On January 17th, 2003 the Fox drama Fastlane aired its “lesbian episode,” and despite the cringe-worthy title (“Strap On”) and a few negative stereotypes, the series did a surprisingly good job of realistically and positively portraying lesbians and lesbian relationships.
Each hour-long episode of Fastlane — which follows three undercover cops in L.A.: Officers Van (Peter Facinelli) and Deaq (Bill Bellamy) and their boss, Lt. Wilhelmina ‘Billie’ Chambers (Tiffani Thiessen, formerly known as Tiffani-Amber Thiessen) — revolves around a specific undercover assignment, and the series features liberal use of the slo-mo and multiple-windows camera techniques accompanied by a lot of flashy clothes and hip music.
The storyline in this episode boils down to this: Deaq’s house is robbed by a pair of female burglars — Sara and Jill, played by Jaime Pressly and Colleen Porch, respectively — and in order to catch them, Billie goes undercover as a lesbian/bisexual women and develops a relationship with Sara after “accidentally” meeting her in a lesbian club.
Thiessen is best known for her roles in the long-running television series Saved by the Bell and Beverly Hills 90210, and Pressly for her role as a cheerleader in the teen movie-spoof Not Another Teen Movie.
The portrayal of lesbian and bisexual women in this episode is complicated — in some ways, very progressive and gay-positive, in other ways, regressive and stereotypical.
I’ve categorized the episode’s lesbian-related content into three areas: the good, the bad, and the mixed bag, based on how it portrays or reflects upon lesbians and lesbian relationships.
1. Overall, Billie and Sara’s interactions are very believable — in fact, these two are more believable as a couple than many actual lesbian couples in lesbian movies. The way their relationship develops is fairly natural and realistic (for TV), and the two have very good chemistry.
2. Billie is clearly not at all uncomfortable with lesbians and displays of lesbian sexuality. She illustrates this several times throughout the series by frequently acting as the aggressor with Sara (grabbing Sara’s ass in the parking lot scene and pulling her close, instigating the kiss in the hot tub, etc.)