2007 Year in Review: Television

Supporting Characters

Lesbian and bisexual characters showed up in many other largely heterosexual television shows this year as supporting characters. One of the best examples of a solid, positive lesbian supporting character was delivered by BBC America’s Jekyll, which featured not one but two lesbian detectives as crucial elements of the story.

The two women, Miranda (Meera Syal) and Min (Fenella Woolgar), are a couple who are expecting a baby, but despite the clichéd pregnancy (which series producer Steven Moffat insisted was an accident due to Woolgar’s real-life pregnancy), the two women provide a calm, civilizing counterpoint to the bloody and monstrous Jekyll/Hyde character.

Miranda and Min could not differ more from another pair of supporting lesbian/bi characters, Garbo (Carly Pope) and Julia (Laura Allen), on FX’s Dirt, which focuses on a tabloid publisher (Courteney Cox) and the nasty rumors she digs up in Hollywood. Garbo is a lesbian drug dealer who is comfortably open about her sexuality, and does not hesitate to have a threesome with Julia and her boyfriend when Julia is high on drugs she supplies. One could argue that no one in Dirt is a positive role model, but the threesome scene — a tired cliché — openly panders to straight male viewers.

Dirt also did its best to profit off exploitation of lesbianism this year by the stunt casting of Jennifer Aniston as a lesbian publisher who is in competition with Cox’s character. Though Aniston’s character was interesting and her relationship with Cox’s character had some history, the over-hyped kiss between the two of them did nothing more than fan the flames of sweeps lesbianism. The scene was capped off by a male character ogling the two women — another low point for lesbians on television.

Meaningless same-sex kisses between women continued to be scattered throughout television this year, including inexplicable but largely harmless kisses between straight women on Las Vegas and ER, as well as an unfortunate Veronica Mars episode in which two girls kiss each other to taunt the boy they are both dating. Even crime drama Life got in on the action with a December episode in which Sarah Shahi’s character is unexpectedly kissed by a woman during an investigation.

Bisexuality was referenced on television in offhand ways as well, from The Class (CBS), in which one woman mistakenly believes another is interested in her and is egged on by her boyfriend to engage in a threesome (she doesn’t), to a fun moment in Bones (Fox) when a private investigator reminds Angela Montenegro (Michaela Conlin) of a girl named Roxy “whose heart you broke in second year art school.”

Lesbian characters appeared on several crime shows in 2007 with mixed results. On Bones, a closeted lesbian publicist was a murder victim; on Crossing Jordan, a lesbian was initially suspected of murdering her partner and stealing their baby, but was exonerated in the end; and an episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent featured a lesbian who was a sexual harasser, blackmailer and murderer. No crime show this year included a regular or recurring detective or police officer who is lesbian or bisexual.

Series with positive flash-in-the-pan lesbian moments this year included Shark, in which a lesbian attorney openly flirts with a straight woman who is flattered and even a bit turned on by the exchange; Mad Men, when a woman expresses her attraction, obliquely, to her roommate but is gently rebuffed — an understated and realistic reflection of the time period in which the series is set; and Friday Night Lights, when the town mayor invites Coach Taylor and his wife to her home for dinner, with her partner.

These moments, though short, were positive in different ways. They showed a straight woman who was very accepting of another woman’s attentions, and they placed lesbianism in two settings where it would not normally be expected — 1960 and a conservative small Texas town — with a minimum of fanfare and a maximum of subtlety and realism.