Our Lesbian Same-Sex Articles
The Rise of Lesbianism on TV
Less than two decades ago, there were only hints
of lesbianism on TV. You had to guess or imagine that the characters were
lesbians, as there was nothing overtly lesbian displayed. It would have been
considered highly controversial to have even a hint of the fact that a woman
fancied another woman! Instead lesbians were treated to the doldrums of
heterosexual life, and their needs and programming desires were totally ignored.
My how things have changed in the last two decades - we've gone from total
ignorance of the fact that lesbians exist, to a full programme series and
TV channels dedicated to lesbians!
If we think back long and hard enough to 1991,
this is when the first bisexual kiss was aired on L A Law. This was a huge
risk to take for the makers of the series as it simply wasn't the "done thing"
to display any kind of notion on TV that women would kiss women. You can
imagine the huge outcry that ensued; right wing groups and religious groups
were up in arms! Gradually things began to improve, and more and more lesbian
kisses or relationships started to appear on our screens. It was parts of
films or small snippets of programmes though; nothing too major or controversial
for our poor little lesbian eyes!
Another huge outcry was made when Ellen outed
herself on her show in 1997. Her character also became a lesbian, and, whilst
we jumped up and down for joy that there was finally a lesbian programme
to watch, the heterosexual world went mad. Eventually the programme was pulled!
Today Ellen hosts one of the most popular chat shows on American TV, but
at the time a lesbian character and a lesbian actress was just all too much!
Although her show now isn't specifically for lesbians, at least we know she
is one of us!
The biggest leap in recognizing demand for lesbian
TV and programmes has, of course, been the L Word. Showtime took a huge risk
in releasing a series (well, in fact, we are coming up to the third series)
that was entirely dedicated to the world, loves, lives, and losses of lesbians.
Although many dykes complain that they lead unrealistic lives, we're certainly
a long ways forward from 1991! The fact that it is still allowed to be aired
is a complete miracle. U.K viewers have lapped it up on Living TV, too, and,
although 650 complaints were made to the Advertising Standards Agency about
posters that were being used to promote the show, the complaints were not
upheld and the programme is freely aired! Long live the L Word!
It's probably this programme, and series' like
Queer as Folk and Sugar (a UK lesbian teen series) that have made big TV
bosses sit up in their seats and finally realize that there is money to be
made in gay and lesbian TV channels. Canada has had is own GLBT (Gay; Lesbian;
Bisexual; Transgender[ed]) channel since 2001, and the United States is following
suit by trialling channels such as LOGO from MTV and Q Television that will
air lesbian and gay chat shows; documentaries; reality shows; and movies.
In the U.K, FAZE TV did plan to introduce the first gay channel there in
late 2005 but this has been shelved at present.
In a way, lesbian relationships have been censored
from TV, with heterosexual people preferring to bar them from our screens
rather than admitting that we exist. It's fantastic to see that times are
changing, and that we are gradually being recognised as a lucrative target
market. If new lesbian channels are introduced then they are bound to have
a loyal following: after all, as the very idea of lesbianism has been erased
from our screens for so long we would sit in front of the box 24-7 if they
actually introduced some more programmes that relate to our lifestyle!