Lesbian Love in the Afternoon: Queer Women on American Daytime Dramas

Upon Riegel’s return to Pine Valley a couple of years later, the audience learned that Bianca and Maggie had become off-screen lovers and Maggie had cheated on her with another woman. This led to Bianca’s involvement with a male to female transgender rock star named Zarf/Zoe (Jeffrey Carlson). Despite the fact the story was not embraced by fans, Bianca was once again involved in a love story that began, and ended, off screen.

This was the definitive criticism of the Bianca character — that she was always romantically involved off

"While stringing out romantic storylines for maximum drama is appropriate and even expected in daytime television," Warn wrote when Riegel departed the show in 2005, "it is also expected that, eventually, star-crossed couples do get together. With Bianca’s love interests, the payoff never really came."

In response, AMC cast an established daytime actress, Tamara Braun, as Reese, and the resulting "Breese" was groundbreaking for featuring the first same-sex marriage proposal, the first lesbian love scene, as well as the first same-sex wedding and marriage (and then the first same-sex annulment) on an American soap opera.

Reese (Tamara Braun) and Bianca (Eden Riegel)

But their storyline soon began to unravel. Although initially portrayed as a confident lesbian woman, Reese suddenly became part of that stale pattern of sexually confused lesbians. Bianca’s brother-in-law, Zach (Thorsten Kaye), became the third arm of an underdeveloped love triangle and surprisingly, the core character of Bianca became inexplicably absent.

Daytime’s first same sex wedding was performed on Valentine’s Day, 2009, but the marriage ended the next day when Bianca found out that Reese had kissed Zach the night before at the rehearsal dinner. Thus the first same-sex annulment.

Bianca flew back to Paris leaving many fans of the storyline furious. She eventually returned, decided to give Reese a second chance, and took her back with her to France to work on their relationship once again — off screen.

"They weren’t putting the breaks on with the kissing — they were how a couple would be," notes Fairman. "Now, that being said, commendable that they did a same-sex wedding, commendable that they did their research, commendable that they did it. The problem was the story behind it, with the Zach issue that outraged many.  Because for many lesbians it just doesn’t ring true that a man would come into the equation."

The anger of the fans was not abated in any way by statements made by head writer Chuck Pratt in his interview with Michael Logan of TV Guide.

"If Tamara decided to stay, keeping her on the show as an angry lesbian — with no other lesbian characters on the canvas — would be kind of insane," Pratt said. "So we thought about making Reese bisexual — kind of an Anne Heche who bounces back and forth—and maybe make her an opportunistic black widow, a real bad girl. And Tamara would have been really great at that. But, ultimately, we decided to stick with the message…that love wins out."

But when AMC’s executive producer Julie Hanan Carruthers justified the decision to use Zach as the obstacle in Bianca and Reese’s relationship, rather than another woman, with the explanation that, "We are working within a canvas of people who are interrelated and connected," she hinted at the underlying problem: there aren’t enough romantic-pairing options for long-running lesbian characters on a daytime drama unless you’re willing to change the general makeup of the established cast of characters.

While this may make sense on an individual show level, Warn noted in her analysis of the Breese storyline, "when it’s happening on every show, you’re left with a television landscape populated by lesbians who sleep with men, or no lesbians at all, only bisexual characters (who also primarily sleep with men)."

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