by Riese & Heather
We’ve spent a lot of time over the past month talking about how not to write (or kill off) a queer female television character, so it seemed like it’d be worth taking a minute to applaud the shows who are actively getting it right.
1. Degrassi: The Next Generation
Back in 2005 when almost nobody was getting it right, Degrassi brought us Palex. It’s a franchise that’s been a trailblazer since its initial incarnation in the ’80s, and remains so today. The relationship between Paige and Alex was fresh and angsty and the show stayed loyal both to Paige’s bisexuality and Alex’s lesbianism. Degrassi has consistently introduced new queer female characters every season — Fiona, Imogen, Jack — even providing some with more than one love interest (!!!) over the course of her time on the show.
Rosewood is mainstream and formulaic, with a cocky male lead, a sexy/stubborn female lead, shiny cars, dead bodies, and lots of beach scenes. And then, buried inside this relatively uninspired premise is this interracial lesbian couple who work together and could probably kiss more but they’re never, not ever, obscuring or playing down exactly who they are to each other. There’s also been a really nice storyline with Pippy’s Mom trying to stop TMI’s Mom from being the asshole about her daughter being gay that Pippy’s Mom was once upon a time. It’s gonna be a hella cute wedding, y’all.
3. Orange is the New Black
My jaw fell right off my face within 45 seconds of Season One, Episode One — was this really happening? The relationship that started the story that started the show is a relationship between two women? This couldn’t possibly be happening! Turns out that was only the tip of the iceberg, though. Underneath all that we have one of the most racially and generationally diverse shows of all time, a cast that is 90% women, and twelve lead or recurring queer female characters. Look: we do well in prison. As a people.
So basically we’ve only made it to Season Two and already pretty much every single Pfefferman is queer. THE WHOLE DAMN FAMILY. Moppa is a trans woman named Maura, Mom starts hooking up with Maura again even though they’d been divorced and both daughters are bisexual. There’s explicit lesbian sex and no privileging of straight relationships over gay ones — so much so that Josh’s mere existence and his relentlessly heterosexual pairings feel, irrationally, like a personal insult. There are more trans women actresses playing trans women characters on this show than ever before in the history of television. Queer and trans icons like Carrie Brownstein and Trace Lysette have recurring roles, and others have shown up for guest spots, like Eileen Myles, Cherry Jones, Zackary Drucker, Ali Liebegott, Brittani Nichols, Our Lady J, Jiz Lee and Ian Harvie.
5. Orphan Black
Like so many TV shows in the news right now, Orphan Black made the dangerous decision to kill of a beloved bisexual character at the end of last season. Or at least to shoot in her in the head and leave the rest to our imaginations. However, Oprhan Black is the only show I can think of that preemptively addressed every issue queer women have with killing off queer TV characters. They introduced another love interest for Cosima very early on in the season and gave them a plenty of romantic scenes, more than any straight character received in season three. They killed off Paul, a straight male character whose story mirrored Delphine’s from day one, several episodes before Delphine was shot. And, like Paul, they gave Delphine a hero’s death, one that signified the ending of a season-long redemptive arc. When you add those things to the fact that Cosima is one of the main four clones and receives equal screen time and story depth, and that Orphan Black is the only show that shrugs at the Born This Way debate because sexual orientation is a non-issue in their universe, and the unapologetic misandry on display on the regular, the sum is an exhilarating and progressive drama.
6. Person of Interest
Person of Interest walks the line between being a procedural and being something else altogether, which’s maybe why despite its evident quality, it’s never garnered the audience it deserves. But the romance between computer hacker Root and sociopathic assassin Shaw deserves recognition here because it has been allowed to proceed and flourish on a show in which nobody gets a love story (aside from the never-consumated sexual/romantic tension between Reese and Joss). Root and Shaw get sexual tension when nobody else is even thinking about sex. This is unprecedented. Every episode where the potential fling between Root and Shaw is explored and literally nobody else’s relationship is explored makes me feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone.
7. The Fosters
The Fosters isn’t flawless in its depiction of queer characters. Season three, for example, set up an unnecessary and troubling conflict between bisexual Anchor Beach principal Monte and a student who said Monte made inappropriate advances at her. (The result of which was either going to be a predatorial bisexual educator or a young woman lying about assault, neither of which false stereotypes need anymore play on television.)
