On television, there appears to be a gender bias when it comes to the portrayal of homosexuality. While gay men are catty best friends and deeply dramatic teens, lesbians are much rarer, unless you only count Showtime’s The L Word. Why this is we’re not quite sure, all we know is this: we love lesbians.
Going back through the years, we put together a list of our five favorite TV lesbians. These aren’t the most socially important or famous like Ellen DeGeneres. Instead, we thought long and hard about the TV lesbians we loved to watch, the ones we fell in love with, and the ones who made us laugh out loud.
5. Serena Southerlyn, Law & Order
Usually the biggest shock for a lesbian on TV is to have a steamy kiss. In the case of this long-running crime procedural, it was a sudden reveal to the audience that surprised us all. In her final episode as an ADA, Elisabeth Rohm‘s character was fired and responded with the now immortal line, “Is this because I’m a lesbian?” Law & Order rarely delves into the personal lives of its main characters, but this pronouncement sent a perfect message about our perceptions. Would audiences have felt different about Serena had they known all along that she was a lesbian? Does it matter? By dropping this bomb at the last minute, the show baffled our expectations.
4. Mrs. Garrison, South Park
We’re not entirely sure if Mrs. Garrison even counts as a lesbian, but we don’t care. First he was a gay man, then he got a sex change operation, and now he’s a transvestite who likes women. But most memorably, in a brilliant parody of 300, Mrs. Garrison begins having relations with other women he meets at a bar called Les’ Bos. While there are certainly many possible sexual positions for lesbians, none elicits more laughs than “scissoring,” which Mrs. Garrison gleefully enjoys multiple times in this episode. Simply put, we’ll never look at a pair of scissors the same way again.
3. Original Cindy, Dark Angel
In the dystopian future of Dark Angel, an overly authoritarian and corrupt government made life quite unhappy. Still, Original Cindy (Valarie Rae Miller), sidekick to Jessica Alba’s genetically-enhanced Max, was an out and proud lesbian who loved life, booze, and sexy women. Not apologetic or preachy, Original Cindy was always herself, a girl who loved other girls, and sometimes it’s nice to see a normal, fun-loving lesbian who isn’t struggling with issues of sexual identity.
2. Jessie Sammler, Once and Again
The sexual maturation of young men is common fodder for TV, and through Dawson’s Creek, we saw the coming out of a teenage boy with Jack McPhee. On the infinitely better Once and Again, creators Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick explored adolescent female sexuality and, in the process, unearthed a fantastic young actress named Evan Rachel Wood. While many people first learned of her thanks to her award-winning performance in thirteen, it was as innocent Jessie Sammler that Wood first shined.
In season 1, viewers saw Jessie get her first period. In season 2, she dealt with an eating disorder because she was unhappy with her body. In season 3, the show once again explored young female sexuality as Jessie befriended and eventually fell in love with Katie, played by The O.C.‘s Mischa Barton. Watching this scared little girl come to grips with her sexuality opened viewers’ eyes to a whole new facet of humanity that TV hadn’t bothered with before.
1. Tara and Willow, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
While technically two people, the Tara/Willow relationship on Buffy the Vampire Slayer was beautiful, tragic and opened all our eyes as dear, sweet Willow (Alyson Hannigan) explored both her sexuality and her magical prowess with the beloved Tara (Amber Benson). An allegory for female empowerment, the love began in season 4 and matured so slowly that casual viewers may not have realized what was going on for quite some time. Never exploitative, Joss Whedon shepherded these two women through a slow and steady courtship as their love became more and more intimate.
Their first kiss was a virtual throwaway moment in the deeply moving episode “The Body,” and we all remember how Willow made Tara “complete” in “Once More, with Feeling.” Their love was cut short by a bullet, but we will always remember and love Tara and Willow, not just for being butt-kicking, super-hot lesbian witches, but because their relationship was as sentimental and sincere as any heterosexual relationship you might see anywhere else on TV.
-John Kubicek, BuddyTV Senior Writer
(Videos courtesy of YouTube)
(images courtesy of FOX, CW, NBC, ABC and Comedy Central)