NPR’s All Things Considered recently aired a segment about two lesbian high school students, Victoria Cruz and Deoine, who were voted best couple by peers in their graduating class in South Bronx. Cruz did the reporting herself, through a local NPR-affiliate program called Radio Rookies. She opens like this:
It’s a funny, touching story about how the girls’ two-year relationship has survived against the odds, and how they were finally accepted and celebrated by their classmates. Deoine commented:
Stories like Victoria and Deoine’s aren’t exactly the norm, but they are becoming more common. Part of the reason teenagers are able to embrace their sexuality at a young age is the positive portrayals of lesbian teens on TV.
Here are six of our favorite fictional teenage lesbian couples, the ones who helped pave the way for a girl to bring another girl to prom.
Jessie and Katie were a lot of firsts for primetime television: the first teenage lesbian couple not to be a one-episode probe into gayness, the first lesbian couple ever to share more than one kiss in an episode, and the first positive portrayal of a teenage lesbian relationship. Plus, every time Katie tells Jessie to just throw away the letter confessing her feelings, and Jessie says, “I can’t. I can’t throw it away. I want to keep it forever” and then kisses her, I turn into a puddle of sentimental goo.
Alex and Marissa (Olivia Wilde and Mischa Barton), The O.C., 2005
Alex and Marissa’s relationship may have been a ratings stunt, but up until the episode when Alex went inexplicably beer-can-throwing crazy, there was something really authentic about their portrayal of lesbian teenage love. Marissa’s curiosity about Alex led to confusion, but ultimately she embraced her feelings, and verbalized them to both Alex and her mom. One of the best parts of the story arc was that Seth and Ryan treated Marissa and Alex just like every other couple.
After playing fauxmosexuals to get into a VIP party, Paige and Alex find themselves unquestionably attracted to one another. Alex is relaxed about it, but perfectionist Paige fully freaks out. Paige ultimately overcomes her fears when Alex tells her they don’t need a label. Like Alex and Marissa, these two get a ridiculous ending, but not before Alex can add an all-time favorite line to the fictional lesbian canon: “Because I love you, you idiot!”
School shootings, dead dads, inherited millions, over-involved ex-boyfriends, even homophobic mothers: Nothing could keep Ashley and Spencer apart. Well, that’s not true. Plenty of things kept them apart, but they always found their way back to one another. (Sometimes it involved literally nothing but a raincoat.) Spencer and Ashley’s friends treat them like any other legitimate couple, and even Mama Carlin comes around to loving Ashley in the end.
Kim and Sugar (Olivia Hallinan and Lenora Crichlow), Sugar Rush, 2005
Where other shows involving teenage lesbians have kept it chaste, generally speaking, Channel 4’s Sugar Rush amped up the sexuality to an entirely different level. Kim sexuality is not about braiding hair or long, tender hugs; Kim’s sexuality is about sex. She loves her best friend, Sugar, but she also openly lusts after her. The portrayal of their relationship is probably the most honest looks at at the actual sex part of lesbian teenage sexuality on TV to date.
When Emily falls in love with Naomi, she is ready to steer the relationship full speed ahead. It takes Naomi nearly an entire season to finally come to grips with her own sapphic leanings, even though she slept with Emily more than once. Emily’s coming out scene is my favorite ever on television. Over dinner she tells her family, “I’ve been making love to a girl […] Her name’s Naomi, she’s rather beautiful, so I was nailing her.” Emily’s best guy friend treats it as just another piece of ordinary information gained on an ordinary day: “That’s fine. Shall we get a taxi?” After a season of fear and misunderstanding, Emily and Naomi are finally able to confess their feelings openly to one another — even though it involves a twin brawl at a school ball.
What do you think of Victoria Cruz and Deoine’s story on NPR? Do you think the positive portrayals of fictional teenage lesbian couples has made a difference in society’s acceptance of real life teenage gay couples? And, of course, which teenage lesbian couple is your favorite?