By Jennifer Eden
If you go searching, you can find lesbian characters on network and cable television, but they’re few and far between. ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, produced by fan-favorite Shonda Rhimes, highlights a relationship between Callie Torres and Arizona Robbins, two female doctors at Seattle Grace Hospital. Glee on Fox features a pack of LGBT teenagers, including Santana Lopez, a fiery lesbian, and Brittany Pierce, a spunky bisexual cheerleader. True Blood’s Pam de Beaufort and Chicago Fire’s Leslie Shay are lesbians too.
But mainstream television still paints a narrow picture of lesbians–who we are and how we love. We are underrepresented. Networks are reluctant to cater to LGBT viewers. Perhaps it’s for fear of alienating their heterosexual viewers, or maybe it’s because they feel that there aren’t enough queer women watching television.
It’s all happening on the web. A diverse assortment of independent writers and producers has decided that the lesbian community deserves better, so they’ve taken matters into their own hands. Familiar with the attitudes of the major networks, they’ve turned to the Internet. Just type “lesbian web series” into YouTube’s search bar and you’ll find a plethora of options.
By far the most popular series in this category, with over six million views worldwide and counting, is Easy Abby. Set in Chicago, Easy Abby tells the story of its title character through a comedic, audience-friendly lens. Abby is a bicycle mechanic in her 30s who gets her kicks seducing as many women as possible between anxiety attacks. A sundry and well-rounded cast of characters supports, and sometimes disapproves of Abby through her trials.
“I think we just wanted to create this story, put it out there, and see what kind of a response we would get,” says Lisa Cordileone, the actress who plays the title character in Easy Abby.
Wendy Jo Carlton, writer and director, takes pride in telling the story of a cast of characters she holds near and dear. “I’m telling a story about characters I love, in the dark romantic comedy tone I enjoy writing,” she says. On her special connection with Abby she exclaims, “I want to see this character, her heart, and her world exist!”
Searching for women of color. Occasionally network or cable television gives African-American lesbians one representative among a cast of Caucasian counterparts. We rejoiced at the introduction of Tasha to the cast of The L Word, Showtime’s lesbian series set in Los Angeles, in its sixth season. Rose Rollins played a tough woman in the military for the last two seasons of the show. The cast of HBO’s True Blood includes Tara Thornton, a black bisexual vampire played by Rutina Wesley. ABC Family seems to be most open to the introduction of African-American lesbian characters, with Pretty Little Liars and The Fosters each featuring one. Showtime’s Shameless and USA’s White Collar each feature one Black lesbian character as well.
But if one character isn’t enough for you, the web hosts plenty of options for your viewing pleasure.
Between Women is an Atlanta-based series about a group of six friends and their tumultuous love lives. Writer and Executive Producer Michelle A. Daniel credits the show’s popularity to its “raw writing style and vivid characters.” Now in its second season, loyal followers and new viewers alike are getting a peek into the past of one of the series’ most loved characters, Miller Harris. This mother and business owner is balancing her work and family life while trying to keep her past from interfering. She is portrayed in a much different light than the rugged, street-tough, dominant-expressing women we’re used to seeing.
The mix of friends, lovers, exes, and relatives makes for a dynamic mix of topics and storylines. Daniel has tackled every issue from coming out to motherhood to domestic violence in her writing. In season one, we were introduced to Brooke, a stud with an unhealthy aggressive streak. Her girlfriend Allison accommodates Brooke’s anger as best as she can until it goes too far. After being locked in a bathroom and force-fed from a dog bowl, Allison must reconcile her love for Brooke with her own health and well-being.
The creator of TheFabFemme.com brings us a series with a different perspective. Girl Play, a series based in New Orleans, aims to conjure conversation on the issues we face in the community, from labels to marriage and everything in between. The show follows four feminine-presenting women through their journeys to find love, careers, and, ultimately, themselves. Olivia Black, owner of a successful LGBT public relations firm, Tiffany Landry, a pre-med student, Marty Gastineau, an electrical engineer, and April Broussard, a housewife-to-be, comprise this cast of well-rounded women. Each character brings to the table a different perspective built from what experience and their hometowns have taught them.
In an episode entitled “Lesbian Love and Lap Dances,” Olivia and Rachel discover that they have an ex-girlfriend in common. Something we seldom think of until it affects us, these are the kinds of topics on which Girl Play sets its focus.
When asked why she saw a need for this particular subject matter, Aryka Randall, writer and producer of Girl Play said, “…there aren’t enough shows that showcase relationships between young feminine lesbians of color. The idea of ‘femme invisibility’ has been an issue in the LGBT community as well as mainstream media for some time now, and Girl Play aims to help stomp it out all together.”
D.C.’s own Skye’s the Limit is noted for representing a broader spectrum of the LGBT community. The series features a character, named Taylor, who identifies as a queer woman, and dates lesbians, bisexual men, and transgender individuals.
Studville sheds light on the inner workings of the aggressive woman’s mind. Lez-B-Honest, If I Was Your Girl, and Sunny Reign all give a voice to a community that would otherwise be underrepresented, if not ignored.
The writing, characters, and settings of these shows set them worlds apart. But they share the facts that they cater to a lesbian audience and are broadcast exclusively online.
Programming that reflects our lives is being made right in front of our eyes. The least we can do is watch and support.
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