On an article mislabeling Farscape and the best thing the author said in the article.
Some say that any publicity is good publicity. There’s a point in that. Any mention of Farscape is welcome because the show deserves MUCH more publicity than it gets, but how much does misrepresentation really help? Hey, we all get something different out of Farscape and that’s the beauty of it, but my beef is with the corporate media filter that relegates Farscape to a side show attraction.
The “Farscape is queer as fuck” meme has reared its head again, this time in an article by Clint Worthington appearing in Nerdist. This meme was last notably seen in a March 2019 Vice article to which I responded here. The Vice writer, Danielle Riendeau, mostly focused on how feminist Farscape was (an excellent topic) but wrote her opinion that Farscape was notably “queer.” Vice mostly focused on the latter.
Worthington’s Nerdist article fixates on his opinion that Farscape is “one of the queerest, kinkiest, most overtly pansexual TV series to hit the airwaves in the 1990s.” Other than a few general praises, Worthington’s mostly talks about leather outfits and the single-digit number of times non-heterosexuality was mentioned in Farscape. Worthington ecstatically declares, “everyone on the show donned tight, revealing leather outfits. These ensembles were one metal buckle shy of outright fetish gear.”
Okay, it’s dag-yo that Worthington, who self-identifies as bisexual, found in Farscape themes and characters that spoke to him amid his straight-laced small town upbringing. I grew up in a similar environment, so I get it, I do. We all can point to things that opened our eyes to new possibilities and helped us find ourselves. And Farscape is so good at offering a feast of new themes and characters and above all, new ideas and situations to expand our consciousness.
The problem is, if someone who has never seen Farscape before (poor child) read Worthington’s article, they’d come away feeling that Farscape was this wall-to-wall S&M romp of “in your face” sex. Anyone coming to Farscape with that expectation is going to rightfully feel disappointed. Yeah, leather outfits were plentiful in the show. Lots of flesh was shown. It was all surprisingly non-sexual though, because Farscape was never ever about sex. You can see that is good or bad, but that’s what it is. If you enter Farscape expecting a pansexual orgy, you’re going to end up hating it.
I am one who rails against the overuse and misuse of labels. Whether it be a person or a TV show, articles that sum up something in a label are inherently misleading. In his use of the label “queerness” Worthington is telling us more about himself than about Farscape. We all have our own ideas of what Farscape is and what it means to us, and I will fight to the death Worthington’s right to say what Farscape means to him. But some perspective is nice too.
The reality is that there are magra reasons to love and admire Farscape. Sex may be one, but you count the number of actual sex acts in the show on one hand–around four in 88 episodes. The family of Moya aren’t a terrible randy bunch. That’s because the show isn’t about sex, it’s about people. Worthington is incorrect when he says there are “no tasteful pans over bedsheets” in Farscape. There are almost as many post-coitus bedsheet pans as actual sex acts–three. I’ll write more about sex in Farscape soon.
Defining “queer” in its loosest sense as sexual identity outside the stifling Puritanical norms of Western society, there is maybe one, but more likely no “queer” characters in Farscape, sorry. Hey, awesome of there were, but let’s not place wishful thinking on it. Staanz in “The Flax” isn’t “queer,” just not within your preconceptions of what a female looks like. Though that is a fabulous lesson on giving up your preconceptions about gender and not giving a flying frell what someone looks like. Chiana liking sex doesn’t make her anything other than someone who likes sex, and she makes it clear she’s totally “straight.”
Is Scorpius “queer?” Well, by Scarran-Sebacean half-breed standards, he’s “normal.” He is the only character who is into kinky sex, and if you want to define that as “queer,” okay. But the show doesn’t make anything of it–that’s Scorpius, of course he does it that way. Sorry, Clint, sex on Farscape wasn’t “messy, in your face.” It was barely there and that’s the brilliance of it. It never felt salacious or gratuitous because the show was always about people being themselves. Even Scorpius kind of got accepted by the end, and no one gave a dren about his outfit (psst, it’s a cooling suit, not a gimp suit.)
Some people, bless them, try to leverage the label “queer” to get everyone to accept everyone as they are. In that sense, Farscape is “queer” because it has two main messages–do big things, and getting past prejudices. That’s what would be great to talk about. So let’s do that.
The author nails it about found family
Yes, in Farscape, a group of exiles find each other and form a bond. Family is where you find it. Worthington is absolutely correct that Farscape offers everyone the concept of the found family and that can resonate deeply with anyone who doesn’t fit in with the people around them. Two ideas I want to add to that. One, is that a big part of the Farscape story is how much each of the characters needed to overcome their own prejudices to accept each other; they live out the real-life dynamics of prejudice and rejection versus recognition and acceptance. Two, is that they don’t collectively fit under any label and they don’t unite because of a label–the inhabitants of Moya create their family because they learn to respect each other as individuals.
Farscape fans are like Farscape characters. They don’t fit together under any label. They come from many walks of life. They have many, many reasons for loving the show. It would be nice if the corporate media would talk about the many reasons why fans love Farscape beyond the annual “Farscape is queer” article. Farscape deserves so much more than being depicted as a side show of freaks.