Beauty Myths and Lesbian Kisses: Why “Kiss Her, I’m Famous” Is the Best Hour You’ll Spend Online

By Lauren Maier

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Left, Ilea Matthews, Right, Tracy Ryerson

I don’t know about you, but I spend too much time on YouTube, wasting entire days surfing through baby polar bear videos, Japanese commercials and Minecraft tutorials in the name of mindless enjoyment. Sometimes, though, I stumble on a gem. Recently, I unearthed a diamond: Rolla Selbak’s webseries, Kiss Her, I’m Famous, which follows two best friends as they attempt to simultaneously kickstart their careers as celebrities and exact revenge on their exes. Selbak recently released season two to the public, and the two-part season finale releases this Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2014.

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Creator Rolla Selbak

Presented in bite-sized episodes, you can finish both seasons in little more than an hour—but that hour packs a punch! In this fresh, smart and hilarious series Selbak comments on society’s high beauty standards and inability to understand lesbian relationships while creating genuine, affable characters that make me want to climb through the computer screen to share a glass of wine. I particularly love the series’ heroines, Jen, the sharp and bubbly Ilea Matthews, and Mandy, The Real L Word’s Tracy Ryerson, mostly because I can see glimmers of my friends and myself in both of them.

Mandy is a lesbian and a serious computer nerd who doesn’t wear make-up and knows how to rock a Deadmau5 sweatshirt. Jen is the goofy, glamorous girl who humps the couch with Twizzlers up her nose for a joke and sleeps in the nude. When Jen’s director boyfriend makes the news for getting tangled in a celebrity sex scandal in episode two, it’s Jen who decides she and Mandy need to make their own celebrity sex tape to make their ex-lovers jealous.

There is one snag in Jen’s outrageous plan: Mandy refuses to appear on camera. Her body issues are so deep that she cannot face herself in the mirror in the morning, much less allow anyone to film her having sex. Only Jen’s adorable reassurances that Mandy is truly beautiful enough to appear on camera convince Mandy to forge ahead with the plan. However, one has to question Jen’s sincerity when she books Mandy a makeover with Sántá, a male stylist who sees himself as the top authority on female beauty.

Out of the entire series, Mandy’s makeover scene really strikes home for me because I’m a lot like Mandy. I dress more for comfort than for style and am usually quite happy with my sartorial choices. Yet, our society’s beauty standards are constructed in such a way that comfortable and sexy are mutually exclusive, leaving women like Mandy and myself unable to recognize exactly how gorgeous we already are.

The notion that we must be made over to be beautiful, and thus socially acceptable, is utterly maddening, even more so because it is men like Sántá who dictate these standards. When Sántá reveals Mandy’s new found beauty, he says, “When life gives you lemons…” and gestures to her face. To quote my notes: SHE WAS NEVER A LEMON, YOU TURD (I was feeling protective).

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Mandy and Jen film the sex tape in the final episode of season one, at which point Selbak begins alluding to the quotidian problems lesbians deal with in our heteronormative society. Instead of acknowledging Mandy’s lesbian sexuality, Jen completely ignores her friend’s request for a female partner, casting a male celebrity instead. Even though Mandy eventually films the tape with a woman (Jen, in fact), Jen’s initial erasure of her friend’s orientation is a common problem.

Jen seems to believe Mandy is happy sleeping with men or women, which highlights the misconception that lesbianism is a choice and women who choose this lifestyle can be cured when they find the right man to satisfy them. If lesbians reject this cure and continue sleeping with other women, we are told it must be because they are too ugly and too damaged to attract a male partner.

Episode four of season two explores this public, heteronormative view further when the sex tape becomes famous and the two girls start appearing on the talk show circuit. Their first interview is with Charlie Jennings, a character who simultaneously acts as a talk show host and a societal mouthpiece. When he crudely asks, “Who is the giver and who is the taker?” he is the straight community, demanding lesbians to explain how they work and asking how they can be shoved into more heteronormative gender roles. More to the point, Jennings represents people who believe lesbians are straight women having sex for the pornographic pleasure of men and who cannot comprehend how a woman could be happy without submitting to a man’s needs. This misguided notion of lesbianism is as prevalent as it is absurd, and I’m thrilled Selbak uses her series to highlight that absurdity.

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My only critique of the series is that the major plot point stretches my suspension of disbelief, Mandy and Jen’s sudden rise to fame. The tape is hailed as the “first-ever lesbian sex tape,” rather than the first lesbian celebrity sex tape, which I find difficult to believe. After all, they’re not celebrities themselves and the Internet is teeming with lesbian pornography, from both the heterosexual male gaze and the queer gaze.

While the latter may be more difficult to access (because it costs money to view), queer porn does exist. The queer porn website The Crash Pad  Series is a fantastic example, as the actors are more like partners, and the body types, genders and sexual orientations available are nothing short of an orgiastic buffet. If a film and website as awesome and groundbreaking as The Crash Pad Series cannot garner attention from Ellen Degeneres or other talk show hosts, I don’t see how Mandy and Jen can.

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However, this is a minor quibble in light of Selbak’s sharp dialogue and incisive social commentary. I’m looking forward to season three because I’m rooting for Mandy and Jen to get together and actually fall in love, and it looks like season two is dedicated to setting the stage for that romantic relationship. Overall, Kiss Her, I’m Famous is an excellent, engaging exploration into the way society sees lesbian relationships, an antidote to the wrongheaded misconceptions about lesbianism to which many people still desperately cling.

If you haven’t begun your journey into this wonderful series, you can watch episode one from season one right here (kissherimfamous.com).

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