However, The Fosters is the only show in the history of TV to orbit a cast of dramatic teenage storylines around a married lesbian couple. Stef and Lena are Coach and Tami Taylor, they’re Mike and Carol Brady, they’re Elyse and Steven Keaton. Their relationship is central to the show, and the writers don’t shy away from exploring the ups and downs of their relationship — even sexually. They struggle to make time for each other; they have different communication styles; they suffer through sickness and depression. But at the end of the day, they lean into each other and their children lean into them. They are home with each other, right where they belong. (Bonus: The Fosters features Cole, one of television’s few trans male characters, and he’s played by a trans male actor!)
Bless Netflix for bringing this Australian drama — a remake of one of the first shows to ever have multiple central lesbian characters, Prisoner, which aired in Australia from 1979-1986 — to the states so we can all enjoy some lady-prisoners in hoodies. Despite being a show about criminals that takes place in prison, no queer women have died yet (even the one who I really was hoping would die in a fire) (literally). It’s not quite as queer as Orange is the New Black, but it’s still centered entirely on women, has a queer hearththrob (Frankie Doyle) and a surprising number of queer prison employees. Plus there’s transgender inmate Maxine, who manages to defy tropes and is accepted as “one of the girls” in a way we see all too rarely with trans characters on television, even prison shows.
There’s a lot to criticize about Sense8, particularly its handling of race and non-Western cultures. But when it comes its treatment of sexual orientation and gender identity, the show really excels. (In my opinion the gay male couple and their female companion was the only story that I found even vaguely entertaining, but that is perhaps neither here nor there.) It’s doing a revolutionary thing by showing a healthy, functional and openly sexual romantic relationship between a black lesbian and a trans lesbian.
10. Grey’s Anatomy
Back when only Degrassi was doing multi-character arcs for queer characters on mainstream primetime American television, Grey’s introduced Erica Hahn, a character who enabled Callie to realize her bisexuality. The way they handled her departure was very much not “getting it right” but since then, Grey’s has remained pretty dedicated to its queer characters, even giving us a long-term love story for Callie and Arizona, from love to tragedy to marriage to children to cheating to an eventual divorce. Unfortunately Callie is now dating a piece of actual cardboard named “Penny,” but you know… it happens!
Sometimes our favorite bisexuals date pieces of dry toast. As Heather wrote in our post on the most influential queer television shows of the last seven years, “when the majority of Americans were making up their minds about marriage equality, Callie and Arizona were the most-watched lesbian couple on TV, and they were enjoying the same kind of emotionally dense and sexy relationship as all the straight couples at Seattle Grace.” Grey’s has also done a few episodes about trans issues that were handled really well for their time, including one involving Ben’s sister last year.
11. East Los High
You’re maybe not even aware that this show exists, but you could fix that right now! It’s on Hulu and NPR describes it as “a Latino Degrassi meets Gossip Girl meets Glee.” Although the coming out storyline in Season Two fell into a few of our least favorite tropes, Jocelyn recovered from a tumultuous situation with her best friend Camilla and is now dating Daysi, a masculine-of-center Latino lesbian — not the type of character you usually see on television, let alone on a teen soap.
12. How To Get Away With Murder
There’s never been a black bisexual character headlining her own show on broadcast network television until How to Get Away With Murder. And it’s on TGIT, the most consistently popular night of TV. And it’s the incomparable Viola Davis! I honestly don’t think it’s possible to oversell what a big deal this year. The Golden Age of Television was ushered in and sustained by stories about straight white male antiheroes doing both dastardly and compassionate things, and asking the audience to trace their decision-making skills back to their origin points and empathize with these guys. How to Get Away With Murder brilliantly, subversively asks if our culture will extend that same interest and compassion when it’s a black bisexual woman playing the role of Don Draper. Annalise’s relationship with Eve is the most emotionally resonant and solid one on the show, so much so that we all kind of want her to quit the show and D.C. and move away with Eve to New York!
