Actual lesbian and bisexual women on non-reality television
While it seems there will always be a place for lesbians and
bisexual women in the unruly world of reality television, what was perhaps most
notable about the representation of “real” queer women on television this year
was the high number of out lesbian and bisexual actors (and one particularly
notable newswoman) regularly seen on daytime and primetime broadcast and cable
Ellen DeGeneres (right) with Portia De Rossi
The most high-profile out lesbian on television
continued to be Ellen DeGeneres, who in 2008 made headlines with her wedding to
Portia De Rossi in August and won an Emmy for Outstanding Talk Show Host for
her work on her talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Former talk show host Rosie O’Donnell’s attempt at a TV comeback with her variety show, Rosie Live!, was not well received, however, by critics or viewers.
Air America vet Rachel Maddow made a big splash on television this
year when she became the first out lesbian to host a primetime news or
political commentary show on American television with The
Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC.
When asked by AfterEllen.com about being an openly gay journalist, she talked about the importance about being out:
That’s the thing that we owe the people who came before us who are the
pioneers, and that’s the thing we owe the next generation of gay people in
terms of clearing the way and making life easier for them. I think that there
is a moral imperative to be out, and I think that if you’re not out, you have
to come to an ethical understanding with yourself why you are not. And it
shouldn’t be something that is excused lightly. I don’t think that people
should be forced out of the closet, but I think that every gay person, sort of,
ought to push themselves in that regard. Because it’s not just you. It’s for
the community and it’s for the country.
Maddow’s coverage of the 2008 presidential election left more than one
wishing that Maddow was running for office herself.
While we can safely
file that idea under “Maybe, Someday,” for now we can amuse ourselves
by watching Tony Award-winning out lesbian actor Cherry Jones play the U.S. president on 24.
In 2008, openly bisexual actor Saffron Burrows
starred in the new NBC series, My Own Worst Enemy, while the always
hilarious out actress Jane Lynch trotted across multiple networks to make
memorable appearances on The L Word, My Name is Earl, Psych, and Two and a Half Men.
Other out actors on television in 2008 included Jasika Nicole on Fringe (Fox), Sara Gilbert
on Big Bang Theory (CBS), Kirsten Vangsness on the crime drama Criminal Minds (CBS),
and Lily Tomlin in a guest role on Desperate
Astrid (Jasika Nicole) on Fringe (Fox)
The Year Ahead
If 2008 was a disappointment for
lesbian and bisexual representation on television, we can at least look forward
to what looks to be a bountiful 2009.
In the first half of the year alone, we can expect the
return of The L Word, Exes and Ohs, Nip/Tuck (with
out lesbian actor Portia De Rossi again playing a lesbian character), and the American debut of Mistresses on BBC America. New mid-season comedies will also bring more out actors as series regulars, including De Rossi in Better Off Ted, and Sarah Paulson in Cupid.
2009 also brings an out bisexual woman on Real World:
Comic Standing Co-Executive Producer Page Hurwitz‘s latest
project, Comedy Road Show, and maybe, just maybe, the long-awaited
version of the popular British prison drama Bad Girls on HBO (just in time for Showtime to possibly debut their women-in-prison drama — the L Word spin-off).
And if after all that, your appetite for lesbian and
bisexual representation on television in 2009 still hasn’t been satiated, then
consider this: Tila Tequila has abdicated her Shot at Love throne to the “world’s hottest twins” — bisexual
sisters Rikki and Vikki Ikki — in A Double
Shot at Love with the Ikki Twins, doubling the exploitation and doubling the un-fun.
That L Word spin-off is sounding better already, isn’t it?