The Real World Goes Butch

For my inaugural post on Good Vibrations, I thought I’d cover a light topic, like masculine butch representation in popular culture. You ready?


I’m only sort of talking about that subject today. A friend of mine posted the trailer for the newest season of The Real World on Facebook today, and I couldn’t help but watch. (I know what you’re thinking, and yes, that show really is still on television.)

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Apparently The Real World: San Diego features two queers\’a butch lesbian named Samantha, and a (possibly?) bisexual man named Frank. Both of these characters offer what could be really intriguing and interesting portraits of people not often seen in mainstream media. Or, as I am more inclined to believe, it will be yet another wasted opportunity in the name of ratings.

I’m surprised by the appearance of a butch-presenting lesbian on The Real World at all, actually. Ever since the late 90s, the show has unarguably focused its attention away from exploring and confronting sociopolitical issues, and towards hot people having lots of drunk sex on television. The people featured on the show are generally conventionally attractive, and fall into distinct types. Sam definitely falls into a type (the faux-hawk sporting, club-hopping, butch player), but not one that is generally considered conventionally attractive. (Not that I don’t find her attractive. I think I’d have my dyke card pulled if I didn’t.)

Only time will tell how her presence in the house is handled. I am interested in how they will portray her identity and sexuality on the show. Will the audience see the same amount of skin and action we see when straight couples are filmed? Will her masculinity become an issue for the straight men in the house? Will the women of the house feel uncomfortable sleeping in the same room as her? Will we get to see the inside of a dyke bar on a television show that isn’t on Logo?

From the brief trailer, the producers seem to at least give her sexuality and sexual prowess equal coverage (there are gratuitous shots of her making out with different women). And it also appears that there is some kind of confrontation between her and a male roommate that could possibly address the subject of what happens when a traditionally masculine man is confronted with a non-traditionally masculine woman. At one point he appears to directly address her masculinity by shouting, “What are you gonna do about it?!? And later, she tells her roommates, “This is who I am!

Regardless of how the show handles her sexuality, it is refreshing to see a masculine butch-presenting lesbian on a mainstream television show. Even queer-centered programming has often failed at portraying this vital part of our community. (I’m looking at you, Ilene Chaiken.) For the first time in at least five years, I just might tune in to watch The Real World.

How about you? Are you interested in seeing how they portray a butch woman on television? Or has the show’s modus operandi for the past several years turned you off too much to tune in?

Good Vibrations

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