“Girlfriends” Jumps the Lesbian Shark

This season, Girlfriends has officially jumped the shark. And not just any shark: the lesbian shark (that's the crazy, bitchy shark that's always trying to get pregnant).

The UPN sitcom came close to accomplishing this feat last season when Omarosa guest-starred as a jealous lesbian, but this season, they've outdone themselves by managing to string out a painful gay storyline over several episodes.

The women of Girlfriends

In its sixth-season premiere last month, bisexual Lynn (Persia White) came upon a random white woman preparing to jump to her death, and convinced the woman — whose name I can't remember, not that it matters — not to kill herself by proposing to her (because proposing marriage to a suicidal stranger makes so much more sense than proposing therapy).

And of course, because this is sitcom-land, the random woman said yes.

Five minutes later, Lynn introduced the woman to her friends as "my fiancee." The woman has since moved into Lynn's house and is busy planning their wedding and wondering why Lynn doesn't want to have sex. Lynn, meanwhile, has spent the last five episodes avoiding having sex, or even a conversation, with this woman whom she's now living with, and spends most of her time complaining to her friends about the situation, while doing nothing at all about it.

Lynn even went along with an engagement party her fiancee had planned, though she conveniently failed to invite anyone to the party besides her three friends.

Did I mention this is supposed to funny? It's not.

And not because it makes a mockery of gay marriage (although it does), or because it reinforces the lesbian equals crazy connection (although it does that, too), but because it's so stupid and unbelievable it makes the rest of the show's simplistic storylines look like string theory.

Sitcoms are supposed to be over the top, but still rooted in reality. No one, gay or straight, would marry a suicidal stranger, and even if they did, it would be a spur-of-the-moment thing that was over by the end of a single episode. No decent TV writer in their right mind would try to drag out such a completely unbelievable one-note joke over several episodes.

But this is Girlfriends, where the writers have apparently lost their minds.

This isn't the show's first brush with lesbianism: William's (Reggie B. Hayes) bitchy lesbian sister Linda (Dawnn Lewis) and her partner visited a few seasons back — just in time to give birth and reinforce the time-honored lesbian-motherhood cliche. Then last season there was a brief appearance by Omarosa as a crazy-jealous lesbian who thought Joan (Tracee Ellis Ross) had stolen her woman.

Now we have the suicidal white lesbian who's willing to marry a perfect stranger, and a bisexual biracial woman who says she likes to sleep with women, but never actually does, as far as viewers can see.

I'm thinking this is pretty much strike three.

The only silver lining in this storyline is Lynn's openness about her attraction to women, and her friends' easy acceptance of Lynn's bisexuality. But you have to look really, really hard to see that lining through the haze of Lynn's borderline internalized homophobia, and William's repeated "I want to see some lesbian action" jokes.

Stupid lesbian jokes aren't unique to Girlfriends, of course; in fact, they're practically a sitcom right-of-passage these days, with extra points awarded to writers for coming up with a way to get two girls to kiss.

One more "lesbians are hot!" joke on According to Jim, or Everybody Likes Raymond, or Another Fill in the Blank Funny White Guy isn't going to matter too much, though, because no one really pays attention to the storylines on those shows.

But as one of only a few TV shows that focuses on black women, Girlfriends captures a unique and underrepresented audience. And as only five minutes on an L Word message board will tell you, underrepresented audiences pay closer attention to what is said and done when they are represented.

Many black women make fun of Girlfriends's ridiculous storylines, but it still tops the list of most-watched shows among African Americans on a regular basis, even beating out current media darling Everybody Hates Chris, according to Nielsen.

Which means how Girlfriends represents lesbians matters a little more than how Two and a Half Men does.

If Girlfriends wants to make fun of lesbians, that's fine — poking fun at the world and our society is what sitcoms do. But at least make it 1) funny; 2) semi-plausible; and 3) somewhat original.

Find a new way to make fun of lesbians, instead of the same old tired way. Entertain me while you insult me.

A little balance wouldn't hurt, either. Throw in a decent black lesbian now and then. And once in awhile, portray lesbians as something other than a bitch or a crazy woman. Or Omarosa. But I repeat myself.

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