13. Steven Universe
Steven Universe isn’t just getting gay stuff right; it’s consistently one of the most brilliant shows on television, full-stop. When the show revealed that Crystal Gem Garnet is actually the marriage and intimate full-time fuse of Crystal Gems Ruby and Sapphire, I honestly couldn’t believe it. That they continue to explore that relationship in more depth blows my mind every time. Their relationship may be animated, but it feels more real than 98 percent of the live-actions queer relationships I’ve seen in my time. One is fire, the other is ice. One is royalty, the other is a peasant. One is the brains, one is the heart. Together, they form the soul around which every person and Gem on the show rotates.
+ Master of None: Your girlfriend Lena Waithe is awesome as Denise in this new Netflix series.
+ Grandfathered: Other Annalise doesn’t get as much screen time as she deserves, but for reasons I don’t understand, lesbians on sitcoms have never really recovered from Ellen coming out. Only about ten, total, have existed since 1996. So Annalie is a big deal, even if she only plays a small part.
+ Survivor’s Remorse: M-Chuck needs more screen time but the time she does get is time very well spent.
+ Younger: The first original TV Land show to feature a queer woman. Like with Grandfathered, she doesn’t have enough to do, but the fact of her existence — sandwiched between reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond, on your granmda’s favorite channel — is a pretty big dang deal.
+ Jessica Jones: They did a rare thing — took a male character from the comics and turned her into a lesbian for the TV show! This should happen more often.
Also, Shoot have canonically flirted about:
Ironplay (in their very first scene together!)
Never have kinky queer ladies, and their desires, been so respectfully portrayed. On a CBS show!
Thanks for this Riese. Something nice to read after all those deaths. I don’t watch Grey’s anymore but I greatly appreciated Calzona when they first showed up because there didnt seem to be anything for queer ladies at that time. I tip my hat to Shonda for putting significant queer characters on two of her popular shows. I even ship the gay guys on HTGAWM.
I love Sense8! Amanita should get girlfriend of the year award.
Sadly, I still miss Delphine and don’t intend to watch the next season of Orphan Black.
delphine is back
I’m not dure Delphine is actually dead. She didn’t get a kill shot, she got shot in the stomach. So i think it very likely they might do a Shaw and bring her back.
This proves that Delphine is still alive and nobody can tell me otherwise.
*Spoiler!* Well obviously by now people who watch the show know she’s alive, but I read this article was like “Wtf? They never said she died and have you never seen an interview with the writer’s or creators? …They would never actually kill off such a beloved character when half their stuff is totally canon.”And now looking back at it I’m just like…please, writer, whoever you are, fact check before you write an article about any tv show. Please…
“Sometimes our favorite bisexuals date pieces of dry toast” <-- I would like to apologize for my personal contribution to this data set.
I only got to OITNB, ‘…We do well in prison. As a people’
and my face hurts ’cause I am still grinning.
My therapist tells me I really shouldn’t ‘try to get arrested, because then I would get more action’… I don’t know though, apparently prison sisterhood ID powerful.
Rock on A.S. & thanks for the laughs.
Oh wait…Ooo, Oooo Oooo… It’s a msg from Match maybe my time has come.
I wish more people got into Sense8, or powered through the first 4 episodes (because everyone online has basically said that that’s when they fall in love with the show and that was true for me…Random musical number ! Linda Perry’s voice! Feelings!!!), so I could talk about aaaaall the feelings I have for this show.
I’ve rewatched it 3 times already, and I’m so in love with it, and I GET the criticism re:stereotypes (although half of it is from misunderstanding – no, Kala ISN’T in an arranged marriage), but to me it’s why sci-fi truly shines as genre when it is well done, focusing on human connection and our capacity to love…
I’m really glad I watched Sense8, but I will probably never rewatch because the violence and gory action sequences made much of it hard to sit through. (Some of the action sequences were tied to the characterization and fantastic, but a lot of them undercut the theme of human connection for me by dwelling on violence in entertainment porn ways or shooting a lot of anonymous extras.)
I’ve often wished that there was special cut of the show that focused on the relationships and the plot movements I enjoyed, because I would rewatch the hell out of that! I’m not sure you could do the same with the stereotypes, which I think are more accurately painfully US-centric ways of looking at the world.
I will watch season 2, though…On that note, what do you think of the fan theory that Amanita is Capheus’s sister who was given up for adoption? It would definitely be problematic, but part of me loves the idea of those actors and their characters interacting.
I couldn’t agree more! Episode 4 is when it really turns around, this was my favourite show of last year
I have only one problem with this show.
