Disappointing Dates:

Erica and Kate, what happened?

Climax Online’s Laura Kay reviews last night’s edition of Dates as aired on Channel 4. And it aint pretty…

Us lesbians are a fiercely loyal crowd. We will check out virtually anything that involves a lesbian character, is made by a lesbian or by someone who looks like a lesbian and then if it is of any quality, rings true and is honest or likeable in any way, we will support it and encourage it.

I would have loved to have enjoyed Dates last night, I really would. In fact, I was prepared to love it in a ‘so bad it’s good way’ but I couldn’t even do that (and believe me ‘so bad it’s good’ is my favourite genre).

Our two lesbians, Erica and Kate represent two enormous stereotypes; we have meek, closeted lesbian and angry, pushy lesbian. I respect the fact that it’s hard to develop characters for a show that is 35 minutes long, but it seriously impacted on the likeability of the characters who, as  a consequence of this, and the clunky dialogue, remained humourless and soulless. Their conversation lacked any discernible chemistry or energy, perhaps due to the fact that they only spoke in hushed, ‘sultry lesbian’ tones or ‘ANGRY LESBIAN’ raised voices. In between they communicate merely though extended, soft focus eye contact.

An exchange made within the first few minutes of their meeting, in which Kate gets inexplicably full on angry with Erica for daring to have had a boyfriend in the past, was so implausible and irritating that it made me literally shout at my TV. Biphobia is alive and well in the gay community, however this did not appear to be an issue that the show was tackling. In fact, Erica is later seen to essentially apologise for her past male relationships, attempting to ‘prove’ her sexuality by listing how many women she has slept with and then she is forced to admit that she is a lesbian in order to placate Kate, who is of course extremely angry again. It is hard to believe Erica would even want to do anything to make this quite frankly, unstable woman stay.

This little plot line manages to portray both Erica AND Kate negatively (nice one). Erica looks weak-willed and unable to make her own decisions, so what if she is a lesbian who had a boyfriend in the past? Or is a bisexual woman? No. She must feel regret and shame for who she has slept with. Kate seems to represent the ‘real’ lesbian community who apparently are so uncompassionate and cruel that they cannot tolerate anyone who wasn’t born wrapped in a rainbow flag. Unbelievably bad judgement, Channel 4.

The show had so much potential to do something different with the ‘lesbian’ theme, perhaps they could have put aside the fact that it was about two women and concentrated on a storyline that was not sexuality-centric? Instead they included as many clichés as they possibly could. Even this bland, unimaginative storyline could have been saved with a little heart and humour but the plot was painfully lacking in both of those. It is such a rarity to have a mainstream programme with lesbian characters that it’s even more obvious and annoying when they mess it up.

Text: Laura Kay

Image: www.guardian.co.uk