2013: The Year in Lesbian/Bi TV

THE OLD GUARD

2013-old-guard

Grey’s Anatomy — You’d think after 10 seasons, Shonda Rhimes would have run out of ways to entertain us, but nope. 2013′s run of Grey’s Anatomy proved that she’s never going to give out of tricks. In addition to adding drama to Callie and Arizona’s relationship by having Callie chop off Arizona’s leg after a plane crash, Rhimes also shepherded in one of the most realistic portrayals of PTSD to ever land on our TVs. Arizona struggled to forgive her wife, to come to grips with her new physical and emotional reality, and to be the mom her daughter needed. Callie, meanwhile, tried to find the balance between abiding patience and tough love. Their relationship met challenges on every level, especially sexually, which made it even more shocking to watch Arizona give into her lusty feelings for Hilarie Burton‘s lesbian guest character, Dr. Lauren. But Calzona’s year wasn’t all bleak and adulterous; they finally reconnected with a lot of kissing (and only a little talking) during the recent midseason finale.

Glee — It has always a “best of times, worst of times” situation with Glee, and 2013 fell into the same old patterns. In one breath, the show mocked The Lesbian Blogger Community for over-caring and in the next breath, the show name-checked AfterEllen while parading Sanatana’s fake girlfriend around in a cheerleading uniform. The writers gave us a poignant, moving goodbye to Brittany S. Pierce, a true unicorn of bisexuality on network TV, only to retcon her character as a fickle penis-addict who couldn’t remain faithful to her girlfriend. Demi Lovato was cast as Santana’s new New York girlfriend, but her sizzling chemistry with Naya Rivera (and the insane majesty of their combined singing voices) has been wasted almost beyond measure. We mostly only see them sitting on couches in the background, not even holding hands. And no one can forget Quinn Fabray’s foray into lesbian hook-ups, or the way she went back for seconds with Santana. With a season and a half left to go, we’ve got to wonder if Glee‘s creative team is ever going to figure out how to treat its LGBT characters equally.

Lost Girl — Not even on its best day could The L Word have competed with Lost Girl‘s nuanced portrayal of the spectrum of queer sexuality, in large part because the Canadian sci-fi drama treats the entire thing as a non-issue. Bo Dennis, the most well-rounded kick-ass female leading character to land on our TVs since Buffy Summers, is unapologetically bisexual. And even though she is a literal succubus, she never falls into those tired bisexual cliches. In 2013, she made an honest, full-hearted effort to maintain a stable, healthy relationship with Dr. Lauren Lewis. In the end, it wasn’t a lack of loyalty or love (or dicks) that caused the rift between them; it was one of those common relationship misunderstandings that happen sometimes when one partner is tasked with the job of saving the world. This year also saw the addition of three more queer characters — Rachel Skarsten‘s Tamisn, Ali Liebert‘s Crystal, and Mia Kirshner‘s Clio — to Lost Girl‘s already swoon-worthy line-up.

Pretty Little Liars — The only show that comes close to competing with Lost Girl in terms of representing the full prism of queer female sexuality is Pretty Little Liars, a fact that never fails to delight me because it airs on the formerly Pat Robertson-owned ABC Family network. 2013 saw Paige and Emily going through typical teenage relationship struggles: What do you do when college might tear you 3,000 miles apart? How can you empower your girlfriend to follow her athletic dreams after she suffers an injury from jumping in front of a car being driven by someone wearing a mask of her dead ex-girlfriend’s face? What’s the best way to conquer your jealousy when your girlfriend’s Habitat for Humanity mentor writes erotic poetry for her disguised as a recommendation letter? How do you not end up with mushy squash at the high school hoedown after murdering a red-coated student with a pitchfork in the back of a hay truck? When’s the best time to cuddle if your girlfriend is always portal-hopping to a dimension where towns are desaturated and people worship Ravens? This year also saw the addition of a lesbian relationship between longtime Liar nemesis Jenna Marshall and web series creeper Shana Costumeshop and a guest appearance by Rumer Willis as the aforementioned erotic lesbian poet.

Bomb Girls — Another Canadian import that continued to woo in 2013 was the WWII period drama Bomb Girls. This year our intrepid Victory Munitions Head Girl, Betty McRae, took a break from swooning over her (apparently?) straight best friend to strike up a romance with traveling bond girl Theresa. The pair enjoyed covert movie theater cuddles, (secretly not-so) innocuous waltzing down at the pub, and some long-awaited love-making for Betty. They also ate a whole crop of metaphorical strawberries in the wee morning hours while sharing their secrets and hopes and dreams. Unfortunately, Global TV didn’t renew the series for a third season, but they did come through on their promise to film a TV movie, which will be released next year.

Chicago Fire — After scaring us out of our wits by nearly killing lesbian paramedic Leslie Shay at the end of season one (and teasing the idea that she was going to sleep with her male BFF to make a baby), the show roped us back in for season two by dangling a love interest named Devon right in front of our faces and then having her break Shay’s heart right after her U-Haul proposal. (She gave her a key!)

Degrassi — 2013 was a tough year for LGBT fans of Degrassi. Fiona and Imogen, the show’s longterm lesbian couple, said their goodbyes when Fiona graduated from high school and decided to take a fashion internship in Europe. They were together 6 months, 3 weeks, and 4 days, according to Imogen. (Hashtag sad face.) And transgender student Adam was killed in during a texting-and-driving PSA in the middle of season 13.

True Blood, The Good WifeOn the surface, The Good Wife and True Blood don’t seem to have much in common. One is a broadcast network lawyer drama and the other is a premium cable vampire series. But this year they land in the same category of: dropping the ball with their lesbian/bi characters. Kalinda Sharma has long been the critical favorite of The Good Wife, and 2013 saw a complete sabotage of her once fierce, complex bisexual private detective. Her story arc was reviled not only by gay ladies but by reviewers from dozens of mainstream media outlets. And to add insult to injury, her much-touted lady love interest was cut from early episodes of season five. As for True Blood, what was once a promising, blossoming love story between Tara and Pam was dropped completely this year. In fact, Tara didn’t see any significant screentime past episode two and Pam’s obsession with Eric destroyed any chance they had to enjoy the same kind of sexy goodtimes as the straight couples on the show.

Recurring gays and guest stars — There was plenty to celebrate on the gay guest/recurrig character front. Jess and Monica were back on this season of Shameless. Madame Vastra, the reptile from the dawn of time, and her wife Jenny enjoyed a good bit of screentime — including an episode devoted almost entirely to them and their companion Strax — on Doctor Who. HG Wells returned for one a handful of episodes during Warehouse 13‘s fourth season, including one episode that revolved almost entirely around her complicated relationship with Myka. New Girl let us spend some more time with Sadie, Jess’ gynecoligist (“vagenius”) best friend, who decided to have a baby with her wife this season. And Felicia Day‘s lesbian super nerd made a triumphant return to Supernatural where she revealed she’d been doing some hunting on her own and ended up frolicking off down the (actual) Yellow Brick Road with Dorothy.

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