone I could imagine myself with. Of course I know that falling for a character and a real human being are two very things, and that we project so much onto actors who portray much-loved characters, but this had never stopped me falling for male actors.

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In July it was announced that The L Word would be coming back, which caused both celebration and outrage in the LGBTQ+ community. Commentators have been looking back at the series and wondering what this new series will bring, how it will speak to a new generation of lesbian and bisexual women, and most importantly how it will fit into the cultural and political landscape of 2017. For all the good that The L Word did, like all cultural phenomenas, it had it’s problems. I hope in it’s new incarnation we see more WOC within the main cast, rather than one a series (with the exception of Kit), and I hope they give the trans community a character who doesn’t just struggle but thrives.

I for one am beyond excited by the idea of more The L Word coming my way. When I heard the news on a Tuesday morning, having only just recovered from London pride, I was in the middle of my own The L Word re-watch and was preparing myself for the end. Logging onto Twitter I saw the excitement from fans and cast alike, and couldn’t believe I would once again be ‘loving, living, laughing’ with Shane, Bette and Alice and a whole new host of women I could fall in love with. I immediately messaged my old flatmate who shared in my newfound excitement in finding The L Word in 2014, just as she had in previous years. We were both excited to have Shane back in our lives and even talked of having a The L Word screening party when the release day arrives.

 

Words by Lara Scott
Images by Showtime