Continuing my project of reading all of the lesbian romances nominated for the Lambda Award this year led me to think about how the declaration scene functions in same-sex romance. Lynn Ames' All That Lies Within and Nell Stark's The Princess Affair both feature protagonists who spend a large proportion of their time in the public eye: Ames' Dara Thomas is a famous film actress, a woman whose "most intimate emotions and moments [are] plastered across the pages of a tabloid for the world to see and dissect" (Loc 1169); Stark's Alexandra "Sasha" Carlisle is second in line to inherit the British throne (in a world with no Queen Elizabeth, but instead a King Andrew). Both spend much of their time performing a role for their publics, Dara that of tantalizing straight sex object, Sasha that of socialite party girl who may or may not have bisexual proclivities. Neither woman feels truly seen by the public for which she performs, in large part because neither feels able to reconcile her sexual identity as a lesbian with the demands of her public role.
And thus the climax of both novels is not the private love declaration, but a later, enormously public one: actress Dara Thomas's in the midst of accepting an Academy Award; Princess Sasha's in the middle of a press conference to discuss an incriminating photograph of her and Kerry published in the tabloids. The declaration scene is duplicated, repeated for an audience far broader than that of just the beloved. The declaration thus becomes not only a declaration of love, but a declaration of sexual identity. And not just an individual declaration by the public figures of the actress and the princess, but an insistence that a gay identity can and should be accepted by the broader culture in which each serves as public symbol and role model.
|Ellen DeGeneres announcing to Rosie|
O'Donnell that she's "Lebanese" (1996)
The erasure of such censure may be the most fantastic element in these wish-fulfillment romances. But I'd far rather fantasize about a world that accepts same-sex romance than a world populated by burly alpha males bent on rescuing my helpless female self. Thanks to both Stark and Ames for helping me to do so.
Billboard proposal: Daily Edge
DeGeneres and O'Donnell: UTube
Lynn Ames, All that Lies Within
Phoenix Rising Press, 2013
Nell Stark, The Princess Affair
Bold Strokes Books, 2013