Holy wow, you guys. If you thought last year was great, 2014 was an AMAZING year for queer women on television. I remember in college, one of the only shows that had more than one recurring lesbian characters was The L Word, and casually mentioning it to see if anyone recognized the title was a way to sniff out other queer girls. This summer, the same (straight, married, mom of two) coworker who once asked me if turkey baster insemination was a real thing (because I’m a lesbian and, therefore, an authority on these things) was telling me emphatically that Piper needs to ditch Larry for Alex pronto after she went on an Orange is the New Black binge. I have in-depth conversations with my straight best friend about Emily Fields and her various lady loves on Pretty Little Liars. I discuss the precarious nature of Cosima and Delphine’s relationship on Orphan Black with my parents (OK, fine, with literally anyone who will listen, but also with my parents.) Times have changed, and, “Does it have queer women? Because I don’t have time to take on a show without queer women,” is a thing I said in earnest this year, because it’s true.
Though, as far as we’ve come, we still have a long way to go. While the number of lesbians/bisexuals on television has grown, some of them are not great representations, too many of them are underused, and there’s definitely still room for improvement in the diversity department. But we’re on an upward trajectory, and it’s a fun ride.
If you had asked me before I started gathering information for this master post, I would have estimated that I watched about 75% of the shows currently airing that had main or recurring non-straight female characters on it. Now, I’d say I was very wrong, and I have a LOT of shows to catch up on.
I decided to organize this into a giant imperfect metaphor, because imperfect metaphors are my jam. I imagined that all the television shows with queer women on television go to AfterEllen Academy, which is a school that accepts fictional queer women of any age. Much like schools ON television, time does not move normally at AfterEllen Academy, so some shows will be graduating, having completed their term, some will be expelled before they finish, and for others this will just be a midterm assessment. [And I think this goes without saying, but just in case it doesn’t, I’ll say it: MAJOR spoilers ahead for pretty much every show on television. You’ve been warned.]
Let’s start with those who graduated this year.
CLASS OF ’14
This year, we lost a lot of queer women on television, and I broke them up into three categories; those that graduated, those that were expelled, and those that we lost in a more tragic way. Those that graduated are the ones whose shows had more of a heads up they were going to end, and had proper series finales.
Being Human. Josh’s sister Emily, one of the few humans on the show, was more OK with her lesbianism than Josh was with his werewolfism. Her part tapered out toward the end of the series, but in a show where pretty much everyone died at least once, the fact that she, an open lesbian from the start of the series, survived through the end of it, is nothing short of a miracle these days.
Warehouse 13. In the controversial final abridged season of the show, Myka and Helena hardly had any screen time together, and the writers missed an opportunity to do what fans of the show and the actors themselves wanted to do, which was to let them ride off into the sunset on unicorns together. Instead, they ruined (in my opinion) a well-established brother-sister relationship by making it romantic. What was nice, however, is that H.G. was given a girlfriend to end the series with. Unfortunately, it was all off-screen, and that girlfriend was not Myka, but it’ll do. Diplomas issued.
True Blood. After years of being Head Vamp In Charge and sassing all over everyone, Pam hung up her fangs and said goodbye. Ever since the tragic beginning of the final season (more on that later) she has not always met full sapphic standards, but she still had her bite (both literal and verbal) down to the end. And once again, in a show where anyone’s head could be on the chopping block at any moment, being a survivor earns you a diploma. Congratulations, Pam.
White Collar. The show ended its six-season run, sending Diana Berrigan, badass lesbian FBI Special Agent, back to D.C. Throughout the series, this out-from-the-start agent was a respected and well-written character, though, like too many on this list, incredibly underused. But, all in all, as pleasant a goodbye as goodbyes can be.
Legend of Korra. The most recent diploma was issued to the Nickelodeon duo, Korra and Asami. This was a huge step for the network, as programming geared toward children tend to shy away from the “controversial” topic of same-sex relationships (I say “controversial” with proper amounts of eye-rolling, because it’s ridiculous that there are still people who would oppose such a thing), or at least they used to. But this series ended with its title character going on a trip to the Spirit World (which sounds super romantic) hand-in-hand with another female character. And for those who insisted it was fangirls projecting, that the ending was just about two best friends, don’t worry, the creators have spoken out and assured everyone that the ending was exactly what it seemed.
And actually, while we’re on the topic of children’s networks, I’d like to issue an honorary diploma to Good Luck Charlie, a Disney Channel show that featured a lesbian couple in an episode. The running joke of the episode was that Charlie’s parents each thought they were right about the name of Charlie’s friend’s mom, and in the end they discover they were both right because Charlie’s friend had two moms. It was treated just like any other antic storyline in the show, and it was a great first step for the Disney Channel.