Karen Walker and the Bisexual Straight Woman

Good Lord, Jack. If I gave in to every persuasive argument, I’d be in some
crazy three-way marriage with Maury Povich and Connie Chung!" —
Karen (Megan Mullaly) on Will & Grace

Now about to enter its sixth season on NBC this fall, the hit sitcom Will & Grace has won numerous awards over the last five seasons and is consistently
among the top-rated shows on network television. But when it premiered in 1998,
few believed Will & Grace would even survive, let alone flourish, because
it revolves around the friendship between a gay man (played by Eric McCormack)
and his straight female friend (played by Debra Messing), with Will’s gay friend
Jack (played by Sean Hayes) and Grace’s secretary/friend Karen Walker (played
by Megan Mullaly) rounding out the cast.

Although Will & Grace are the characters around which the series
officially revolves, the two secondary characters have become so popular over
the years that they have developed a cult following of their own, with many
Will & Grace fans referring to the show as The Jack and Karen
Show
instead.

Karen is a wealthy, spoiled socialite with a shopping fetish and a very distinctive
high-pitched voice, the kind of woman "who thinks an act of kindness is
letting her step-kid have the fruit out of her whiskey sour," as her housekeeper
described her (Season 2, Episode 15). Sometimes annoying, often frustrating,
and usually hilarious, Karen is a character most fans either love or hate.

Karen is also not exactly heterosexual — or as Mullaly describes her, she "goes
both ways" (the actress, who recently became engaged to a man, has also
described herself this way). Although for the first few seasons Karen was married
to a wealthy older man (Stanley Walker), Karen’s attraction to women was hinted
at early on in the series through comments like this one (Season 2, Episode
20):

JACK: Yeah. Oh, look! There he is. There’s Bill. Isn’t
he dreamy?
KAREN: Yeah, he’s a slice of ice-cream cake. Now when do
I get to French-kiss a girl? Come on, when? When?

Karen’s unambiguous sexual comments about women became more frequent in later
seasons, as in this exchange (Season 5, Episode 16):

KAREN (to Grace): You should let me help you more, honey.
I know a few things, and I care about you. Hmm? Now let’s get back in there.
C’mon, we got a room full of lovely ladies. Let’s put on some music and get
those tops off.
GRACE: You do know that it’s not that kind of girls’ night?
KAREN: We’ll see.

Karen continuously makes half-joking attempts to seduce Grace, and finds reasons
for the two women to kiss at least once every season, as she did in Episode
3 of the fifth season when she convinced Grace to show her how Grace’s boyfriend
Leo kisses:

KAREN: Honey, what is the problem? It was just a kiss.
GRACE: Oh, no, no, no. You don’t understand. It was a really
good kiss.
KAREN: [SCOFFS] Sh-yeah! Show me.
GRACE: No.
KAREN: Show me.
GRACE: No.
KAREN: Come on. We’re both stoned.
GRACE: Forget it.
KAREN: Shut up and show me.
[GRACE GRABS KAREN AND KISSES HER LIKE LEO DID EARLIER]
KAREN: Yeah, you’re screwed.

At fourteen seconds long, this kiss still holds the title of the longest kiss
between two women on network television. The show even made a rare reference
to bisexuality in Season 5, when Madonna made a guest appearance as Karen’s
new roommate and accused Karen of having a "weird bisexual vibe."

But despite plenty of opportunities to explore Karen’s bisexuality as more
than just a running gag, the writers have so far insisted on keeping it to one-liners
and innuendo. This may be in part because her comments about dating and relationships,
like this one in Episode 19 of Season 5, also betray a decidedly heterosexual
world-view:

KAREN: Well, deal me in. I’ve got a lifetime membership
to the losers club. I’ve been dumped by one-ton billionaires, heads of state,
and every member of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, but I’m not naming names.
What’s so great about another person, huh? All they do is manhandle your boobs
and eat all the ham.

Although she avoids gender-specific pronouns in this statement, the "person"
she is referring to in the question "What’s so great about another person?"
is clearly male, as indicated by the qualifier "all they do is manhandle
your boobs and eat all the hams" (which would never be generally understood
to be describing a woman).

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