Netflix, what do you mean the production for season 2 started on March 2016???!!! It took almost a year to completed season 1!!!! How much time do I have to wait?
that’s interesting ’cause i actually liked it better in the start, I think? or maybe it picked up in the middle and then lost me again… by the end I was totally disconnected from everybody’s storyline except for the gay couple.
oh wow that’s a reaction I’ve never heard of before :p. People usually go from “meh” to awesome” or from “like” to “awesome” (which was me) but never from “like” to “meh”!
Omg the musical number really got me. I was alone in the house singing out loud so that I could take part. Although, I am really glad I waited six months after watching the first episode. It is very violent and I just knew I wouldn’t be able to cope with that. But coming back to it when I was emotionally more stable was SUCH a good idea. I love how my relationship with each of the character developed as I learnt more about each of them. I was a little overwhelmed at first by the amount of different people I was meant to be following and what on earth was going on, but so worth it. So worth it.
I’ve read a lot of reviews and I love how it’s always like “I love X and Y but I hate A and B” and by the time they get to episode 12 it’s usually “I LOVE ALL OF THEM I CAN’T PICK A FAVOURITE ONE”
Strange how people have different tastes in content, when I heard the praise that Sense8 was getting and the fact that it was sci-fi made me curious, and then from something very interesting and promising went full on PC and I needed to watch some whiny arcs, took the fun out of sci-fi, some people may like mediocrity but I don’t, unfortunately this show does not come close to mediocrity it’s less than that.
So, Riese, a quote in The Washington Post?
Person of Interest is the most amazing to me because Root and Shaw are both main characters out of five (“six if you count the dog”) and get vital story lines and character interactions that drive and enhance the plot and so much more material than I’m used to with canon queer characters (Clexa used to be up there with POI for me, re: main couple/character treatment, but we all know how that turned out :///). Most f/f ships I’ve watched have either been part of a large ensemble (so rarely any screen time), never get anything to do, go episodes without any dialogue or character interaction, or have one/both not even being series regulars. After years of accepting breadcrumbs for representation, Person of Interest has been a feast and it’s only going to get better in Season 5. This ship is slowburn and amazing, on a top quality show (many episodes are actual masterpieces), and if you haven’t watched POI already, you won’t regret it. Shaw is introduced in 2×16 and you just fall more and more in love with the entire show from there. :)
Why did I not know any of this about POI? I would have watched it if I had known it had a lesbian relationship, but all I knew is that it was yet another procedural with a shaky premise, and I already watch enough of those.
I need to somehow find time to catch up so I am ready for next season!
What’s more is: I loved Sarah Shahi as Dani Reese on Life, so my missing POI is even more hard to explain….
S1-4 is on Netflix! I loved Sarah as Dani too. I want to marry whoever decided to cast her and Amy Acker (Fred on Angel) and then decided they would be the main couple. Shaw is such an important character–neuroatypical nuanced WoC bisexual who saves lives (definitely not just a “violent sociopath” as someone suggested below) and Root has one of the best character development arcs I’ve ever seen, brilliantly acted by Amy. (Root and Shaw are also one of the most badass, coolest couples ever. B) On that matter, all the characters on this show have amazing redemption arcs (even the dog!). The show is about an artificial intelligence (The Machine) that helps Finch (a nice Ben Linus from Lost) and Reese (to begin with) save lives. Reese has been described as Batman in a suit. It’s set in New York and portrays it beautifully (some really beautiful cinematography), has amazing music (Game of Thrones composer) and important messages (e.g. “Everyone is relevant to someone.”). It’s also one of the most realistic depictions of artificial intelligence and government surveillance and all the ramifications of that. There’s also fun episodes like accidentally kidnapping a baby. :D And then there is Carter (The best. Cinnamon roll. The most pure badass. & played by Taraji P. Henson!), Fusco, Bear (the dog!) and Root and Shaw who are integrated fully by S3 (family/team feelings, by the way. :’)
I’m gushing, sorry. It’s not flawless, some episodes will drag, but there’s so much GOOD about it. And the way it handles issues is sensitive and well-written and having a character like Sameen Shaw on television (a WoC bisexual with a personality disorder, who does just try to be good and whose only issue with getting into a relationship with Root is “You and me together would be like a four-alarm fire in an oil refinery”) is amazing to me. She’s never portrayed negatively for having a pd and it even makes her better at what she does. Root and Shaw are also definitely not abusive. They’re all about safe, sane and consensual kinkiness (e.g. “Safety first.” –Root flirting. :) It’s evolved from villains to friends to inadvertently caring more about each other than either intended or would admit to. They’re definitely not your typical couple, but it’s beautiful. Actions speak louder than words here. :)
What’s beautiful is that according to interviews, nobody decided that they would be a couple ! Their chemistry was off the charts, and so at first while filming they would try scenes in a couple of different ways (having them stand closer, body language etc) and saw how great it worked, and they decided to roll with it !
