Neighbours, All Saints Elevate Lesbians on Australian TV

on

The

state of same-sex
female relationships on Australian

television is ambiguous. While lesbians have been visible in

numerous international television vehicles, such as The

Bill, Bad Girls, Buffy

The Vampire Slayer
and of course, The

L Word
, Australian-made television has historically

left its lesbian viewers wanting.

This

isn’t to say that lesbians haven’t appeared on Australian

television before—who could forget shows such as Prisoner

and the strictly-for-titillation soap Pacific Drive?

But lesbian themes and characters have rarely been integrated

into mainstream Australian television series.

Recently,

however, two of Australia’s highest-rated programs have

begun to semi-boldly explore where others have only dabbled

before.

The

Australian drama
All Saints follows the day-to-day

rigors of a Sydney hospital and the people that work there.

All Saints leapt onto Australian screens—and

into the hearts of middle Australia—six years ago, introducing

the character of Dr. Charlotte Beaumont (Tammy McIntosh) in

2002 as a sassy and ambitious new doctor who just happened to

be gay.



Until

recently, Charlotte’s sexuality really hasn’t figured

significantly in the core storylines of the series. There was

a drunken snog with a straight co-worker (played by Libby Tanner),

but like Dr. Kerry Weaver’s early storylines on ER

in the U.S., there has been little focus on Charlotte’s personal

life on All Saints.

This

seemed about to change when Charlotte finally secured a lover

earlier this year, but her lover had almost no time on camera,

and the relationship was over before it had even begun. But

far worse was the turn her storyline took next: after being

dumped by her girlfriend, Charlotte accepts an invitation for

a drink with another character who has also been jilted by his

lover, and after drowning their mutual sorrows, the two fall

into bed for a night of passion. This poorly contrived scenario

has all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, and a predictable outcome:

Charlotte’s pregnant.

How

All Saints will deal with the fallout of such a storyline

remains to be seen, and the next few weeks will be telling as

to whether the sexuality of Charlotte is merely a plot device

for other storylines within the show, or whether it will actually

be integrated into the story in a realistic manner.

Meanwhile,

Neighbours, the long-running

Australia soap that gave the world Kylie Minogue, Guy

Pearce and Natalie Imbruglia and is shown in 57 countries, has

decided to throw its metaphorical hat into the ring as well,

with a lesbian storyline that culminated in a kiss on the 22nd

of September. This is a noteworthy event in Australia considering

that Neighbours appears in a 6:30 p.m. timeslot, and

this is its first lesbian kiss in 20 seasons.



Pretty

new Canadian high school student Lana Crawford (Bridget Neval)

came to Neighbours recently with a secret: she had

feelings for other girls. She comes across at first as a touch

flighty, as if she can’t quite make up her mind as to

who she wants to be, but it soon becomes abundantly clear that

Lana’s carefully constructed façade has a purpose.

During detention at school one day, Lana gets to know Sky Mangel

(Stephanie McIntosh); as the two girls warm to each other, Lana

begins to develop feelings for Sky that are more than platonic,

which finally culminates in a kiss.

From

the amount of backlash this kiss generated in Australia, you’d

think that they’d shown a full blown love scene; newspapers

have been full of angry letters to the editor decrying the gay

storyline. The negative reaction by many in the Australia press

mirrors Lana’s current storyline on Neighbours, which

explores the backlash Lana experiences when her sexuality becomes

public knowledge at her high school. Although Sky is not currently

pursuing a romantic relationship with Lana, she has not shunned

her, either (the depth of Sky’s feelings for Lana remain unclear,

even to Sky), choosing instead to help Lana through this period

of self-discovery and acceptance.

The

lesbian characters
and storylines on All Saints

and Neighbours are problematic at times, and the public

outcry over the lesbian storyline on Neighbours indicates

we still have a long way to go before lesbian characters are

routine on Australian television. But the recent steps taken

by All Saints and Neighbours to tackle these

issues are clearly helping to make that more of a reality.