“but be careful getting coffee, I think these people wanna shoot us”

I should have known it was too good to be true.  No more lesbianism on Grey’s Anatomy.  (Spoilers for anyone not up to date with the fifth season).

Not that they’ve handled it as well as they could have from the start.  It took a particularly weird turn with all the ‘need to seek out girl-sexing advice from a guy’.  I mean, surely the golden rule of lesbianism is ‘do unto your girlfriend as you’d like done to you’, then see how successful it is and talk about what you want.

It was a huge development though, we’re talking about one of the most watched (if not any longer one of the best) shows on television.  It’s turned into part of a disturbing trend though, look at House’s ’13’, a bisexual character who steps up the sleeping with women thing as a sign of spiralling out of control.  Basically, her lady-lovin’ is portrayed as a vice akin to her penchant for illegal drugs.  Not exactly feeling the warm and fuzzy embrace of diversity and inclusion there.  Although it is on Fox, so I wasn’t exactly expecting good things.  I’ve always felt that Ellen got cancelled post-coming out partly because the episodes did drop in quality, or at least I rationalised it that way.  It’s hardly the first time that a show with a prominent lesbian character got booted.

I can’t believe we’re really still at this stage – that lesbian “relationships” (complete with those air quotes) are perfectly useful to shock or to titillate, but woe betide any show that tries to show it as a sustainable and valid lifestyle choice.  I think the only character who had a prolonged lesbian storyline would be Dr Weaver on ER, or Lt Griggs on The Wire (I’ll be doing a guest blog for Jay about the women of The Wire, with particular reference to the realistic lesbianism sometime soon!).  Please, tell me if you can think of any others.

As for British TV?  Well, I can’t say I watch much these days, and it’s mostly just panel shows like Mock The Week.  The only drama I watch consistently is Spooks, and though I dozed off during it last night, I’m fairly sure they haven’t turned the delicious Ros Myers into a dyke just yet.  I didn’t see any lesbians in the fifteen minutes of Corrie that I caught last night, though I had heard rumours of it happening in Eastenders?

It never used to matter to me, I’ve always felt secure in my own identity as a gay woman.  (The obvious exception being my bizarre love for Fernando Torres, of course.)  What worries me is the lack of role models for more impressionable girls, ones whose only impressions of being gay are being shaped by the occasional risqué snog on something like Hollyoaks.  Surely, even with the religious right in the US, or the unable-to-take-a-joke brigade at the Daily Mail, we can still manage one realistic depiction on TV.

After all, this is my lifestyle, and that of so many people close to me.  I’m not pushing some radical agenda to get the heteros off the television, it would just be nice if someone a little like me was represented there too.

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5 responses to ““but be careful getting coffee, I think these people wanna shoot us”

  1. “After all, this is my lifestyle, and that of so many people close to me. I’m not pushing some radical agenda to get the heteros off the television, it would just be nice if someone a little like me was represented there too.”

    Speaking as a “hetero” I’d quite like to see some people a little like me on TV too. I’m not saying that heterosexuals aren’t portrayed on television or in film just that most portrayals of people in the media aren’t exactly “normal”. Largely because of the perceived need to emphasise things for dramatic or comedic effect. Unfortunately happy “normal” people of any race, gender, sexuality or age tend not to be particularly interesting.

    I mean, when was the last time Coronation Street got onto the front pages of the tabloids because Ken and Deirdre were having a row about who should do the washing up or were discussing what colour to paint the hall? On the other hand send Deirdre to jail or have Gail kidnapped and driven into a canal by her sociopath husband and you’ll grab more than your fair share of headlines – and viewers.

  2. Yeah, but in between that you get all the declarations of love, weddings, fights among families etc. I’m not saying I want ‘my life’ transposed onto the screen, but it would be nice to recognise some elements of it.

  3. To be fair before their stories moved into sensationlist mode there have been a fair few lesbian characters who got the whole “normal life” bit. I haven’t really seen that many soaps since I left home (my mum was a real fan and watched almost all of them so I couldn’t really avoid them) so I can’t give too many recent examples but, for example, “Emmerdale” handled the whole Zoe Tate coming to terms with her sexuality story arc quite well back in teh 80’s. She even got a “marriage” service. Admittedly she moved into the realm of melodrama (infidelity, failed realtionships, rape, schizophrenia and several attempted murders) pretty soon after that but up to that point the story line was fairly sensitively handled and quite realistic. Unfortunately it was also fairly quickly overshadowed by the whole Brookside Beth Jordache storyline. Before moving onto bodies under the patio her story was also presented in a positive light.

    I’m not saying that what you’re asking for is unreasonable or undesirable just that the nature of the medium means you’re unlikley to get it. I think that it is more likely in one off works or short series but expecting it in soaps or soap like series like Grey’s Anatomy is being a bit optimistic. Which is one reason why I don’t tend to watch them.

  4. Well, if the soapy ones threw in a smidgen on realism like they do with ‘normal’ relationships, it might help.

    Also, the Zoe Tate and Beth Jordache storylines were important, but to put it in perspective I was in primary school during both. Can you think of anything else major since then? I’m really struggling to come up with any major characters who happened to be lesbians…

  5. Since I gave up on watching soaps in the early 90’s (when Nigel was introduced into Eastenders as comic relief only to have his wife die in a car crash and his step daughter go majorly off the rails – oh how we laughed!) I’m probably not the best person to ask about recent TV characters.

    I did a wikipedia search which showed that there have been quite a few LGBT characters (more than you might think – Eastenders alone had 17) but that’s about as far as the good news goes. Most of the ones I recognised seemed to suffer from the “curse of the limited story line for certain groups” syndrome. For a young lesbian (which most of them seem to be – apparently you can’t be both gay and over thirty) once you’ve done the “dawning realisation of sexuality”, “agonising over coming out” and “overcoming prejudice and getting accepted by family/community” bits you’ve pretty much exhausted the entire canon and can expect to fade into obscurity pretty damn quickly.

    It’s a sad fact that “normal” lives make for boring TV so the chances of seeing anybody just going about theirs in a recognisable way is pretty limited – especially if you don’t want to risk alienating the type of viewer who posted the more Neanderthal comments on Kaite’s blog you linked to. But I don’t think the overriding reason for the lack of “normal” lesbian visibility is prejudice (conscious or otherwise) I think it’s just an inherent problem with the media and the need to attract and keep viewers more interested in incident than conversation. The prime example of this is “the L Word”. A programme about lesbians by lesbians where even they struggled to show anything like real people in real situations for any length of time. Cast your mind back to the early series and then compare them to the later ones. While the first couple of series had some grounding in reality and consistent(ish) characterisation by the time of the third it had become nothing more than a typical American soap with the same grasp of reality as a Liverpool supporter who thinks they’re going to win the premiership this year. Lazy writing possibly but more worryingly I think it just reflects the fact that you get more viewers like that.

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