Still it could all have read as subtext/queer baiting, except they decided that they couldn’t ignore such intense chemistry :D
I love this piece! It’s great to celebrate what’s going well in the world of representation, but I especially love the depth with which you cover them.
It means a lot that you talk about what these shows do well AND where they’ve made missteps, and that you put them in context for why they are so important. In recent years both corporate media and tumblr culture has done a lot of self-congratulatory celebrating LGBT characters/storylines (as well as other types of diversity) that rings really false and hollow.
I loved reading this because you actually back up your claims, and because this isn’t yet another piece telling me to watch three season to see two queer women never get to kiss in the background of a straight love triangle.
Also, as someone who doesn’t watch Person of Interest, I’ve been confused by why the pairing is so popular and have heard a lot of criticism of the show for portraying queer women as violent sociopaths/arguments that the relationship is abusive. Your explanation here is really helpful for understanding why it’s so important in context.
I especially love your comments on Orphan Black–which besides being all true, is an important counter to the trolls who claim we’re arguing LBT characters should never be killed. I liked Delphine, but her death was a great heroic redemption and about her own importance, and it doesn’t result in the sudden absence of woman/woman relationships on the show. And having both Sarah and Cosima have to move on from the lover who spied on them to a new relationship feels like equality. I’m looking forward to next season.
And also what you say about How to Get Away with Murder is brilliant and completely true, and in wake of the 150 deaths discussion I have new respect for the Fosters for NOT being an Anyone-Can-Die show and having such great representation.
I have some new shows to check out thanks to this article!
I cannot emphasize this hard enough – SHOOT IS NOT ABUSIVE. Yes, both Shaw and Root are violent assassins, and yes, Shaw is a sociopath, and yes, Root is a misanthrope. But they are never violent to each OTHER. They do not hate each other. They save each other’s lives. They take bullets for each other. They rescue each other from the enemy. And sure, they fight and they kill, usually with little to no remorse. But they do it for a higher purpose. They are trying to save the world.
I also don’t think they are negative representations of queer women. Neither women is a psychopath/sociopath BECAUSE of their queerness. Or because of their gender. Or because of their race. (Shaw is a Persian American government assassin who kills terrorists, and her race is literally never made an issue. That is INCREDIBLE.) Neither of them have abusive histories. They have trauma in their pasts, sure, but no abuse. Nothing happened to them to make them the way that they are, they just ARE. In fact, Shaw is probably one of the BEST portrayals of of someone who is not neurotypical, and on tumblr you can see a lot of people really relate to her and how she interacts with the world. The things that these characters are doing for various communities, not just the queer community, is really incredible.
UGHHHH okay I’ll stop gushing now. But seriously. Shoot is one of the best relationships on television at the moment. I’ll fight anyone who tries to argue otherwise.
P.S. I totally agree with your comments re: Delphine’s death.
Just a small note – the original Wentworth was also an aussie show, though i think the brits did a spin off/remake that ran for awhile.
Prisoner Cell Block H (the original Wentworth) was shown later and with greater interest in the UK apparently…poss where the confusion comes in.
Yeah I don’t think it direct spin off in the UK. They did have Bad Girls which was completely different.
Maybe its the inner optimist in me, but I have SO MANY FEELINGS about this list! All of them great.
I can personally attest to how important Greys and the Fosters have been to me.
Without Callie on Greys, I’m not sure I would’ve recognized that I was queer; I’m definitely sure that I wouldn’t have asked a girl out. I could (and have- if you read Boobs on Your Tube) write thousands of pages in love to the soapy drama, but for Callie Torres alone I will always be eternally grateful to Shonda Rhimes.
