“Private Practice” treats lesbians right

I have to admit that in the last few seconds of last night’s Private Practice, I almost forgot about the lesbian story arc. I mean, Kate Walsh walks in on a guy who’s working and she has on this hot dress and says, “I don’t know what I’m doing” and they go to it. Damn.

But last night, Shonda Rimes went a long way toward repairing the Sapphic bridge torn down when Erica Hahn left Grey’s Anatomy. The lesbian storyline was heart wrenching and realistic. (If you haven’t seen it, you may want to skip the rest of this post and go directly to abc.com to watch the episode.)

The story involved Cynthia, a woman in her late 60s or so with a degenerative disease that causes strokes. (Feel free to correct my medical terminology in the comments.) Her son Seth wants to take her home with him so she won’t be alone. He tells Sam that he has worried about her ever since his father died, but she refuses to move. So, Sam recommends that Cynthia talk to Violet.

As every lesbian in the audience knew already, Cynthia is not alone. She tells Violet the truth: She is in a relationship with a woman and feels like she can’t tell her son.

Violet encourages her to tell Seth, which she does once her lover Annette arrives. Seth freaks, but not for the reason you expect. He’s not upset that she’s gay, but that she said her relationship with Annette has been going on for many years — including the time she was with Seth’s father. He’s known Annette all his life, and he feels betrayed.

The story was handled very well, IMO, and tells a tale that’s true of many lesbians of that generation. Cynthia stayed with her husband because she wanted to keep the family together. Her relationship with Annette was in a separate compartment of her life — and neither her husband nor kids suspected a thing.

I especially liked Violet’s approach to the situation. When Cynthia expressed guilt about keeping the secret for so many years, Violet said, “At least you were honest with yourself.” For a housewife in the 60s, that was quite extraordinary.

ABC even let the lesbian couple kiss onscreen, which might be a TV first for women in this age group and in any case is nice to see.

Seth eventually comes around, saying, “I was happy. Dad was happy. I guess it’s your turn to be happy.” Looks like Cynthia raised him right after all.

What did you think about Private Practice’s lesbian story?

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