2008 Year in Review: Television

Daytime television

Daytime drama may not enjoy the glamour and notoriety of
nighttime drama, but it’s a mistake to underestimate the impact that soap
operas can have on lesbian representation.

Soaps have often been more progressive in their depiction of
controversial topics (such as gay and lesbian sexuality) than primetime
television, and one of the leaders in that arena is ABC’s long-running All My Children.

Actress Eden Riegel developed an international fan base with her depiction of a teenaged lesbian on
the show begining in 2000, and her character’s subtextual-turned-textual love affair with Maggie (Elizabeth
Hendrickson) became the stuff of soap opera legend.

In 2008, Riegel returned to AMC to reprise
the role of Bianca, now a mother of two and engaged to a woman named Reese (played
by Tamara Braun).

Bianca (Eden Riegel), left, with Reese (Tamara Braun)

While lesbian characters and relationships were evaporating
on primetime television in 2008, AMC
reversed that dour trend by bringing back fan-favorite Bianca and giving her
the sort of hyper-romantic storyline for which soaps are famous.

In October on AMC,
Reese arrived in Pine
after Bianca had
given birth to their daughter (in the middle of a tornado, because it’s a soap
opera) and made a very romantic marriage proposal to Bianca.
Of course, Bianca accepted Reese’s proposal, and it was the first lesbian
marriage proposal on daytime television.

To make matters even better (for a
change), it was followed by a romantic kiss between the two women, which is
more than we’ve seen on most popular primetime dramas.

Then in November, AMC broke
ground yet again by showing a sex scene
between Bianca and Reese
. The scene itself was pretty tame, but, as Sarah Warn
noted in her AfterEllen.com blog post on the episode,

…this was still a breakthrough for All My Children … which previously has only shown two women in bed
together once, to my recollection (Bianca in Lena’s hotel room), and they were
sitting side-by-side — not lying down — in a "morning after" scene
(not kissing or engaging in sexual activity the way the heterosexual characters
do all the time on the show).

Beyond the sex scene, the Bianca-Reese relationship actually
fits the description of “family” typically reserved for heterosexual
relationships on television, primetime or otherwise.

Riegel told AfterEllen.com that the family element of the AMC story was one the things that compelled her to return to the show:

When they asked me to come back, it was to explore
Bianca and Reese’s relationship as they moved toward a wedding. Which is why I
was so excited to return.

In terms of the future, what I want is for us to
really dig in deep to the issues that come up for same sex couples as they make
the adjustment to from love’s first blush to becoming a
family. Bianca and Reese have had a head start with Bianca’s beautiful
daughter Miranda, but bringing another child into the picture brings it’s own
set of complications. Especially when it’s the biological daughter of only one
of them.

I love the idea of exploring what family really
means and what’s great about daytime television is that you get to see the
relationships and dynamics shift and grow over a longer period of time than you
can in other, quicker mediums.

And unlike Grey’s
, Bones, or House, M.D., both of the characters on AMC are out lesbians and their lesbian relationship will last well beyond Sweeps week.

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