The Fosters is what I consider to be my dream space. I turn on Stef/Lena and quietly remind myself that this *can* happen. That I can have a loving wife and smart, politically aware, emotionally mature kids (in my future dreams, I’m raising a house of Callie and Marianas and Judes. No Brandons.) and a kitchen worth envy. It’s a balm to my soul. And I’m so thankful that it exists.
The write up on How To Get Away with Murder is EXACTLY IT! EXACTLY! Best write up yet and the one I want to send to everyone to convince them to watch the show. HTGAWM is probably neck-and-neck at this point for my fav queer show on television, tied with Orange is the New Black. And I can promise you that back in August I did not see *that* coming.
I’ve never heard of East Los High. But ““a Latino Degrassi meets Gossip Girl meets Glee” is my actual life aesthetic and now I’m off to find it IMMEDIATELY.
Rosewood: You guys, Rosewood is understated, but so important. First, its one of 2 hour long dramas on network television with a large majority POC cast (the other one is Empire, which it shares Wednesday night with). This perhaps doesn’t feel important in the age of Scandal and HTGAWM, but both of those shows, even with a black female lead, exist largely in white spaces. Rosewood does not. Most shows with majority POC casts are sitcoms (blackish, Fresh Off the Boat, etc), Rosewood is not. Rosewood is also the first network procedural with a majority POC cast since 1998- and yes I looked it up.
So, yes, Rosewood is formulaic- I usually only watch it as background noise when I’m doing chores. But it is so important that its on air. And in the middle of all that important racial representation lies Pippy & TMI- the most adorable, boring lesbians to ever lesbian. And some surprising emotional truth behind their stories that are being played out by top-notch actresses as their mothers. And I agree, their wedding is going to be super cute, yall :)
Oh, and OITNB 5ever and ever and ever.
Quick thing- I’ve seen AS make this mistake a few times in a few places, but HTGAWM is set in Philadelphia, NOT DC!
DC is “Scandal”. Seattle is “Greys”. Easy mistake to make, and its not like location is central to the plot anyway, but I thought I would point it out.
Is it a sad comment on my lowbrow taste in television that I was surprised not to see Faking It on this list?
But in srsness, I agree with many of these and it’s so awesome how much focus you all are putting on TV representation these past few months. It’s so important!
You’re not alone, I also expected to see Faking It on this list. I don’t think it’s terrible, but its not exactly great either.
While Faking It is great and fun and all that, I would hardly say that the show is getting queer characters “right”. They’ve done right by Lauren, I think (though anyone who’s intersex feel free to tell me differently) but the only lesbian character they’ve really had is Reagan, who was shown to be super biphobic. Amy is a wonderful character, and I really, really love her, and Rita Volk in the role, but the show’s flipflop on her sexuality smacks of trying to have their cake and eat it too. At the very least, they could introduced ONE MORE QUEER WOMAN at this high school which is supposedly a blue oasis in the middle of bright red Texas. I assume that’s why it was left off this list.
That makes sense. I really love the show, like in a totally not ironic way, and I’m willing to grit my teeth and get through the bad stuff because Amy is literally living out my high school experience but with more drama and better friends– but that doesn’t mean it’s the show we deserve that gets it right and treats us well. Reagan was awful, and the show didn’t do enough to show that she was in the wrong. And a show that’s supposedly about lesbians should, you know, have some sympathetic lesbian characters.
(I will say, though, I think I’m the only person who’s never had an issue with the whole “why aren’t there other queer girls AT HESTER” thing – I went to a small high school like theirs too, and it was super liberal but there was only one out lesbian in my grade (not me. I wasn’t there yet). But what I really want for Amy is a better experience than that. Join a GSA or something, woman. Make other gay friends!)
I wanted to watch East Los High after reading on NPR about how it is kind of a social science experiment, but alas I can’t access Hulu (or use VPNs to, as I’m on a borrowed computer). Glad to hear it has good rep though!
It’s a very sweet show. Only the second season has much of a queer storyline, the central character in that arc gets bumped to recurring after that, but it’s still a great show and a great educational tool about sexual health (and a slew of other issues young folks may face). And it’s not watered down, despite being aimed at teens, it’s pretty damn graphic!
