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Royally estranged family of the bride

by Victoria A. Brownworth

Samantha Grant (right) is Meghan Markle's treacherous half-sister.
Samantha Grant (right) is Meghan Markle's treacherous half-sister.  

We do love weddings. We aren't fans of the monarchy and think the French and Russians got that one right, but we really do think Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are beyond adorable. We also love some pomp and circumstance, great hats and the very gay Sir Elton John performing for the royal couple.

Yet we have to admit, in all the TV mega-hype of the royal wedding, the Jerry Springer-esque drama of watching Meghan's terrible family stole the show for us. Sometimes it's good to be reminded that even The Rich and Famous have awful people in their lives whom they can't formally divorce.

A mere day before the wedding, we were watching of all things "Inside Edition," which we never watch. But how could we not bear witness to yet another train wreck interview with Samantha Grant, Meghan Markle's half-sister? Grant has been everywhere in recent weeks dissing Meghan, whom she says she raised for 12 years (Markle is 36, Grant is 53). Grant and Markle's half-brother Thomas have written to Prince Harry urging him not to marry their sister. Now that's a loving family!

Yet there was more. It turned out Grant had been setting up hers and Markle's elderly and unwell father for paparazzi photos for which Grant was pocketing the cash. We'd already seen Grant on "TMZ" asserting that she's "not a British subject" and "there is free speech in America," and she "can say what she wants about the family." All delivered via Skype from her car, where she said Markle had turned her back on the family. (Who could imagine why?)

We'd also seen Grant interviewed by Piers Morgan on "Good Morning Britain," where Morgan, whom we usually find insufferable, referred to her as "the little vulture" and asked her, "How much money have you made from trashing Meghan Markle?" Morgan said Grant had spent two years making money off maligning her sister, ever since Markle started dating Prince Harry. On "Inside Edition," Grant upped her game, saying it was typical of her half-sister to make this all about her, after Markle issued a statement about their family on Kensington Palace stationery. Grant told "Inside Edition," "With all due respect, it is not just about Meghan, and for some reason the world is so set on her being the priority. What," she asked plaintively, "about everyone else?"

Yes, why would anyone think the marriage of a royal couple was about the royal couple? Initially, when the royals were being a little cold to Markle, we worried about her entering that family, known for being brutal to outsiders. But having seen Markle's family (not her mother, who is lovely) in spectacularly terrible form, we really are glad of her being a continent away from them. But we will miss the drama. That has been quite the show.

The reason we had decided to watch "Inside Edition" was because there had been a promo of the latest reveal on New York attorney Aaron Schlossberg, America's latest White Person Videotaped Behaving Badly to People of Color. There's been some controversy over whether it's been "fair" to Schlossberg to have TV cameras following him for comment after his tirade in a Manhattan eatery where he threatened to call ICE on three workers who were speaking Spanish with a customer. Unsurprisingly this question of fairness has been raised by white people. It speaks volumes that ICE issued a statement about the incident saying they do not want such calls.

The same day as Schlossberg's rant, Pres. Trump had referred to undocumented immigrants as "animals," so Schlossberg wasn't even the worst public racist of the day. His attack on the workers has been all over TV news, MSNBC and CNN pundit shows. It wasn't the first time Schlossberg had gone after people he deemed "foreigners" who didn't belong in his country. ABC, CBS and CNN all showed video of several incidents, all vile. According to news reports, Schlossberg's lease for his law practice was terminated, and he was censured by the New York Bar Association after complaints related to the incident.

Was this too much? Is this a free speech issue in which the media has become overly invested? Are we supposed to feel sorry for people who are blatantly racist in public spaces? Our personal response is a resounding no. We do not see the qualitative difference between what Schlossberg did and people heckling black children attempting to desegregate schools in the 1950s. In the most diverse city in America, if you freak out when you hear Spanish being spoken, you're the one who should self-deport to a whiter space. When these racist videos go viral and end up on the national news, it should serve as a cautionary tale to others considering similar actions. That there is at least one of these incidents every week should be the disturbing element.

What is more disturbing than Schlossberg is that the POTUS made similarly racist comments while visiting a state that is majority non-white and it was a mere blip on the national news, while Schlossberg was several days' headline. Schlossberg was censured. Trump was not. That is what's worrying in this scenario of centering whiteness.

We'd like to see more white Americans watching CNN's "United Shades of America," hosted by W. Kamau Bell, San Francisco comic and radio host. Bell's show looks at different communities that remain unseen in America: mostly communities of color, although his May 20 episode was devoted to people with disabilities. What makes Bell's show unique is Bell: he's funny, a provocateur without being offensive, coming from a space of being black in what is still largely viewed as white America, and he's opening dialogue every week about the most discomfiting issue in America: race. Maybe these folks who keep calling police on people of color should be sentenced to watching shows like Bell's, or "Dear White People," "Atlanta," "Master of None," "black-ish," "Becoming Mary Jane," "Queen Sugar," and anything with Lena Waithe. The fear of non-whiteness that pervades America and is reified every day by Trump and his cohort has to be countered somehow, and TV is easy access. If only we could feed anti-racist messages subliminally through Fox News.

