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Listener Feedback: How Sexuality is Portrayed on Lost Girl

June 13, 2013 by Drinks at The Dal

Bo and Dyson in Where There's a Will, There's a Fae

Photo Credit: FUNimation Productions

Our next two podcasts (I promise) are going to discuss different aspects of how sexuality is portrayed on the show, and we would love to hear what you think. Lost Girl has been applauded for its attitude toward sex because Bo has a lot of sex with a lot of people and she isn’t portrayed as a bad person or punished for it.

So what do you think about how Bo’s sexuality is portrayed? Do you agree that the show is successful at portraying Bo’s sex life positively and not slut-shaming her? How does Bo being empowered sexually lead to her being empowered in other arenas? Do you think other characters on Lost Girl are similarly empowered?

Tell us what you think in the comments, send us a voice message through your computer or mobile device, or email us with your thoughts.


9 comments

  1. ecoody says:

    Such a great episode, highlighting something I love about this show– that it allows us viewers to dream and flesh out a world where women and men can have positive sex-lives in a variety of ways. Granted, sometimes those ways have to go to the Fae-world to be thinkable, but the show still gives us new ways to imagine our world. It’s progressive and ultimately might save us all. I love it.

    Thanks for doing something nuance the religion portrayed as hurting Bo (especially in “There’s Bo Place Like Home”) as fundamentalist rather than simply generic Christian, but I think we could go even further than that. On the one hand, I’m not entirely convinced that this is any sort of real Christianity necessarily. There’s no mention of which religion this is that attributes fornication to “the Devil.” There are no symbols in her mother’s house to indicate anything. Aside from one mention of being in a church on a Sunday, it’s all just sort of a generic mean, cultural impression of the worst of religious sexual oppression– a common trope on Western TV in general. On the other hand, I’d be silly to deny what they’re obviously saying about North American Christianity. As far as I can see, they’re saying two things:
    1)One obvious- It’s very sexually repressed and demonizes sexuality
    2)One possible, but not confirmed- It’s also a source for values and ideals.

    1) I wish we could meet non-nefarious or repressed Christians on Lost Girl, but the impression is hard to miss in our contemporary climate. Lots of mean people (many of whom honestly think they are helping, somehow) claim that their Christianity tells them that everyone needs to have heterosexual, vanilla sex within marriage that produces offspring for the world to be great. This is no the universal view of “the Church” I should add. It’s simply a very vocal piece of a much larger Church that includes a wide range of people who do not think this way at all. I could start a list, but why not just check out this organization for an example? (http://www.religiousinstitute.org).

    2) Bo is very idealistic and morally centered. Where did this come from? If her biological mother and (maybe monstrous) father are any hint, we can assume it’s not nature. But, her adoptive mother was so horrible there at the end that her words scarred Bo for years. How’d she get so idealistic? Where does it come from? They never say, but she got it from somewhere. Why not her upbringing in an unseen nurturing church-home rather than her strict home-home? I’m not sure, but there’s my very long two cents!

    • Melanie says:

      (To anyone else who may have stumbled across this months later, forgive my ramblings. I think ecoody and I got off track a little, but I like where it went/is going.)

      One interesting thing about television is it shies away from specifying religion unless it’s going to demonize it or try and play against the audience’s expectations (muslim bearded guy arrested on suspicion of being terrorist, actually a NICU doctor and patriot! etc). The exception is Catholicism.

      If North American TV (and most European, in my experience) is going to default to a religion, it’s usually Catholicism because of the broadly recognizable visual shorthand: priest’s collar or nun’s habit, genuflecting, crucifix, etc. [There’s also a deeper well of story possibilities for something like L&O to delve into: celibacy! boarding schools! sexual abuse! confessions! etc, but that’s kind of off topic.]

      Since Lost Girl, as you mention, doesn’t show any symbol of any kind, when it really would have been quite easy especially in There’s Bo Place Like Home, I think we must assume they intend to indict generalized religious fundamentalism, and thus that’s the term and theory I roll with. But then, it’s pretty clear they’re basing the model on small-town fundamentalist Christianity, and it ‘feels’ distinctly Baptist to me, because that’s how I was raised. I’m guessing it could ‘feel’ distinctly Lutheran or Catholic as well, what with the lack of specificity, and the more people who can connect with your broad concept the better.

