Television’s Queer Teen Girls

In 2002,
prime-time family drama Once and Again
(ABC) explored queer teen sexuality in the episode "The Gay-Straight
Alliance." Fifteen-year-old Jessie (Evan Rachel Wood) is informed by her
stepsister that Jessie’s best friend Katie (Mischa Barton) "and Sarah Grasser were like madly
in love." Jessie is initially highly discomfited by this news, insisting
to her therapist that this arose not from homophobia, but from her feeling that
if Katie were gay, she would have told Jessie.

Katie
then does reveal to Jessie that she has feelings for her, and the two girls
kiss twice. Katie and Jessie’s relationship was developed over the course of
the show very subtly, but their kiss was clearly not
meant to be a one-off exploration. Due to the cancellation of the show a few
episodes after "The Gay-Straight Alliance," Jessie and Katie’s
relationship didn’t develop further, but it was insinuated to be ongoing via
hand-holding and a kiss during the few remaining episodes.

Jessie and Katie in Once and Again

Canadian
teen series Edgemont (2003) has been one of the few series to include a non-Caucasian queer teen girl character,
Shannon Ng (Grace Park). Although Shannon, a Chinese Canadian, initially dates a
male character, her attraction to a female classmate causes her to question her
sexuality, and toward the end of the third season, she begins to come out.

Shannon (Grace Park) and Stevie (Sarah Edmondson) in Edgemont

At
the beginning of the fourth season, it is revealed that Shannon
has been kicked out of her home by her parents due to her sexual orientation. She
comes out at school in the fourth season episode "Out and About."

This story
line differs from most television portrayals of a teen coming out, which tend
to follow narratives stressing tolerance. Because Shannon
comes from a conservative Christian background, the consequences of her coming
out were relatively severe.

In 2004,
Australian early evening family soap opera Neighbours
featured the coming-out story of lesbian teen Lana Crawford (Bridget Neval).
New-girl-at-school Lana is initially very closeted because she left her old
school due to homophobic bullying. She later develops a crush on her best
friend Sky (Stephanie McIntosh), a socially progressive yet heterosexual Neighbours lead teen character, and kisses her.

Skye and Lana on Neighbours

The two remains
friends until Skye kisses Lana before declaring that she is really only
interested in her boyfriend. Shortly thereafter, Lana decides to leave the
school (and thus the series), and while she is given the opportunity to dance
with a female classmate who had been her secret admirer before leaving, she never
returns.

Although
this story line went on for significantly longer (several months) than the "very
special episode" approach to queer characters on television, it was still
an example of the same kinds of attitudes, as the character was introduced only
in order to address an issue (homosexuality). Once the issue had been
addressed, the character was shipped out of Neighbours.

The significance of this depiction was that it occurred in a relatively
conservative, family-oriented show with a large child viewership, and all the
major sympathetic characters were presented as supportive of Lana’s sexuality,
with the bullies being depicted as villains.

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