?We Need Spashley?: The Impact of South of Nowhere on LGBT Youth
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In November of 2005, cable television network The N introduced a series called South of Nowhere into its lineup. On paper its premise looked entertaining if unremarkable: after her family moves from Ohio to Los Angeles, a wholesome sixteen-year-old named Spencer Carlin must make the radical adjustment to her new surroundings. But South stood out from its stablemates at The N through one dramatic disruption of teen TV archetypes. When Spencer found love, it wasn?t with the charismatic basketball star?she fell for wild rich girl Ashley Davies and began to question her sexuality. My research investigated the nature of South ?s impact on its lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) fans. I drew data from three websites devoted to the show, two of which followed message board formats and one that featured personal testimonials. Four tropes that ran through both South itself and the LGBT fan response served as my work?s organizing principles: (1) defining sexual orientation, (2) coming out of the closet, (3) sexuality as a family issue, and (4) being in a relationship. Fans expressed consistent belief in the proximity of the main characters? experiences to their own in each of these areas. I found that they used Spencer and Ashley (known by the portmanteau ?Spashley?) to articulate a desire for equality with their heterosexual peers; that other fans provided them with an entry point into the LGBT community; and that South empowered them to understand and accept their sexuality by presenting a televisual world in which people their age (albeit fictional) did the same.