IRL LESBIAN LEADING LADIES
Like last year, 2013 was a banner year for real-life gay ladies.
Political punditry allowed us to spend more time with the whole world’s favorite liberal lady, Rachel Maddow, who continued to woo and wow on late night talks shows as a mixologist while continuing to be the golden girl of MSNBC’s primetime line-up. Jane Velez-Mitchell entered her fifth year of hosting her eponymous show on HLN, as well as making frequent guest appearances on CNN and E!. Sally Kohn continued to try to add some actual fairness and balance to Fox News’ political commentary. Today Show weekend anchor Jenna Wolfe came out and announced that she and her partner, NBC News Foreign Correspondent Stephanie Gosk, were expecting their first child. And Suze Orman continued her award-winning stint as the country’s best money manager on CNN’s The Suze Orman Show.
And just this week Good Morning America host/ESPN’s best ever sports commentator Robin Roberts revealed in a Facebook post that she had a girlfriend (she’s been with Amber Laign for ten years). Now you can wake up with an out morning news anchor every day of the week!
On the talk show front, Ellen DeGeneres continued to dominate the daytime TV airwaves. The Ellen DeGeneres Show received two Emmy award wins (out of four nominations) and was renewed through 2017, which will carry it into its 14th season. Sara Gilbert continued to enchant on CBS’ The Talk. Fortune Feimster never failed to make us guffaw on Chelsea Lately. And our own Bridget McManus joined The Queen Latifah Show much to the delight of everyone in the studio and viewing audiences.
The landscape of reality TV was markedly different for gay women in 2013 as we’d already bid goodbye to the women of The Real L Word last year. But there was plenty to celebrate. Jillian Michaels continued to advise contestants on The Biggest Loser; Tabatha Coffey continued to whip salon owners into shape on Tabatha Takes Over; Michelle Chamuel rocked her time on The Voice and almost took home the trophy for the fourth season. Monifah and Terez got engaged on R&B Divas; and Generation Cyro followed lesbian Breeanna as she sought the sperm donor her own lesbian moms used to conceive her.
And, of course, no lesbian lady TV review would be complete without a mention of Kate McKinnon who absolutely owned Saturday Night Live this year, even doing her Ellen impersonation with Ellen herself.
When you factor in lesbian/bi characters from international shows — Last Tango in Halifax, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Tierra de Lobos, Verbotene Liebe, and Wentworth — you get a grand total over over 100 (one hundred!) lesbian/bi characters on TVs around the world in 2013, over three-quarters of which matriculated in North America. I’ve mentioned this before but it bares repeating that when The L Word ended its run in 2009, we exchanged a lot of editorial emails here at AfterEllen about what the heck we were going to write about. Without the ladies of Showtime’s WeHo there was an absolute dearth of gay ladies on TV. So the fact that there are 100 (one hundred!) to choose from four years later is mind-boggling in the very best way.
Of course it’s not all high-fives and scissoring. The overwhelming majority of LGBT characters on television are thin and white, and most of them do not enjoy the kind of physical relationships as straight characters. And while there are more LGBT characters than ever, we are still wildly underrepresented. But the diversity of viewing mediums and genres over which the current crop of gay characters is spread is really encouraging. Visibility seems to be growing exponentially.
Next year, in addition to the lesbian/bi characters that survived 2013 (which was most of them), we’re getting another lesbian mom show. The CW has picked up the Canadian dramady Seed, which features an interracial lesbian couple that befriends the bartending, sperm-donating main character. The Disney Channel will feature its first ever gay characters when a lesbian couple comes to town on Good Luck Charlie. Netflix Emmy contender House of Cards will feature a lesbian pairing. The upcoming Starz pirate drama Black Sails boasts a couple of gay ladies. Global will release its Bomb Girls movie. And hopefully we’ll be hearing more about the sitcom team-up between Ellen DeGeneres and Liz Feldman.
If the last few years of sweeping social change are any indication, 2o14 is going to be another great year for gay woman, politically and pop culturally.