Trish Bendix: Beverly Hills, 90210 introduced one of TV’s first lesbian characters in Alison (Sara Melson). She even had a girlfriend named Dana. But once she befriended Kelly (Jennie Garth), her life went to s–t. She dumped her girlfriend for Kelly, who didn’t return her feelings and had to defend her straightdom to her boyfriend, Brandon.
Then, Allison and Kelly got caught in a burning building. In an effort to save the straight girl she’s in love with, Allison ended up getting badly burnt and ends up in a full bodycast in the hospital. Kelly, who only has a slight second-degree burn on her back pays her a visit, and it’s the last time she’s ever seen. Way to kick her while she’s down, Kelly. (It’s also worth noting that Allison’s only other visitor is her then-ex Dana, who announces Kelly is her “first visitor” quickly adding “besides me, of course!”)
Dorothy Snarker: Gay characters often disappear on television. But it takes an exceptional leap for them to disappear into The Parking Lot of No Return. The shocking firing of Brooke Smith and abrupt dispatch of her character Erica Hahn on Grey’s Anatomy is a shameful chapter in a show that has had its ups and downs with the gay community.
The disappearance came just when many thought her relationship with Callie had reached a breakthrough. After the “you are glasses” scene and Erica’s revelation that she was so gay, after her late-in-life coming out touched so many. At the time, two years ago, Erica’s walking away from Callie into that damn parking lot meant there were no other lesbian/bisexual couples on broadcast television. News reports also hinted at homophobic reasons for the firing, from ABC wanting to play down gay-themed storylines and executives having issues with the “explicit direction” of their relationship.
It was a serious an insulting blow to queer women’s visibility on the small screen, and signaled a significant setback in the industry’s acceptance of mainstream gay and lesbian storylines.
Of course, since then Grey’s has made nice with its lesbian and bisexual fans. Certainly, much of the painful bleeding caused by Brooke’s unceremonious firing was staunched when Jessica Capshaw came on the scene and stole our hearts (broke them a little, too) as Dr. Arizona Robbins. But there will always be that sting, lingering in the back of our minds, and an incurable fear of parking lots. Forgive, but don’t forget.
What lesbian character do you think got the shaft on TV?