'Gentleman Jack' reminds us about why representation matters and how one letter can change a person's place in society
Have you ever wondered what it was like to live in a time when there was no word for a lesbian? The second episode of HBO's lesbian period drama 'Gentleman Jack' reminds us once again why the show is so important in the present age, why representation matters and how one letter can change how one feels about their place in society.
The show follows a lady named Anne Lister, an English landowner who is often considered the first modern lesbian. BAFTA award winner Suranne Jones plays the character, and to say that she's gut-wrenchingly real in the shoes of Lister is an understatement.
There are only so many times we can say that the show is revolutionary but the truth of the matter is we really need to say it more often. It isn't every day you see a 19th-Century woman struggling to warn another about the dangers of a certain type of woman who is known to do things to her kind. It seems ridiculous today to not know who a lesbian is, doesn't it? In fact, when Katherine, Ann Walker's cousin, tries to describe Anne Lister, it's even a little comical.
"She can't be trusted in the company of other women," she says sounding unsure, yet suspicious. "What do you mean she can't be trusted?" asks a very curious and disturbed Walker. "I don't know!" Katherine says, throwing her hands up frustrated that her cousin won't just believe everything she hears. "What does she do to them, does she bite?" asks Walker almost serious. "Apparently, she's a bit like a man," Katherine concludes.
gentleman jack god me out here weeping at this aesthetic already pic.twitter.com/uVt7diBQVF— ( harriet ) (@hattersarts) April 23, 2019
Similarly, when little Robert asks Lister if she was a man as her expert hands checked him for bruises and medical discolorations, Lister struggles to find the words herself. "I'm a lady woman...a lady...a woman," she says, struggling to find the right words and therein lies the beauty of this story from Halifax in 1832. While at first glance this tale was about a woman marrying another woman at a time when there was no blueprint for what that union was called, it is shaping up to be so much more.
This is slowly becoming a story about identity and such deep-rooted homophobia that even someone as confident and sure of herself as Anne Lister doesn't realize the extent of the stigmatization. But, of course, we've seen that before but what sets this story apart is the way it starts the conversation about being homophobic to oneself even though they are from the LGBTQIA community themselves. Anne Lister doesn't recognize that even though she's won the world in some ways, and continues the good fight, the real struggle is inside.
'Gentleman Jack' episode 3 airs on Monday, April 29 at 10 pm ET/PT on HBO.