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

 
 

Given the potential of the Otalia storyline and the obvious reluctance from the network to show the physical aspect of the women’s relationship, one has to wonder — will there ever be a three-dimensional lesbian couple on network daytime television? 

Torchin isn’t so confident. "I’m not sure soaps are going to be around long enough for us to see this. I do think, however, if a soap is smart enough to give fans a real, full-blooded, sex-included storyline the success will rest on the same thing all love stories depend on: great writing, acting and super chemistry between the actors. It’s as simple as that. No one can expect any couple to be happy all the time on a soap; it’s the central convention of the genre, right or wrong. But there has to be some happiness before there’s any poignancy in the misery."

With ongoing resistance from TV networks, corporate sponsors, and other controlling entities, where do we go from here? Where will a three-dimensional lesbian relationship exist within a daytime model outside of cable television? 

With the influx of online viewership from sites such as YouTube, Hulu, and others, the future of fully realized lesbian characters and serialized dramatic storylines tilts toward the web.

This is the impetus behind Crystal Chappell’s latest personal project. Along with her business partners in Open Book Productions, Kim Turrisi and Hope Royalety, and many recognizable faces in the daytime industry, including her Otalia co-star, Jessica Leccia, Chappell seeks to accomplish with her new web series, Venice, what she couldn’t accomplish on the network. 

In the series, Chappell plays a lesbian whose sexuality isn’t an issue.

Says Chappell of the realization that the Otalia storyline would not be a realistic portrayal, "At some point I had to resolve myself with the fact that this was somebody else’s story and this was somebody else’s idea of how this should end and I don’t want to fight with it, I don’t want to argue with it. There are other stories to tell and there are other ways to tell it and that’s why I created Venice."

Mimi Torchin calls Venice a "real game changer … And the irony is that although I believe that Chappell had something like this in mind for a while, it was the loyalty and passionate commitment of the lesbian audience and her own frustration at the failure of Otalia’s blazing promise that probably put this project on the fast track." 

After leaving All My Children, Eden Riegel also created a successful web series, Imaginary Bitches, a comedy about a straight woman and her bitchy imaginary friends, including one who is a lesbian.

So does the web represent the future for good lesbian/bi characters and storylines?

Torchin says yes. "There will be no censorship on the web, hopefully ever. Art will totally imitate life. But there will be heterosexual characters, and gay characters and older characters and young ones and artists and all kind of real life experience. I’m sure there will be honest to god, sophisticated humor, too, something else sorely lacking in traditional soap opera." 

"The web is absolutely the future."

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