Wading in the lesbian 'Laguna Beach'
'Curl Girls' is a new reality show that follows the triumphs and travails of a circle of lesbians in California who like to surf. CARYN BROOKS waxes poetic on the long-standing TV tradition of California dreaming.
California here we come...out. The ladies of LOGO's "Curl Girls." (AP Photo/HO/Courtesy of LOGO)
Some people may not like that LOGO, the newish gay channel put out by Viacom (you know, the MTV people), has started offering original programming that seems achingly familiar. The fact that some of the new shows resemble wildly successful straight programs is most likely not lost on the LOGO suits.
But who cares if the station's hedging their bets? Shrinks across America are probably pleased that their gay patients are no longer pining for that unattainable straight character on that zippingly straight show du jour when they can have equally unattainable gay characters all their own to pine for. Progress!
Besides, the shadow gay programming of LOGO recreates the genre it's mimicking just by adding its own heaping helping of gay. You don't need to take a class in Postmodern Homosexual Culture 1997-2007 to figure that one out.
But "Curl Girls," a new reality show that puts the fisheye lens to a bunch of Sapphic surfers, offers connections that go beyond its closest links.
AND A CLAM BAKE MEANS...
Even though "Curl Girls" is packing a lifetime membership card to the gay club (and it is TOTALLY gay...more on that later), the tribe "Curl Girls" most belongs to is that of sun-streaked Southern California mythmakers, a storied group whose evolution as the indigenous American players of choice has been rad to watch.
Using the So-Cal beach as a backdrop for pop culture is sort of like a painter using a stark white stretched canvas for his minimalist portraits. The cues are always the same and so recognizable that the more important elements of the drama charge into the forefront. Sun glinting on waves cues action. Sun setting over ocean cues resolution. Beach bonfire cues confession. And driftwood means...well, it just might mean driftwood.
Sure, it's scenic, but it has long lost its role as actual scenery. Which makes it the perfect foil for the social commentary it churns up.
AHOY, SOCIAL UPHEAVAL!
Despite its reputation as a fun-loving free-for-all, the beach romp genre has often been a harbinger for cultural shifts.
Though Gidget is portrayed in TV shows and movies as a boy-chaser, the fact remains that she was chasing the boys on a surf board while piercing the No Girls Allowed perimeter. This bit of late-1950s insouciance precluded the feminist movement yet to come.
While the music of the Beach Boys provided the soundtrack for the endless summer, 1966's "Good Vibrations," with its spooky theremin and quasi-mystical message, shot a signal through the airwaves that a change was coming and it was wearing psychedelic pants.
Television's "The O.C." exposed the So-Ca beach scene as a symbol of the mainstream through the character of Seth Cohen, who despised the Abercrombieness of it all and declared his love for indie rock bands, movies and comics so much that he ended up turning indie culture mainstream. Touche!
NO JENNIFER BEALS ON BOARD
And now we have "Curl Girls," which uses the sandy shores to contrast the wiles of Mother Nature against some wily lesbians who may all be having their periods at once and love the DRAMA.
There's certainly some similarities in common with "Laguna Beach," such as the clearly set-up social scenarios and the absence of any real responsibilities, but this show lacks LB's vivid cinematic patina.
There's are some similarities with the new HBO show "John from Cincinnati" in that these women are all closer to 30 than 20 and "John" also deals with older people hitting the beach, which speaks to the overall Peter Panning of America.
And certainly there's overlap with the "L Word," but as one of the stars of "Curl Girls" remarked during a recent interview when asked about similarities to that Showtime series, "One big difference is that we're all actually queer."
A LESBIAN WORLD RECORD?
And at the end of the day, that's what marks this show as its own. There's probably never been this many lady-loving ladies on one show (excluding televised WNBA games and "Cops") in the history of television. And their interactions and lifestyle, though idealized in that patented SPF California way, reflect the assuredness of today's gay culture.
Like most of its Calitainment brethren, "Curl Girls" is a postcard of our times with a boldly scrawled "Wish you were here" across the front.