Passion project

In better news, "Pose" is almost here. What better way to start Pride Month than with this series that creator Ryan Murphy calls his "passion project?" On May 18, Murphy told Page Six that the series about ball culture and the rise of Trump in 1980s NYC was one of the most exciting projects he's worked on. With more than 50 LGBTQI actors, the most trans actors ever on any series in the history of the universe, trans producers, gay and trans featured actors and writers, this is just so very much the series to make Mike Pence's head swivel right off. Who doesn't want to see that?

"I try to use my power for good," Murphy said, "and I am donating all the profits back into the community. I am not making any money on this project. That is something I just wanted to do."

Murphy has also hired trans writers and directors for the series, including Janet Mock, who is the first trans woman of color to be writing a scripted series, according to a guest column she wrote in Variety May 16. Describing her experience watching TV in her youth as she explained why working on "Pose" was life-altering for her, Mock said, "As a black and Native Hawaiian trans girl, I never felt fully reflected. When girls like us flitted onto my screen, we were seen through the narrowest lens: either as points of trauma, treated as freaks or mere punchlines. Rarely were we given a chance to be the center of the story, to be the protagonists, the antagonists and the damn villains. And I knew with 'Pose' I would hold the pen, writing narratives that would show the totality of what it meant to be brown and black, to be trans, poor and femme in an era in New York City dictated by a series of ills, from HIV and gentrification to crack and greed." The series begins June 3 on FX.

We thought it would be easier to let go of Dr. Arizona Robbins (Jessica Capshaw) than it was. The longest-running lesbian character on prime-time TV is now gone. The May 17 season finale of "Grey's Anatomy" chose not to kill anyone, unlike previous finales that have ended in gruesome deaths of beloved characters. Several of the characters we have loved long and hard are exiting the show, though none will be as deeply missed as Arizona. She had been on the series since 2008, and series creator Shonda Rhimes said she had an immediate affinity for Capshaw and her portrayal of Arizona. Rhimes said, "I love Jessica Capshaw, and when I say love I mean love. She couldn't be a more wonderful person, and the chemistry Arizona and Callie (Sara Ramirez) have feels like the Meredith and Derek chemistry to me. I find them delightful to watch."

We felt it, too. Arizona and Callie always felt like a real lesbian couple to us. Their struggles - over Callie's bisexuality, Arizona losing her leg in the plane crash, having a child, trying not to split up when things got terrible - were real struggles. We understood and believed them, and rooted for them to stay together.

Capshaw situated her departure in her character, writing on Twitter and Instagram, "For the past 10 years, I have had the rare privilege of not only playing Arizona Robbins, but also being madly in love with playing her. Arizona Robbins is kind, intelligent, funny, insightful, bold, playful, fierce and really good at her job. She was one of the first members of the LGBTQ community to be represented in a series regular role on network television. Her impact on the world is permanent and forever."

Expressing her gratitude for the opportunity to play the role, Capshaw concluded, "I am grateful that I got to bring her to life, and for the life that she has brought to me. I am sad to see her go, but I am consoled by the idea that she will continue to live on in our consciences and imaginations. Shonda, thank you for the ride on this incredible rollercoaster. With a heart full of love, Jessica."

What the exit of Arizona means to the TV landscape is the loss of a long-term lesbian on TV. There are other lesbian characters on various series and two new ones on Rhimes' newest series, "For the People," just renewed for a second season, but there is no other long-time lesbian character with whom the audience has so much history and is so deeply in love.
One of Arizona's most extraordinary features was her cheerfulness. After years of relentless BYG (bury your gays) storylines for lesbians where the inevitable killing of a lesbian character ensues, having a character who has been almost always happy, glad to be at her job, doing her best to save lives in her role as a pediatric surgeon, Arizona was a beacon of light in an increasingly dark landscape of lesbian death. Capshaw's evocation of her, with her rollerskate sneakers and soothing bedside manner and those dimples - all of it meant something special for the audience.

Will "GA" bring on another gay or lesbian character? Rhimes referenced the underrepresented nature of lesbians on TV in her farewell to Capshaw, but no mention of a new lesbian to fill the void left by Arizona leaving. We already miss her so much.

There's a small measure of good news for gay men, that most elusive of TV creatures, in that Rhimes' series "Station 19" has been renewed for a second season, which means Travis Montgomery (Jay Hayden) will be back. After waiting for six seasons for "Chicago Fire" to have a gay character after they killed off Leslie the lesbian, we were thrilled that "Station 19" opened with one. We have trouble watching fire shows, but we are happy to watch a series with a gay fireman in the very first episode who doesn't get killed off in the first season.

Even better news is that CBS' "Instinct" has been renewed for a second season. We have been concerned that the series hadn't found an audience yet and that the clunky opening episodes had jettisoned audience while the show found its footing. As the first network series with a lead gay male character, there was a lot riding on the show's ratings. While ratings have only been moderate, they have paralleled other shows in CBS' Sunday-night lineup, which, combined with the star power of their lead, was enough for CBS to renew the show.

The show's star is its anchor, and season 2 should strive for more balance. Tony- and Emmy-winning Alan Cumming plays Dr. Dylan Reinhart, former CIA operative turned writer turned police consultant. He's openly gay, he's married and he's the cleverest man in any room. Now if he can just start acting more gay - we know Cumming can do it because we've seen him in "Cabaret."

So for using TV to call out the racists, be they estranged family of the royal couple or something more prosaic, for the last remaining gay men on the tube, and for a plethora of trans folks coming soon to a small screen near you, you know you really must stay tuned.

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