The AfterEllen.com 2009 Visibility Awards

In our annual Visibility Awards, we formally recognize the people who have positively or negatively impacted lesbian and bi visibility in American entertainment during the year. (See previous years here: 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004.)

From Best Movie to Worst Song to Lesbian/Bi Woman of the Year, these awards recognize the television shows, movies, music, books and people who entertained, inspired,
or disappointed us in 2009.

Last year, some of the category winners were chosen by both the AfterEllen.com staff and AfterEllen.com readers. This year, AfterEllen.com staff and contributing writers chose the winners for each category, as readers will be given the opportunity to vote on a wider range of topics and categories in our first annual Lesbian/Bi Women’s Choice Awards in January.

Once again this year, we’ve included international people, shows and movies as a reflection of the increasing awareness of lesbian and bisexual visibility around the world made possible by the Internet.

Now on to the best and worst of 2009!

BEST SCRIPTED TV SERIES ON BROADCAST TV WITH LESBIAN/BI CHARACTERS (AMERICAN)

Grey’s Anatomy (ABC)

What a difference a year makes! Grey‘s was named the worst in this category last year, only to take top honors for its lesbian and bi characters in 2009.

Here’s what AfterEllen.com writer StuntDouble had to say about the show:

Series creator Shonda Rhimes originally offered up Dr. Arizona Robbins (Jessica Capshaw) as a three episode sacrifice on the Altar of Angry Gays, a kind of peace offering for the unceremonious chucking of Dr. Erica Hahn (Brooke Smith). Rhimes was probably just as surprised as us (and Callie) when we were immediately, irrevocably smitten with Dr. Arizona Robbins.

Arizona is a plucky, affable pediatric surgeon, and one of only two series regular lesbian characters on broadcast primetime television. And Dr. Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez) is only one of two bisexual women of color on broadcast primetime television.

Their relationship has been authentic and endearing (if not passionate) on Grey‘s this year. In fact, in a hospital full of anarchy and dysfunctional surgeons, Callie and Arizona have the healthiest, most reciprocally supportive relationship on the show. (Plus, they eat pizza naked in bed: a recipe for success if there ever was one.)

If the wind had been blowing a different direction or someone had sneezed in the writer’s room, the lesbian doctor would have been the first to go in this season’s Mercy West/Seattle Grace merger. Thank God that both Shonda Rhimes and Mr. Torres realized you can’t pray away the gay. (And that Angry Gays won’t be shooed away when they show up at your studio with pitchforks.)

WORST SCRIPTED TV SERIES ON BROADCAST TV WITH LESBIAN/BI CHARACTERS (AMERICAN)

Melrose Place (CW)

During the CW panel at the Television Critics Association in August, a reporter asked about star Katie Cassidy about her character’s bisexuality. She responded, "My character is definitely exploring her sexuality." Encouraging, right? Not quite. Executive producer Todd Slavkin quickly added, "she is try-sexual — she will try anything," getting a big laugh from the audience.

AfterEllen.com writer Dara Nai said of the less (intentionally) campy remake of the original, "Overly slick, tacky and idiotic as ever, except for Katie Cassidy as Ella, the bisexual publicist. The building needs to go condo so she can buy it and kick everyone else out."

Runner up: Heroes (NBC)

According to AfterEllen.com contributor StuntDouble:

Claire’s lesbian love story on Heroes was always going to end badly. We just didn’t think it was going to end Sorority Row-badly. College roomies Claire (Hayden Panettiere) and Gretchen (Madeline Zima)
did a little shy smiling, a little TV-watching and fingernail painting.
You know, they acted like blossoming TV lesbians. Then, just in time for Sweeps, Gretchen kissed Claire in a smooch so chaste that NBC had to rework it in Photo Story for the previews and recaps.

Their "makeout" was interrupted by a gaggle of sorority chicks inviting
them to pledge, but mostly just wanted an opportunity to kill one or
both of them. Grace Chu said it best: "If this were a horror film, these two would have been slashed to pieces by now."

Goodbye, Gretchen; we’ll hardly remember you.

Dorothy Snarker added, "I don’t care if the cheerleader kisses another girl. Stop using us as rating stunts for your failing shows."

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