When considering the finest LGBTQ representation in television, the short-lived science fiction television series FlashForward may not be at the top of your mental list.
The 2009 ABC show—about a mysterious event that causes the entire planet to black out for two minutes and seventeen seconds (exactly), during which each person on Earth experiences a “flash-forward” into his or her life six months into the future—lasted for only one season. The cancellation was perhaps warranted due to the extreme overacting of lead Joseph Fiennes (no doubt better suited for roles like Shakespeare in the lauded Shakespeare in Love) and the contrary “blahness” of his co-lead John Cho.
However, the show’s premise of getting a glimpse into one’s future provided a gamut of philosophical conundrums concerning free will—whether or not we have any—that charmed the pants of this philosophy major’s heart. If those quandaries would not suffice to make you all hot and heavy though, I have five magic words for why you should find and watch this one-season show: FBI Special Agent Janis Hawk.
Janis is introduced to the show as a member of the L.A.-based FBI team (led by lead character Mark Benford, played by the histrionic Fiennes) that will strive to solve the mystery of the flash-forward. She wears navy power suits, speaks in a gravely, sarcastic tone, and is, in her own words, “super gay.” Thank you baby Jesus!
Now let’s get this straight. She is (*sob* was) an out lesbian character on a major television network whose sexuality has nothing to do with the show’s premise and little to do with the character’s personality and interaction with her coworkers. She is a strong, female character who happens to like the ladies, much to the dismay of some poor shmuck who asks her out at karate practice. Instead, she leaves with this woman, the alluring Maya:
The fabulous Christine Woods as Janis Hawk is only an auxiliary character; a B story to the show, and her love life is only a B story to her B story, if you will. The fact that Janis’ romance has the emotional turmoil to guide us from first-date jitters to steamy sexual tension and then on to disappointment and abandonment in such a short span of screen time is a testament to the character’s strength.
Indeed, Janis Hawk is not a fabulous character because she is a lesbian and that lends her some sort of diversity credential. She is a fabulous character because she is a layered one. In her fast-forward, she sees herself as pregnant, getting a sonogram, enamored with love for her unborn child. This startles her because 1) she has never wanted a child and 2) in order to have a child, it would seem that there would need to be a penis involved and she remarks dryly, “I don’t like them.”
(Her “I don’t like them”—best delivery of a line… ever).
The fact that Janet broke up with Maya when Maya suggested that Janet’s future baby is theirs is a wonderful example of character complexity. Maya is overeager to make a family with Janet and Janet is understandably protective of her possible future pregnancy. She tells Maya, “This isn’t a me-you thing, Maya, this is a me thing.” She makes clear that her pregnancy would be just that, hers, and that Maya has no right to put claims over it. Feeling pressured and exposed, Janet ends it. What’s left from the brief relationship? Two characters—neither the villain nor the hero, no savior nor saved. These are the pieces left in a broken relationship, whether it be a straight or LGBTQ one, and when film or television manages to mirror reality like this, it is doing something very, very right.
When a run-in with some bad guys leaves Janet with a bullet wound in her stomach and a very rare chance of being able to conceive, Janet faces true heartbreak for the first time. She copes with feelings of failure, inadequacy and hopelessness stemming from the sickening feeling of recognizing her own desire to be a mother too late.
She also probably ruined her olive suit. (It matched my eyes and everything).
On a more frivolous note, the character of Janis wears this silver ring on her thumb—the very same thumb that she uses to draw Maya closer and sink them both into the ephemeral bliss of a kitchen kiss.
That flash of silver just gets me every time.
However, if getting to pretend that you’re dating this bundle of FBI-agent strength, sarcasm and flashing smile–
–is not enough motivation for you to watch the show, let’s remind ourselves of our little secret. Remember that Janis’ romance is a B story to her own B story within the show. There are many other complex and fascinating characters, including the male doctor she spoke with who is diagnosed with cancer yet sees a future with a beautiful Japanese woman and a haggard father who sees, in his vision, the daughter killed in action in Afghanistan alive and well six months later.
Moreover, as stated, Janis’ own story is far more complex than her romantic life and sexuality—as any well-rounded character should be, especially any LGBTQ character whose broadcast might stretch the minds of bigoted people.
At this point, I would like to warn you that there are a lot more surprises to the show that will keep you coming back for more, but if you hate any kind of spoilers, put your hands over your ears and sing “I Was Born This Way” right now. … Did I trick you? Instead, just don’t scroll down past this picture of a bunny in a knitted hat:
If Janis Hawk wasn’t already badass enough, she turns out to be…
A DOUBLE AGENT!!!!!!!!!
My case is closed. Love her, cherish her, cheer her on, and cry that this show only lasted a season so that we do not have more time with Janis Hawk.
TJ Murphy is a rising senior at Dartmouth College studying philosophy and art history. She is now accepting any advice from anywhere as to what she should do for a living. She enjoys writing, bookstores, cappuccinos, and climbing trees and she is not usually bitter about cancelled television shows.