With the lack of lesbian and
bisexual characters on TV these days, we’re left with a lot of straight
women kissing during sweeps weeks, and the occasional guest lesbian
character, or “guestbian.” A phrase Scribegrrrl coined in 2004 when she began recapping The L Word for us, a guestbian is a high-profile woman playing a lesbian or bisexual character.
Mariel Hemingway became one of the first and most well-known guesbians when she played a gay friend of Sandra Bernhard‘s Nancy on Roseanne in 1994, and famously kissed the show’s star on screen (to much controversy off screen).
Since then, many more actresses have
signed on to play gay or bi, if only temporarily.
Since we’ve written extensively
about the decline of lesbian and bisexual visibility on American TV in
the last decade, I thought I’d highlight one of the few positive
developments over that time: the growing number
of interesting queer roles played by high-profile (or semi-high-profile) actresses.
I chose 11 of the most entertaining here, but there are many good ones to choose from, so please feel free to add your favorites in the comments.
Most of the guestbians on this list are white, unfortunately,
since there have been few high-profile guestbians played by
women of color, let alone good ones (Kelly Hu played a guestbian recently, for example, and Dawnn Lewis guested as a lesbian on Girlfriends
awhile back, but it would be hard to argue that either is
among the most memorable guestbians on TV). If you think of any we missed,
please let us know in the comments!
Episode 4.3 – 4.5 (2001)
Among Samantha’s (Kim Cattrall) many sexual conquests on the long-running drama was Maria, played by Sonia Braga (Kiss of the Spider Woman, Páginas da vida),
a passionate artist who temporarily managed to convince Samantha to be
in a relationship, until Samantha decided she missed men too much, and didn’t want to be tied down.
The storyline itself isn’t
great — it reinforces stereotypes
about lesbians and lesbian sex, and generally ignored the concept of bisexuality — but Braga makes a great lesbian.
10. Swoosie Kurtz and Blythe Danner on Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
Episode 1.6 “Tiny Bubbles” (2009)
Dr. Cooper’s two moms, Mrs.
Cooper (Danner) and Mrs. Scheinhorn (Kurtz), are notable for their lack
of notability. They’re a typical older couple played by two
very well known actresses. Their relationship was taken seriously by the
characters (and the writers), but incorporated fairly casually into the
The way the lesbian couple
fussed over each other in this episode is no different than the way
other (heterosexual) couples do on medical dramas every week,
but that alone
made it different, given how starved we are for good representations of
lesbians on TV (especially older lesbians). A good job all around.
9. Edie Falco and Chloe Sevigny on Will & Grace (NBC)
Episode 6.17 “East Side Story” (2004)
When Will (Eric McCormack) and Grace (Debra Messing) decide to
get into buying and selling real estate, they met Deirdre (Edie Falco) and
Monet (Chloe Sevigny), a lesbian couple referred to as “The Flipping Dykes”
because of their success at flipping real estate.
two pairs secretly decide to try and seduce the others in order to convince them
to stay out of their territory, but their plans eventually fail, and
all is revealed (not before Monet turns out to be genuinely
interested in Will, which unfortunately reinforces the annoying
stereotype about bisexual women secretly wanting to date men).
In the end, the two couples agreed to divide up New York, and a relieved
Deirdre admitted, “I’m tired of dressing to intimidate anyway. I can’t
wait ’til being lesbian goes out of style again. I can go back to my
sweats and loose neckties.”
more funny lines in this episode than most sitcoms have in an entire season. When Will discovers the lesbians know
about a purchase they’re trying to make, Karen (Megan Mullally) tells him, “They know everything, Will.
Because they don’t sleep with men, their other senses are heightened.”
It was fun to see Falco play
against type. She’s the mob boss of this
relationship, as we see when Deirdre turns down Will’s offer of food
with “we don’t eat” and Sevigny adds “She likes me frail.”
Great casting and great writing, with minimal stereotyping. More please!