      The key is, it’s clearly fundamental, it’s clearly continuing to impact Bo’s life whether she’s aware of it or not and whether she names it or not (I wrote a ton of paragraphs on how it affected Bo’s choice of sides here, if you’re interested – http://mehlsbells.wordpress.com/2013/12/10/lost-girl-season-4-episode-05-let-the-dark-times-roll/ ). And that’s very realistic for someone who spent ~16 years in ‘the system.’

      As for your options of what they’re saying:

      1) I get what you’re saying, about balance in portrayal. But it’s just not narratively interesting within the world they’ve constructed to introduce characters and label them Christian; it ties into what I said at the start. While Kenzi or Lauren* may well be Eastern Orthodox or Lutheran or Buddhist or whatever, TV isn’t going to specify a character as religious unless they are a) very pious b) very asshole c) struggling with their faith or scarred by it in the way Bo is. It forwards nothing, otherwise.

      And in fact, there’s something to that in life. You have to link to point out all the voices in the churches who don’t agree with what the vocal minority is getting broadcast; that’s telling. I probably don’t go around announcing to new people I meet that I’m a Christian _unless_ I’m that type of raging soapbox preacher . . . and part of this is because in this climate, where the people getting the microphone and the attention are saying and doing really awful things with it, it’s not an association you want to make off the bat. And yes, The Church at large does hold some responsibility for this. Where are the leaders condemning racist, homophobic, irrelevant, crass asinine statements? Where are the leaders pushing for equality for women, care for the poor, and destruction of the prison industrial complex? Where are priests pointing out the Pope’s latest comments are PR which barely drag the Catholic church into the 19th century, let alone the 21st?

      I do get what you’re saying, but especially since the church is seemingly bent on letting the backasswards run away with its message, you can’t fault TV for latching on to the sensationalism and narrative goldmine that yields.

      2) I think the flaw in this theory is assuming nature is always biologically identical to the parent. It could be recessive, it could be ‘nature’ is assigned not via biology but by random, it could be a lot of things. Lost Girl is full of Nature v Nurture discussions, and Kenzi would be a similar study: if her parents were also terrible, yet she turned out so well (and note there’s no hint of a church in her past), where did it come from? Sometimes, it simply materializes.

      I also got the impression – both from Bo and “There’s Bo Place Like Home” – that her parent’s views were shared by the town and the church. I don’t believe her church-home was nurturing at all, in fact I believe her home-home was more nurturing because as confused and ignorant as her parents may have been, they did love her. The church would have likely been far less interested in her as a person and far more likely to use her as an example in the Sunday sermon. Bo didn’t run to her church after she had sex, she didn’t think a single soul there would be willing to risk helping her, she ran as far as she could. In both my experience and research, households which are sexually repressive and guilt-mongering (geared even more heavily against women, of course) based on religion are often part of a church which insists on and models the same behavior.


      *I thought about Dyson or Tamsin or Hale, but then what’s really narratively interesting to me is how their religion has evolved over the years . . . and then I realized that’s essentially a whole different TV series.

      • ecoody says:

        Oh, Melanie, thanks so for responding! I did realize the whole months-later thing might be an issue, but I’m excited to talk nonetheless. I binged the series over the last two months or so and am eager to talk about its coolness. I don’t mean, by the way, to imply above that anything you said in the podcast is wrong, I’m just taking a topic you began and moving it further toward my interests and expertise. I mean, you’re talking about sex and I try to make it about religion. What’s my problem?! 🙂

        I’ll head over to your blog soon to see what you have to say about the way the fundamentalism of her upbringing affected her choice/nonchoice/whatevs of sides, but let me give you a bit on what I think about the way we’ve gone here. Again, thanks for talking!

        1) I agree with you about how TV works with religion; that is, there’s no mention until it makes you pious, an asshole, or struggling in order to forward a story. That’s true– I want narratives that move! It’s true that most people don’t advertise their religions or guiding philosophies of their lives on a first meeting. I mean, walk up and say, “Hi! I’m a pragmatic historical thinker with compassionate politics!”– see how many dates you get. Frankly, most people aren’t that good at understanding how they actually see the world anyway. Saying “Catholic” or “Buddhist” is shorthand that can mean zillions of different things. Sure, there’s a group of things one might assume about these people, but it’s a actually a fairly small group that most can agree on. It just doesn’t tell us much.

