On Amazon’s ‘Tampa Baes’ lesbians get trash reality TV representation just like everyone else


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Lesbians who do charcuterie boards.

Catching up on the all-new “Tampa Baes” — a look at the interlocking lives of a sapphic friend group on the Gulf Coast of Florida — I could not help but think that could have been an alt-title for the Amazon Prime Video reality show. There were just … so … many … charcuterie boards.

With multiple scenes over eight episodes giving us random charcuterie call-outs, it all charcuterie crescendos when some of the ladies are in a restaurant, peering at a menu — one asks the others, “How do you pronounce this word?” To which, one woman who gives me the vibe of a gum-smacking 1930s moll replies, “I was just going to point. Or just say meat-and-cheese tray.”

Fair enough. And lesbians, they’re just like us! I mean, as much I sometimes wonder where our modern-day obsession with charcuterie boards came from, especially with millennials (there are umpteen social media accounts devoted to the food art and a search for “charcuterie” on Instagram yields nearly one million results), I was gratified that these women of Tampa were … well … on board. In so many ways, it spoke to my main takeaway from the series: it is a show where the women who love women are presented as normal (and often as, well, “basic”) as anyone else! True equality!

Cuppie (the moll-like woman I mentioned who has a propensity for fanning herself at all times) has recently moved back to Tampa Bay and, in doing so, introduces us to the community she’s rejoining. A tapestry of women unfolds, including Shiv (a Persian American who quickly emerges as the most rootable for), Jordan (an African American ICU nurse who was working through the pandemic) and, notably, two power couples supposedly vying for “queen bee” alpha-lesbian-couple status. Marissa and Summer, on one side. Brianna and Murphy, on the other (Brianna rising fast as the joyless villain of the whole show).

The social jockeying begins almost instantly with a Y2K-themed party that the latter host at their house in the first episode (yes, Y2K is apparently now a period costume theme!). Merriment is had. Wires are crossed. Lines drawn.

“Everybody knows everybody. Everybody’s dated everybody. Everybody knows your f—ing business” is what we are told in that first episode. Over the course of the series, we get many of the things we might rightfully expect from a situational series of this ilk: love unrequited and commitment phobia, tossed drinks and awkward silences.

They wear beanies (in the heat). They play soft ball. They talk about turning into their mothers. They ask friends to take “sides.”

Some of the ladies go to a shooting range at one point. Some talk to a priest at another (a priest who is accepting and there to tell them they “belong”). Some gear up for a charity car wash, held in the parking lot of a strip club!

One of the most quotable of quotes of the series happens during an arc in which one of the women is being pursued by a chick who is straight. (Or is she?) “There are some women who have been married for 10 years, and they download TikTok and discover they like women,” quips one of her friends.

At the same time, we get a crash course on “the spectrum” when it comes to sexuality. Oh and “gaydar” — the uses and disuses of it.

I confess: I was not that into the show when I started watching it. But eight episodes, later, I was like: GIMME SEASON 2 NOW. I am a sucker that way. But je ne regrette rien. As much as the show is just OK, in the way many first season reality shows often are — the people are just getting used to the cameras, for one; a lot of time is taken up with introductions and table-setting; it takes some time for the complicated social dynamics to come into view — by the time the finale ended with an engagement between two of the women on the beach, I was all in.

You would have to made of stone, after all, not to get emotional seeing one of the fathers of the women (who is from an Indigenous family) hug his daughter tight, telling her quietly, “My little girl is grown up.”

Again: normal. Whatever struggles these women have had in coming out, or continue to have, whatever struggles they have had with their respective families, the fact that the show does not present them as exotics is kinda the point.

Watching “Tampa Baes,” it struck me that I need Memphis Baes and San Antonio Baes and Baton Rouge Baes. Oh, and Augusta Baes, too. Give me all the baes! Lesbians are people, too, and they need trash reality TV representation like everyone else! Thank you kindly for coming to my TED Talk.

“Tampa Baes” is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

Shinan Govani is a Toronto-based freelance contributing columnist covering culture and society. Follow him on Twitter: @shinangovani

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