Lesbians are on TV, so who is watching?


In a companion piece by Puentes, "Playing it straight, or gay, doesn’t always go both ways," she writes:

It’s somewhat easier for [gay] women [to play straight]: Ellen DeGeneres hasn’t suffered career damage; neither has Cynthia Nixon, who came out as a lesbian after Sex and the City ended but is still playing straight in the SATC movies and other roles. And Cherry Jones, a lesbian and Tony-winning stage actress, played the president of the United States on 24.

But Ellen DeGeneres has suffered significant career damage — just ask her. She’s spoken out several times about how she was unable to get work and was sent into a depression after coming out on the cover of Time magazine. Even Laura Dern, a straight actress who was part of Ellen’s coming out episode was unable to find jobs after appearing on the show.

Luckily, both DeGeneres and Dern have bounced back and maintain extremely successful careers and it’s wonderful that lesbian actresses are able to convincingly play straight when given the opportunity. But the ironic part is that many lesbian actresses aren’t given much of an opportunity to participate in the new lesbian storylines. Take The Kids Are All Right, for instance: are there any lesbian actresses that would have been considered for the roles Annette Bening and Julianne Moore played? And if out director Lisa Cholodenko chose to cast lesbian actresses in those roles, would it have received as much financial backing or enjoyed the same level of success?

In a previous interview, Benning told USA Weekend, "Hopefully we will get to a point in our culture where everybody gets to play what they want and it’s not about that." That’s the idea, but, unfortunately, lesbian storylines are still easily ignored unless they are blockbusters starring straight actresses.

Considering Puentes left out several of the newer gay storylines on shows like Degrassi: Boiling Point and As the World Turns, perhaps she’s just out of touch with the subject she was attempting to delve into; but when it comes to the acknowledgement of how many gay women are on TV, she’s not alone. We have many more lesbian and bisexual women being represented on television, but if we’re the only ones who realize it, is that a bad thing? Do we need acknowledgment from the majority (i.e. straight) critics and viewers? It seems we could have gone from the sweeps week ratings stunt to slipping under the radar, and I’m hoping that means it’s that we’re viewed as normal rather than an expendable minority.

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