Producers’ Backgrounds Affect Storytelling
There is an increasing number of openly gay men producing television shows, but although having a gay man at the helm does lead to more gay male characters on a show, it does not necessarily lead to more lesbian characters. Two gay producers who have included lesbian story lines in shows that are currently on the air are Greg Berlanti (Brothers & Sisters, Eli Stone, Dirty Sexy Money) and Oliver Goldstick (Lipstick Jungle, Ugly Betty).
The final episode of Lipstick Jungle‘s first season, which aired last March, included a same-sex kiss between Victory (Lindsay Price) and a female client in a threesome scenario that wound up being more creepy than sexy. Goldstick explained to AfterEllen.com that he was not satisfied by the way the scene turned out, "because it was a first draft and we had to shoot during a writers’ strike, so it wasn’t fully realized. … We weren’t trying to play it for the joke."
Left to right: Anastasia Griffith as Kelly, Lindsay Price as Victory Ford,
Bobby Cannavale as Parks in Episode 107, "Carpe Threesome"
Photo credit: NBC/Nicole Rivelli
He explained that "it was never the intention" to create an exploitative scene. "We never even got to hear Victory say why this all happened, what was going on in her — her vulnerability and why she was open to a couple. … We had only the material that was shot. We couldn’t re-shoot anything, you know — you can’t re-shoot if you’re not in production — and that was the issue."
An episode of Greg Berlanti’s Eli Stone did include a lesbian story line last season, and when I asked if he had any plans to include lesbian/bi women in any of his series this season, he answered: "There’s always a chance. … That would be my hope. I mean I like to represent everybody on the show, so I have a firm belief in that."
The one prime-time show in which a lesbian relationship is guaranteed to be seen this fall is on Shonda Rhimes’ drama Grey’s Anatomy, in which the romance between Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez) and Erica Hahn (Brooke Smith) will pick up after their kiss in the season finale last May.
It is worth noting that Grey’s Anatomy, which features one of the most diverse casts on television, was created by a woman of color. It seems likely that the lack of lesbians and bisexual women in scripted shows is related to the lower number of women in executive positions on television. As more women become executive producers, we can hope that more lesbian/bisexual characters will be included on television programs in general.