One Tree Hill’s Latina Lesbian?

The poster for this episode of "One Tree Hill"Anna (Daniella Alonso)

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Is the WB teen drama One Tree Hill (Tuesdays, 9 P.M.) introducing the first new lesbian character on network TV this season? All the signs seem to point that way after the show’s November 30th episode (“Don’t Take Me For Granted”).

A nighttime soap revolving around the relationship of two teenage half-brothers and their friends and family, One Tree Hill slowly built an audience after it debuted last season, and has become a solid hit for The WB in its second season. Although there are already more characters than most viewers can keep up with, two new recurring ones were introduced this season, as well: Anna (Daniella Alonso) and Felix (Michael Copon), siblings and cheerleader Brooke’s (Sophia Bush) new next-door neighbors. Felix and Brooke quickly become involved in a “friends with benefits” relationship, while Anna begins to date the show’s star Lucas (Chad Michael Murray), and everyone else continues to sleep with, break up with, and betray everyone else.

The writers began setting up the lesbian subplot in the previous episode (“The Trick is to Keep Breathing”), when Anna’s brother Felix makes a suggestive comment at the school formal about Peyton (Hilarie Burton) playing with Anna’s hair, and Anna freaks out, telling Peyton to “not be so gay.” Anna subsequently drowns her guilt with too many beers and throws herself on Lucas, who makes her feel worse by turning down her sexual overtures because he wants to get to know her first.

Anna’s behavior is straight out of the TV writer’s manual for creating The Gay Teen In Denial, which requires that characters exhibit some combination of these three behavioral characteristics: an extremely negative reaction to gay or gay-suggestive comments; aggressive and blatant attempts to hit on a member of the opposite sex (to prove to themselves or others that they’re straight); and/or the consumption of large quantities of alcohol.

This formula is most often applied to secondary characters who only appear in a few episodes, rather than regular characters like Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Jack on Dawson’s Creek. Examples include closeted gay jock Larry on Season 3 of Buffy, who aggressively hits on all the girls in his class, until finally admitting he’s gay; Eric on the fourth season of Dawson’s Creek, who spreads a rumor around the frat house that openly gay Jack tried to kiss him and gets Jack kicked out of the house, before finally admitting he’s gay; and teenager Vanessa on the first season of Nip/Tuck, who seduces her boyfriend Matt to smother her feelings for another cheerleader.

The formula is occasionally applied to more prominent characters, as well. On All My Children this year, the questioning Maggie throws herself into the arms of Jamie to convince herself that she wasn’t attracted to Bianca. On the second season of Once and Again, Jessie starts spending time with Tad to block out her growing attraction to Katie. In the coming-out episode out in the fourth season of Ellen DeGeneres’s sitcom Ellen, her character reacted to her attraction to another woman by throwing herself at her ex-boyfriend.

After Anna engages in all three of these activities in the previous episode, One Tree Hill kicks it up a notch by hyping the lesbian subplot in the ad (above) for last night’s episode, which shows the two girls with the tagline “It was just a sleepover…right?” The tagline is a reference to the fact that Anna crashed at Peyton’s house after their school formal, but in the best tradition of sweeps weeks, this was just teaser text designed to drum up ratings: the sleepover wasn’t even mentioned in the episode except for a brief moment when Felix learns about it and says something to the effect of “Mom and Dad won’t be happy about that” and “are we going to have to leave town again?”