"Honey, we live in a Moral Majority word. Flaunt your religious beliefs and sexual preferences at your own peril. It's something we boys have known for centuries. Done is one."
"How the hell do you find dates so fast? It takes me months."
"My secret club. It's a whole, incestuous, underground network that we don't let you fag hags in on. A place for us who shine like a veritable sun to share our boy toys . And our Viagara".
I have to pause now to talk about the slur "tranny". Putting that word into the mouth of a gay character does not suddenly make it not a slur. Throughout Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead, Miller uses the words "faghag, as well as queer". All of these terms are clearly problematic because they're homophobic and putting these words into the mouth of gay characters doesn't suddenly make it okay. It further doesn't help that Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's dead, is written by a straight woman."Maybe I did mix a little pennyroyal in the massage lotion. He deserved it, I caught him in a hot clinch with that curvy tranny singer over at the Queen Mary, when he thought I was in the john."
The other two LGBT characters in this story are James I and his lover Matthew Gilardi. For the most part, James's greatest sin is being a lecher. Yep, another gay man who sleeps around. Matthew however is power hungry to the point where he has no problem murdering his own daughter because she is pregnant with the King's bastard. So in short, we have evil gay, lecherous gay, catty and flamboyant gay and it's all celebrated with slurs. Yeah for inclusion everyone.
Even when there are no LGBT characters in a scene, Miller still manages to mess things up. When Mara ends up moving to Wiconsin she meets a local teacher named Paul. Because Paul is handsome and works out, Mara immediately assumes that he's gay and comes up with the weakest reasoning for this leap.
“Sorry. It’s just… when you said that you were a weight lifter … I just thought… I mean, with the gym addiction and it being so far and all…”
“Only gay guys are interested in staying in shape?”
“Well, yes. I mean, no. It’s just… I’m from Los Angeles. Most men out there are gay. So I’m used to gyms being a place for sexy, sweaty guys to hook up with other sexy, sweaty guys.”
People of colour don't fare much better in this story. There are only three characters of colour. The first is Mrs. Lasio, "a heavyset, older Latina woman." Mrs. Lasio is deeply religious and therefore takes issue with Mara's practice of witchcraft. We are meant to see Mrs. Lasio as someone who is ridiculously superstitious who actively oppresses Mara. Mrs. Lasio is responsible for Mara's eviction. Of course, Mrs. Lasio gets hers in the end when she is also evicted.“Welcome to the Heartland. Our stats are a little different here."
We also have Mama Lua, who is a large Jamaican woman. We are told repeatedly how powerful Mama Lua is. It's Mama Lua who performs a cleansing ceremony on Mara. However Mama Lua is never allowed to develop into a real character and remains a magical servant at best.
I know that I've talked so much about the problematic elements of this story that I haven't really gotten to the plot. Unfortunately, I'm not done with the problematic elements. Mara is yet another example of an isolated woman. Mara's parents are both dead, though both make a ghostly visitation to warn her away from her stupidity. Mara doesn't seem to have a relationship with any women with the exception of course of her dead Aunt Tillie. Mara bemoans being a so-called "fag hag" but makes no attempt to befriend women. So let's see: dead parents (check), no female friends (check) women appear largely as adversaries or minor characters (check). Ding Ding Ding, I do believe we have found yet another trope.
Look, I don't go into chick lit expecting much. Generally speaking, I hope for a few good laughs and a satisfying end to the story but what I got was one bigoted trope after another, making the story itself almost irrelevant. I couldn't invest in Gus's friendship with Mara because he is such a homophobic trope. I wasn't pleased when Gus dropped everything once again to help Mara out and even decided to leave LA and move to freaking Wisconsin to be with Mara.