Television’s Queer Teen Girls

 
 

During
late 2004 and early 2005, bisexual Latina
character Anna Taggaro (Daniella Alonso) was introduced in teen series One Tree Hill. Having had to leave her
old school because of (true) rumours about her relationship with a female
classmate, Anna is very closeted about her bisexuality. After initially dating
one of the male leads, Anna develops a friendship with and a crush on lead
female character Peyton Sawyer (Hilarie Burton), and the two became close.

Daniella Alonso (left) and Hilarie Burton

Peyton is
confused, however, by Anna’s hostile reactions to public displays of affection,
and when Peyton’s locker is spray-painted with the word dyke, Anna reacts quite homophobically, refusing to be associated
with Peyton in fear that she might be outed. But Peyton reclaims the supposed
insult, creating a T-shirt printed with the word dyke and
challenging homophobic school authorities.

This
story line continued the tradition of the straight teen being the one who is willing
to be an activist against homophobia, while the truly queer teen is not, as was
also seen in Once and Again. Although
for some queer teens this may occur due to fear of discovery, it denies the
central role that queer teens — and queer people in general — play in advocating
for their rights. As in the case of Neighbours,
once Anna fully came out, completed her crush on a straight lead character, and
stood up to the homophobes (in this case her brother), it was time
for her to leave the series.

Glamorous
teen soap The O.C. also saw a teen
girl romance, albeit short-lived, when leading lady Marissa Cooper (Mischa
Barton) dated and briefly moved in with bisexual character Alex Kelly (Olivia
Wilde), who had previously dated a male character. Canadian scholar Allison
Burgess argued in her essay "There’s Something Queer Going on in Orange
County" that at first, "this lesbian relationship began as something
new and exciting, representing a nuanced and fluid understanding of women’s
sexuality on prime-time television," but the last few episodes
disappointingly affirmed the dominance of heterosexuality.

In
addition, Marissa’s relationship with Alex was in some ways represented as a
strategy of Marissa’s to get back at her mother, rather than the result of true
desire. It suggested that relationships between teen girls are part of a phase
rather than meaning anything about their true sexualities.

Marissa and Alex in The O.C.

Canadian
tween series Degrassi: The Next
Generation
certainly took queer teen sexuality much more seriously than its
predecessor Degrassi Junior High. In the
2005 episode "Lexicon of Love," Alex Nuñez (Deanna Casaluce), a
character who had dated a boy in Seasons 3 and 4, is attracted to classmate
Paige Michalchuk (Lauren Collins), and the two kiss.

Paige and Alex in Degrassi: The Next Generation

They
develop a relationship that ends when Paige goes away to college, but when Alex
returns to Degrassi in an attempt to get sufficient credits to graduate in a
later season, she and Paige temporarily get back together again. Their
relationship ends abruptly in the Season 7 episode "Love Is a
Battlefield," angering many fans, but actor Lauren Collins has stated that
she feels that her character remains open to relationships with both men and
women.

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