2008 Year in Review: Television

When the Hahn-Callie affair finally got its start in October,
the portrayal of their sexual discovery (neither initially identified as
lesbian) was lauded for being tender, funny, and realistic. Even Hahn learning
that she was, perhaps, more fulfilled by lesbian sex than Callie struck a chord
of truth for women who have found themselves on either end of a similar
situation.

Which is why the sudden dismissal of Smith and the
subsequent end of her relationship with Callie was so jarring to devoted
lesbian and bisexual viewers, many of whom had watched the show since its
inception and had long been hoping for a quality lesbian storyline.

Rumors about the reason behind the firing were rampant and
fans blamed everyone from conservative families willing to boycott Disney over the
matter (ABC is owned by Disney) to ABC executives who reportedly “had issues” with the explicit nature of the relationship between Hahn and Torres and the Hahn character in general.

Series creator Shonda Rimes attempted to dismiss the rumors by issuing this statement:

Brooke Smith was obviously not fired for playing a lesbian. Clearly it’s not an issue as we have
a lesbian character on the show – Calliope Torres. Sara Ramirez is an
incredible comedic and dramatic actress and we wanted to be able to play up her
magic. Unfortunately, we did not find that the magic and chemistry with
Brooke’s character would sustain in the long run. The impact of the Callie/Erica
relationship will be felt and played out in a story for Callie. I believe it
belittles the relationship to simply replace Erica with ‘another lesbian.’ If
you’ll remember, Cristina mourned the loss of Burke for a full season.

Unfortunately, since Callie had clearly identified herself
as a bisexual woman, not a lesbian, in the previous episode, this statement
just made Rhimes and ABC appear even more out of step with their own show, and the intelligence of its viewers.

The firing incited a swift bit of online activism from
scores of LGBT (and LGBT-friendly) viewers, who were no doubt already feeling
the sting of homophobia that week due to the passage of anti-gay measures in
several states that same week as part of the November elections.

Following on the heels of the firing was more de-gaying Grey gossip, this time that Melissa
George’s new intern character, Sadie, initially described as bisexual,
would now be heterosexual (or technically bisexual, but in name only).

Cue another round of groans (and angry emails) from lesbians
and bisexual women everywhere.

Earlier this month, ABC announced that Jessica Capshaw
(Bette Porter’s hot-to-trot teaching assistant on season four of The L Word) would join the Grey’s cast as Callie’s new love
interest for at least three episodes beginning in January 2009. Capshaw will
play pediatrician Dr. Arizona Robbins, who has come to Seattle Grace to assist
with a case.

We hope that all of the lesbian/bisexual drama this season
on Grey’s will play out in a positive
manner in 2009, but it’s not likely given the events so far this season, which inspire
me to quote a line from Tootsie: That
is one nutty hospital!

One of the other big stories about a queer female character
played out at yet another nutty
hospital in 2008, that of Dr. Remy Hadley, aka "Thirteen" (played by
Olivia Wilde) on House, M.D.. 

Thirteen (Olivia Wilde)

Wilde joined the cast in 2007 as one of 40 interns hired by
cantankerous medical guru Gregory House, M.D. House whittled down his group of
medical “contestants” in a reality television-style competition until only three
were left to join his staff. Number Thirteen a.k.a. Hadley was among them, and her
character’s bisexuality was confounding to the man in charge, making her the
target of his considerable snark.

This season, her character was diagnosed with fatal
Huntington’s Disease and her response was to live each day as if it were her
last (opportunity to have sex with a woman).

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