Last week, Shakira and Rihanna's new video, filled with steamy faux lesbianism, absolutely shook some folks to the core. Of course, it also made others yawn, some laugh, others open a window, some go on a diet -- there were probably as many different reactions as there were shots of exposed thighs.
But the reactions that got arguably the most mainstream attention were from those like the Colombian public figure who proclaimed that by expressing female on female sensuality, Shaki and RiRi were going to cause increased smoking, homosexuality and lesbianism. Well, in addition to being very dramatic, the gentleman is wrong.
As someone who grew up watching heterosexual propaganda, I can tell you that watching people kiss doesn't change your orientation. I grew up seeing straight people kiss everywhere -- on TV and in movies, on the streets -- even my parents did it shamelessly in front of me twice a day! My parents were, and still are, very much in love, so I was exposed to a lot of opposite-sex kissing. Believe it or not, that did not change my orientation.
Other, more subtle heterosexual propaganda didn't affect me either. I heard people talking about their sexual orientation constantly -- at work, on Mondays, it was all anyone did! "My boyfriend and I spent the weekend blah, blah, blah." "My girlfriend made me so mad the other day blah, blah, blah." People mentioned their opposite sex partners in front of me all the time, I mean flaunted their heterosexuality, and, again, nothing. I was still gay.
The other recent same-sex affection "shocker" happened in Brazil, where finally the male lovers in the telenovela, Amor à Vida, kissed. This came about reportedly thanks to a relentless social media campaign from fans who wanted them to kiss. Why, you ask, did fans want this? Because it's normal and natural to see people in love kiss. Because, as my mother says, "Amor sin beso es como tallarin sin queso." ("Love without kisses is like spaghetti without cheese." I know -- not all Uruguayan-isms translate well.)
The Brazilian kiss-quake reminded me of another great reaction that happened last year. Cory Booker, then mayor of Newark, New Jersey married a lot of same-sex couples and after marrying one couple, friends of his I believe, the men kissed as Booker applauded and then hugged them both. Now that is how a real man celebrates another person's happiness -- by sharing in it. Not by freaking out that he just saw two men kiss.
Producers and writers please, please take note. Nominations for the GLAAD Media Awards were just announced, in both English and Spanish and, while the competition in most Spanish-Language categories was hearty, because LGBT lives are being covered better than ever, novelas have lagged behind. The novela nominated this year for an award, Amores Verdaderos included a gay male couple getting married, which was definitely great, but they celebrated by sharing a hug. Really? "And you may now hug the groom?"
Visibility won't change a person's orientation, but it can make a lot of people feel good and like they're no longer living on the outskirts, way out there, far from where real life is happening.
Let's hope Shaki and RiRi's love and cigar-fest doesn't stop the creation of LGBT characters who show on-air affection like, for example, on The Fosters. Maybe a kiss is just a kiss, as the song goes, but feeling included can change a life -- for the better.