Many people remember the LA Law kiss in 1992 between bisexual attorney C.J. Lamb and her bi-curious colleague, and the Roseanne-Mariel Hemingway kiss on Roseanne in 1994 (which was actually shown from the back to block the actual kiss). But few remember that the first real lesbian kiss (i.e. a kiss between two lesbian or bisexual women) on television occurred in the short-lived drama Relativity on January 11, 1997 — the series that also offered the first recurring lesbian character who was a central part of the cast.
The ABC series was produced by thirtysomething masterminds Zwick and Herskovitz (who also produced Once and Again and My So-Called Life, two other shows with pioneering gay characters.) The story follows a twenty-something heterosexual couple, Isabelle (played by Kimberly Williams of Father of the Bride and now According to Jim) and Leo (played by David Conrad), and the lives and loves of their assorted friends and adult siblings, including Leo’s longtime friend Doug (played by the always excellent Adam Goldberg).
Although Leo’s lesbian sister Rhonda was introduced in the beginning of the series, her sexuality was not featured in any of the early episodes except one, in which Isabelle and Rhonda
The kiss didn’t happen until the 13th episode, named “The Day the Earth Moved” because the theme of the episode revolves around earthquakes, sex, and life-changing decisions. The episode weaves several threads involving multiple characters in and out of each other in a humorous and thoughtful way, and a storyline which follows Rhonda and Suzanne’s introduction, their first date (albeit an unusual one), and their first
For those who haven’t seen the episode, I’ve provided an episode recap on the next page.
Relativity was ground-breaking not only because of the kiss, but for the natural and almost casual way it portrayed the lesbian characters and their relationship with each other, as well as their relationships with other characters on the show. At the time, it was one of the first shows ever to treat its lesbian characters just
The series only lasted a few more episodes after this one before being cancelled by ABC due to low ratings--despite considerable
Conservative Christians and
Almost five years later, the number of lesbian and bisexual television characters has significantly increased — current examples include Willow on Buffy, Dr. Weaver and firefighter Sandy Lopez on ER, the lesbian couple on Queer as Folk, Detective Greggs on The Wire, various women on MTV’s The Real World, the upcoming series The L Word, and more one-episode guest-star lesbian plots than anyone can count, including Denise Richards on Spin City and Winona Ryder on Friends.
Lesbian kissing is still not de rigueur on television, however — and although several shows have depicted women in bed together, that’s not a frequent occurrence yet either.
But both events are common
“Relativity” and the First Lesbian Kiss on Primetime Television