        And, I have to push back on the idea that the is whole church letting people run away with the homophobic message. (And by church, I mean Protestant and Catholic churches here.) There’s a powerful resistance movement to this. There are lots of leaders condemning this. (See this new year blog post I saw again yesterday for a started list of links if you’re interested, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/kimberlyknight/2013/01/12-ways-to-be-an-lgtb-ally-in-2013/)
        It’s hard to cut through the noise when most media is much more interested in simple thoughts rather than complexity. Compassionate, kind people do not make headlines that bleed.

        2) Oh, I’m not sold on my original thought at all, but I am interested in where Bo’s ideas come from. Your point about her not having anywhere to go in town is well taken! Nature v Nurture is hardly ever a satisfying argument with Kenzi or Bo or anyone, really. I’m glad you were unsatisfied, too! But, where does Bo get her goodness? I don’t buy that it simply materializes, but I’m eager to imagine all kinds of places for it to come from. How do we ever figure out how to be good? And, by the same token, how do we go bad? It’s a great question for the whole arc and life and you know, generations of thinkers! See, this is why I love this show so much. Thanks again for talking! You’re awesome!

        • Melanie says:

          Not at all! I’m glad someone is still interested in engaging months later. Sexuality and religion are inextricably intertwined; in history, in culture, in literature, and yes, in TV. The fact Lost Girl incorporates that is one of the first things which drew me to the show. I’m always down to talk about television and film, sociology, feminism, etc., and when they all intersect, it’s even better.

          1) I don’t want to overgeneralize, so I should add there are some positive and ‘benign’ depictions of religion on TV. The point you bring up that religion and religious beliefs are difficult to describe in pithy sentences also makes it more difficult. Last, the rule of necessity (if it’s not going to forward a specific narrative/plot, don’t mention it) and the fact art imitates life make them even more rare.

          Which brings me to our point of disagreement, (and possibly my not being quite clear enough to begin with). There are some individual leaders and churches and theologians who are spearheading the charge against racism/homophobia/prosperity gospel/14th century ideas about marriage/total misunderstanding of theology and contextual passages/whathaveyou. I tip my cap to them. I was blessed enough to be part of one such church after I broke with fundamentalism. But the overall position of the body and its most visible leaders is that they are going to be dragged kicking and screaming into change.

          As impossible as it is to sum up ‘the church,’ as it’s hardly a homogenized single unit by any stretch of the imagination, if you add it all up, it’s still unfriendly. The voices supporting Phil Robertson (and totally misunderstanding the constitution and how sex works to boot) were not just more vocal than those who were saying ‘I’m a Christian and I abhor pretty much everything that came out of his mouth,’ but they were more prevalent, and they were more supported by the institution as a whole. And it’s not just the media’s depiction. I’m fairly tuned in to the various religious voices on their own merits.

          Last, I’m not just asking them to slap down the morons who say terrible and anti-biblical things, I’m asking for positive movement on every front. It’s there, but it’s not pervasive, and it doesn’t reach to the top. (If you haven’t garnered, I’m not a fan of the current pope. ‘Not as bad as the last hundred guys’ isn’t a roaring endorsement, and in fact his lauding is possibly more harmful to actual change, just as plenty of churches would do better for the salvation of humanity if they were to disappear.)

          Maybe I’m just more of a pessimist, but while I do see people changing minds and being a witness and committing acts of love and pushing for social reform, and that’s awesome, as a whole ‘the church’ tends to ostracize or at least distance themselves. Also, I don’t think churches should be tax exempt, and this is part of why; then perhaps churches wouldn’t feel the need to distance themselves so hard from people making statements about gay rights or racial profiling or what have you. Churches should, however, be able to deduct any money they can show went towards feeding and sheltering the poor, the widows, the youth kicked out of their homes for lgbt or any reason, etc.

