The Concerning Trend of the Lesbian and the “Himbo”

Last weekend, I decided to take a night off from panicking about current events to watch some Netflix. The Half of It was just released, and not only was it marketed as a new lesbian rom com, but it came from the woman who gave us Saving Face. What’s not to like?! I can only watch Imagine Me and You so many times. I even live texted my friend about it, which prompted her to start watching it at the same time. But what we got was not at all what we expected. That’s not to say it wasn’t a fun watch, but this movie followed an alarming trend I noticed on another Netflix feature, I Am Not Okay With This. The trend is, of course, this idea that a lesbian and straight male who is pure of heart, but dumb of ass, a “himbo” as the kids say, are the best of friends. Most of the plot revolves around them, and while this may seem fine, it raises several concerns.

The Half Of It – Leah Lewis, Daniel Diemer – Photo Credit: Netflix

So What’s the Problem?

Well at first glance, there shouldn’t be one, right? It’s a movie or a show where the main plot doesn’t revolve around her homosexuality. That should be great. Except, all my closest friends are other lesbians. Of those women, their closest friends are also other lesbians and bi women. That’s not to say lesbians don’t have male friends. But when asked about their experiences with their male friends, many lesbians I know only had horror stories to share. Why is it that the only representation of lesbians where the majority of their social circle looks like them, like a core group of lesbian and bi women, is not represented anywhere but the L Word?

Beyond that, it almost always suggests that lesbians and straight men are the same because of their attraction to women. How dare you suggest such a thing? Do not associate me with me straight men. The way we love women is so vastly different. They could never understand living in a world saturated with misogyny. They will never know what it’s like to be a woman who loves only other women. A man’s attraction to women is celebrated, while mine sentences me to burn at the stake. Not to mention the fact that in the real world, straight males’ sick fantasy of involving themselves in a lesbian relationship has lead to pornified images of our very existence. How much does this play into these types of relationships we see onscreen?

And Another Thing!

Another big issue seems to be the male friend’s inability to realize his female companion’s lesbianism and inherent disinterest in him. In The Half of It, it becomes clear to the audience that Ellie has feelings for Aster and has little in interest in Paul. Yet, Paul tries to kiss her anyway. In I Am Not Okay With This, Sydney tells us in her internal monologue that she has no interest in her friend Stan, that she did not want to sleep with him. But she does it anyway. Is it any wonder? She is a young woman who struggles to say no, and Stan is constantly in her face. Yet he couldn’t pick up on her disinterest? Even in Marvel’s Runaways, Karolina is clearly interested in Nico. But Chase tries to kiss her anyway. What do all these examples have in common? The lesbian was forced into kissing a boy before she either realizes or reveals her homosexuality. As though this doesn’t echo the, “he’s such a nice guy, just give him a chance” remark homophobes love to spout off. Truly, if he were so nice he wouldn’t have tried that in the first place.

The “I’m Not Like Other Girls” Trope

Most of us had that phase when we were younger. We tried to prove our worth, most likely to boys, by claiming we weren’t like other girls. No, we were “one of the guys.” We really fed our own internalized misogyny, but many of us grew out of that. We are unique individuals, but there are many other women and girls like us. In fact, learning that there were others like us, other lesbians, felt like coming home. It gave us a community.

To take that a step further, it looks like Netflix wanted to say, “but she’s not one of those man-hating lesbians!” Attention, content creators! It’s possible to tell a lesbian story without involving a man! Being a lesbian has nothing to do with men! But why bring it back? Well, can you imagine the power of seeing a group of young lesbians going on adventures, getting into mischief, having fully embraced their lesbianism? The straights are shaking at the thought. It almost seeks to alienate lesbians even more, which the last thing we need right now. We lesbians will never be “one of the guys.” In fact, we can live happily and wholly without men. We have our own unique culture, even though we may travel in the dominant culture. And that scares them.

The Other Half of It

If creators are so determined to give the lesbian a male best friend, why not make him gay? At least they can connect over their shared homosexuality. Alas, many content creators seem to be allergic to having more than one homosexual character. It almost makes me feel as though my experiences with my lesbian best friends aren’t worth sharing.

As tragic as it is, we can dream. So, let’s take this one step further. Why not give us a lovable dumb jock who is a lesbian? She has one brain cell, but a soulful kindness and compassion. Her body is hard, but her heart is soft. She may not have read every single piece of feminist literature to date, but she does her best. Pure of heart. Dumb of ass. Home of sexual. This is the lesbian I want to see in these movies and shows. Because I am that very lesbian.