In our second annual AfterEllen.com Visibility Awards, we recognize those that have most positively or negatively influenced lesbian and bisexual visibility in American entertainment during the year. So here’s our pick of 2005′s best and worst celebrities, TV shows, movies, musicians, and more.
BEST SCRIPTED TV SERIES
South of Nowhere (The N)
The idea that a basic cable channel would debut an entire series built around a teenage girl exploring her sexuality seemed too good to be true; that it turned out to be well-written, sexy, and sensitively handled was even more surprising. Not surprising is that since it debuted a few months ago, South of Nowhere has quickly become a hit, and has already been renewed for a second season. The show might be aimed at younger teens, but judging by the emails we receive, and the fact that the series has already been picked up for a second season, South of Nowhere is a hit with women of all ages and sexual orientations.
Honorable Mention: The L Word (Showtime), for existing.
WORST SCRIPTED TV SERIES
While this popular sitcom about a group of African American friends deserves some credit for making one of its characters somewhat openly bisexual, that’s no excuse for the long-running intelligence-insulting lesbian joke it tried to pass off as a subplot this year.
BEST REALITY TV SERIES
America’s Next Top Model (UPN)
From bisexual Michelle to gay Kim to heteroflexible Sarah, UPN reality series America’s Next Top Model displayed a variety of alternative sexual orientations this year. Although the judges give conflicting advice about gender performance, Top Model consistently sends the message that gay is okay–even if Kim trying to walk in heels is so not.
Honorable mention: Hell’s Kitchen (Fox), for casually including an openly lesbian contestant and her girlfriend.
BEST PORTRAYAL OF BISEXUALITY ON TV
One Tree Hill (WB) and South of Nowhere (The N)
When the character of Anna (Daniela Alonso) came out as bisexual on the second season of teen drama One Tree Hill earlier this year, it represented two “firsts” for network TV: the first bisexual Latina character on TV, and the first time bisexuality was openly discussed on network TV (unlike on The O.C., which included a bisexual character but never explicitly discussed her sexuality). Although many fans were disappointed with Anna’s lack of a love life on the show, the show deserves credit for deliberately and sensitively exploring the unique struggle bisexual women face in trying to fit into both worlds.
In contrast to One Tree Hill, the “I don’t like labels” teens on South of Nowhere don’t talk much about what it means to be bisexual, but they embody it better than anyone else on television has. While it remains to be seen if Spencer and Ashley stay bisexual or are revealed to be lesbians, they’re doing a good job so far of embodying that hazy gray middle that is more common among teenagers these days than most Americans would like to admit.
WORST PORTRAYAL OF BISEXUALITY ON TV
The O.C. (Fox)
It started off promisingly early in the year, when The O.C.‘s teen queen Marissa (Mischa Barton) fell for new girl Alex (Olivia Wilde) and the two began a relationship that was mostly well-received by the other characters, and fans. Then the writers decided they were done with that relationship, and Alex was turned into a different character altogether–a jealous, dangerous one. Series creator Josh Schwartz admitted afterwards that he didn’t realize how unwilling the network would be to let him fully explore this storyline, but we say that anyone who has ever seen anything lesbian-related on a scripted Fox show should have known there was only one was this was ever going to end: badly.