          2) Right, Nature v Nurture is never entirely satisfactory. I think there are always a hundred permutations involving nature and nurture and plenty of unfathomable things which happen to create a person even self-aware enough to shape his or her own self. And what exactly were some of those things in Bo’s past? It’s something rarely explored in TV and film, for various reasons not the least of which is time. But it’s something which happens to every individual, and thus it’s plenty of fun to speculate.

      • Drinks at The Dal Drinks at The Dal says:

        Somewhat unrelated, but to your point of “no one in film or TV is religious except…” something that I really found interesting about the film Kissing Jessica Stein was how it incorporated the fact that the character was Jewish pretty casually. It was not there to make her look A, B, or C. There was a little bit of it there to highlight the difference between the main character and her love interest, but their religious differences weren’t a huge roadblock for them. The opening scene happens to take place at a service at Temple, and they use the quiet environment to create a funny/embarrassing moment. There’s a later scene where the main character’s sexy plans get derailed when her mother insists she and her date (who her mother doesn’t know is her date) come to Shabbat dinner. It was really nice to see everyday Judaism portrayed.

        • Melanie says:

          I did make sure and clarify/backtrack that a little. I shouldn’t be making such absolute statements.

          Also, Jewish is an interesting one because the cultural earmarks are often incorporated without making overt religious statements. Your point still stands, and I think it’s a good one. And true, religious observances, rituals, and parents are used more often than my first statement suggested.

          • Drinks at The Dal Drinks at The Dal says:

            Veering away from absolute statements is always a good thing, but I think it is fair to say that often a person’s religion is there to make them A, B, or C or at the very least to cause some kind of conflict in the story. Economy of storytelling pretty much prescribes it. That’s why it’s nice and refreshing when I see films like Kissing Jessica Stein where someone is religious without it BEING A BIG DEAL.

            I also always thought it was interesting on NUMB3RS that the main family was played by three very Jewish actors, but there wasn’t a lot of talk about their being Jewish. However, when one of them has a crisis of faith, there’s a shot of him going into a synagogue.

            • ecoody says:

              I’m wracking my brain trying to think of other no-big-deal religion movies, but coming up a little short. I’m going to have to start keeping a list!

  2. ecoody says:

    First, I want to talk about #2, because we are now on exactly the same page. Watching Bo develop her values and learning about her past development is part of what makes the whole thing rock my socks off. And speculation is great…Bo joined the circus when she ran off in her sheet. Discuss! 😉

    I think the hinge of our disagreement over #1 is a difference in understanding how the (we agree messy) categories of “Church” and “religion” are defined. I keep going back to the church thing, because Bo went to church, but I think we’re going broader without going too overboard.

    The way I see how you’re defining church is based on leadership. The church is leadership and since leaders (or at least the biggest parts of the hierarchy) are silent or shockingly horrible to people (and embarrassingly similar to Phil Robertson) that is what the church is. Priests, pastors and popes define what the church is. Power speaks. This is a perfectly valid and normal way to understand institutions. Church is pastors and popes. Countries are governments. The atmosphere of a restaurant is determined by the management! You have much support for this view of the world behind you.

    But, I’m a cranky weirdo. I think institutions are better defined by the activities of the people in them.
    The atmosphere of a restaurant is determined by the customers and the staff more than the management. Countries are defined by the political activities of the people in them, even those never elected to any office. And church is defined by the behaviors of the people in them, not the things their leaders say they do. There are _lots_ of difficulties with this way of understanding institutions. The most obvious is the glaring difficulty of collecting data.* When leaders speak, we just write it down, but how to we hear the voice of the community? I don’t want to be vague, but it’s not a simple thing. Many LGBTQAIA people are working hard within churches to do all kinds of things. (I won’t bore you with more links!) These are people who will never be pope, but who nurture people with no back-talk or hesitation. And, hey, if church gets them there, I’m for that.

    Okay, so I’m not sure if all that “you see leaders//I see people” stuff actually works. I’m trying it on… It’s a sort of binary, and I’m generally suspicious of them. You know, like how I’m grooving on Bo not being part of sexual and Dark/Light binaries… mostly. (Omg, I rounded that whole wild thing back to Lost Girl. I feel like I need a cookie.)

    Anyway, this got far away from Lost Girl! It’s been great talking!
    _
    *An exception to much crap out there trying to collect this data is the not perfect, but solid book _American Grace_ by Putnam and Campbell.

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