Queer I Stand
Reincarnation: "The New Normal"
In an interesting recent episode, the couple considered a godparent for their child, and each dealt with their own religious backgrounds: Bryan's lapsed Catholicism and David's lapsed Judaism. I'll have more to comment on this in a moment. Suffice it to say that for now, it's interesting that they have addressed the religious angle already in the show, despite its only having had a handful of episodes.
But what seems most like reincarnation to me is the character played by Ellen Barkin: Jane, the "Nanna" of Goldie (the surrogate mother carrying Bryan and David's child). She is a Midwestern conservative who is homophobic, racist, and (Protestant) Christian to the core. Jimmy Fallon commented that her character is like a female Archie Bunker, and he's quite correct in that statement.
And yet, in the opinion of many, Jane is the funny character.
Don't get me wrong, Ellen Barkin is an excellent actress, and the show is funny, but not in a "that's hysterically hilarious" fashion. It's more funny in a "yes, that sort of thing happens" manner, or a "that's a rather clever and fabulous line" way. When Jane gets on a rant about something, or has choice bigoted remarks about another character, I've never laughed about it. I'm not the type to laugh at someone whose conservative opinions on any issue make them "laughable." I'm someone who pities their ignorance, and also worries that such a person might be voting against my rights, or doing something to make sure "people like me" (whether that's queer people, pagans, the economically disenfranchised, or anything else) are "kept in our place."
The fact that Jane is a racist homophobe, a reincarnated Archie Bunker, and is the character that seems to get the laughs makes me wonder whether characters like her serve as necessary cultural outlets when society undergoes major social changes. As acceptance of alternative ideas become more widespread, perhaps some people feel a need to have a "conservative fool" character to laugh at. But I also wonder if even the most open-minded people also feel the need to have a character that voices what they no longer can, allowing them to externalize and distance themselves from some of the negative thoughts they might have on these issues. While laughter and drama are some of the best and most effective manners of catharsis there are—and always have been, back to the days of the Dionysian dramas in ancient Greece—nonetheless, the "need" that our culture has for these things makes me wonder if we have truly moved on and moved past some of these prejudices.
As far as religion goes, I'm glad that the show has addressed the matter already, but I'm also rather annoyed that the choices were so limited: Judaism, Catholicism, the Evangelical-Lite of Rocky (Bryan's PA, played by NeNe Leakes), and the non-specific New Age-esque quips of Shania (Goldie's biological daughter). This selection might in some strange way represent a cross-section of the current American religious landscape. Still, it saddens me that, for example, Bryan's choices as a former Catholic seem limited to leaving a religion that he loves because he's gay, staying in it but considering his sexuality sinful, or staying in it and fighting for his right to be there (as his new priest suggests that he should do).
No one can force a religious conversion, nor make someone interested in a religion that doesn't appeal to them. But at the same time, there are religious choices that are beautiful in their rituals and traditions, and yet don't ask their members to choose between their sexuality and their spirituality, and which are perfectly fine with including people of any sexual orientation. The Pagan Channel at Patheos.com features a variety of different religious traditions that do exactly this, and that's a blanket statement that I can make on this channel that I don't believe can be made on most of the other religious channels at Patheos.
Same-sex couples may be a part of the "new normal" for many people in the modern world. Yet people of polytheistic religions—despite the larger number of us that exist and are open about our religions in the present day—are unfortunately still outside the cultural norms recognized by most people.
P. Sufenas Virius Lupus is a metagender and a founding member of the Ekklesía Antínoou (a queer, Graeco-Roman-Egyptian syncretist reconstructionist polytheist religious group dedicated to Antinous, the deified lover of the Roman Emperor Hadrian and other related gods and divine figures). E is a contributing member of Neos Alexandria and a Celtic Reconstructionist pagan in the filidecht and gentlidecht traditions. Follow Lupus' work on the Aedicula Antinoi blog.