Monday, March 9, 2009

Thanks, Diablo!

Okay - so I am not the biggest fan of Diablo Cody. I love the characters she creates. But the "look at me I'm a clever writer!" thing she has going on is like sideways rain hitting you square in the eye.

That being said, I must thank both her and Steven Spielberg for The United States of Tara. The show has received mixed reviews. Amongst my friends and colleagues there is little consensus - which may actually indicate genuine artistic innovation - though few can doubt the genius of the multi-talented Ms. Toni Collette. I am a junkie for the show, but it is not for my general enjoyment that I offer thanks.

(Spoiler alert!)

The homosexual story line in this show has unfolded in a truly unique way - one that gives me great hope for how gays get television treatment in the future. As we discover that fourteen year-old Marshall (the adorably dorky Keir Gilchrist) has a crush on fellow thespian Jason (Andrew Lawrence - yeah, Joey's younger hunky brother) - it appears the show will predictably adopt the "coming out" subplot. I figured it was prefect as a way to exacerbate Tara's Dissociative Identity Disorder - and it has certainly provided interesting moments for Tara's "alter", Buck, who is homophobic. But as I waited to see Marshall being forced to grapple with his dark homosexual secret - turns out his whole family already knows. And it's never really addressed. Not in terms of it being an issue. It's presented as a non-issue. They learn he has a crush. His older sister makes deliberate - and yet oddly affectionate - homophobic stabs at him in the nature of sibling ribbing. His mother says things like, "If he likes you, he won't care about the stings" - (referring to a bee incident). And then this latest episode - #9 - it happened.

Jason, you see, is a preacher's kid. Marshall is crushing hard on him - enough to even participate in the church's Hell House (the moral haunted houses of the South where they show homosexuals burning in hell, etc.) - and in recent episodes, Marshall tries to figure things out by saying things to Jason like, "I hate labels. If there were no labels on the food in the store, many people would try things and find out they like it." Poor Marshall - I tried all that when I was in high school. Can I get him in bed if I talk philosophically? HA!

So - Episode 9. Marshall and Jason are doing a project. Marshall and Jason drink from the parents' liquor cabinet. Jason falls asleep beside him. Marshall is in heaven. And Marshall takes the plunge. He kisses the sleeping Jason - who wakes up and...kisses him back.

It was one of the sweetest things I've seen since Beautiful Thing. And who knows if Jason will turn out to be actually gay (will the liquor be his excuse?) but the moment was captured with such purity and innocence - it was simply truthful. But better was what happened after. We see Marshall's Dad come home - he runs into an awkward and guilty looking Jason who is leaving. He's very nice to Jason - knowing it's his son's love interest. Dad discovers Marshall inside drinking tea and looking dazed. And eventually Dad says, "Shit. You got it bad don't you?" Marshall nods - between crying and laughing with the joy of his first kiss - and Dad says so lovingly, "There's nothing like love."

And of course, my face is streaming with tears. Could the show exploit my issues any further? I mean seriously? Gay issues. The much unrequited love of high school. And of course - DAD ISSUES. All rolled into one. It left me a mess. But past my own personal connection to the refreshing to see this family not give a shit about their son's sexuality. They want him to be happy. They honor him with no fuss.

Thanks Diablo. Thanks Steven.

--from a sappy thirty-six year old 'mo who is happy younger 'mos will have better television to watch than he did at their age.


Mead said...

That photograph above, of Marshall reading Sybil, is hilarious. That must be from an earlier episode that I've yet to see. Thanks to you, I'm totally addicted to this show, and wait all week for the next episode, but I came in midway. Can't wait for them to start the repeats.

Yeah, I agree: that Diablo is all right.

Dann said...

Ride On! with your assessment and review of the TARA epsidoe of Marshall and Jason. I felt the same way. Can't wait to see the next episode. How refresing it is to watch this kind of progressive televison!