The great thing about the Marvel shows on Netflix is that they exist in the same universe so characters regularly cross-over. Jeri makes an appearance on Daredevil this season but I won’t give away in what capacity for those who haven’t watched yet because it’s kind of important and means she will probably appear more next season as well.
so excited about this! thanks for mentioning it in a non-spoilery way :)
Darn my plot thread suspicions have been confirmed because I’m hypothesis machine with a special function for TV dramas and slasher/terrible sci-fi movie.
I’m too smart for my own good :(
Delphine is alive. I’ve been saying this for a year and I will not change my mind until I see her cold, dead body (that would be totally surprising and disappointing, though)
Callie and Arizona on Grey’s were a huge help for me to visualize what a relationship with a woman could look like. Really first time for me that I recognized myself and my relationship on TV. That’s probably also why it still hurts that they got divorced and it probably doesn’t help that we don’t see much happy action for either lately. Arizona is dating many girls off screen and I keep forgetting piece of toast and Callie are dating because I just don’t feel it.
Thank you for compiling the article, will add some of this to my watch list.
Update: I’ve watched the first 2 episodes of East Los High in the hour since discovering the show in this article. The most realistic depiction of an US inner city high school that I’ve seen in- I can’t even remember how long.
The acting is a little rough around the edges, but I’m hopeful that improves with time. Even if it doesn’t, it’s so great to see actual teens playing teens- as opposed to glamazon’ed hollywood 20somethings playing teens. Awkard, acne prone, cheap clothes. Love all of it. The Latino teenagers feel like kids I grew up with.
Cursory google tells me that the gay characters don’t show up until season 2. It also seems to follow the Degrassi/ Skins pattern of rebooting with new students each year, so those who wanted could probably skip right to the start of season 2 and miss little.
The acting does improve as it goes on, plus some of the characters carry over after they graduate high school (as relatives, as student teachers, as coaches, etc) and we keep following their lives.
I just about died when I saw Jiz Lee on Transparent. They can guest on every show, as far as I’m concerned.
Season 2 of HerStory, perhaps????
“Okay, don’t lose your head Ms.Groves. This might mean nothing, but they’re holding a compact Persian Sociopath in cell 914.”
P.S.: Don't start throwing blunt objects my way, but I'm actually hoping in a way that Delphine is actually dead, because that whole episode and her sacrifice was just so very perfectly done.
"Give your sisters all my love."
P.S.:It’s been a while since the last POI ep,my brain which has a hard time remembering names, immediately jumped to Finch and Reese, and I thought “See,I’m not the only one seeing this.”
Joss. Of course.Joss Carter.
I was really nervous JtV was going to be on this list because I have some real strong feelings about how they are not treating their lesbians very well at all (although I would have thought it was the greatest thing ever ten years ago – how things change!!). I’m not sure why it wasn’t included, but I’m happy it was not.
Yes. I love and am frustrated with Jane at the same time. Such great Latina representation, feel good plot, and sexy times with Rose and Luisa while they lasted. Rose was an unhealthy boo for Luisa, so when I thought she’d end up with Susanna I was cool. Jane has killed a lot of secondary characters. But now Luisa in rehab and gone for weeks at a time, when the actress is available? And it doesn’t look from imdb like she will be back at all this season..! ??
I LOVE Jane the Virgin, and I wish that it spent more time on its lesbian characters; I understand why it’s not on this list. But Luisa and her various ladies have always been recurring characters, not part of the main cast, and Rose’s death did fit the tropes (though personally I don’t believe for an instant that she’s actually dead). I did appreciate their introducing Susannah before they killed Rose, but I think it needs to do a lot more to counterbalance the small screen time to make a list like this.
But the real problematic representation on that show is its TERRIBLE and trope-filled treatment of its two recurring black characters, and I wish there was more discussion of that.
The Fosters makes me SO HAPPY. It’s not perfect and sometimes the kids are annoying, but the portrayal of Stef & Lena’s relationship makes me grin like an idiot every episode.
HTGAWM is also excellent. I was shocked when they revealed that Eve was Annalise’s ex with absolutely no fanfare. Having grown up when every one-off kiss between two women on TV was advertised out the wazoo as a “very special episode” this surprise was just so refreshing.
Moseyed on over to Netflix(am in the UK) to see how many of these I can get over here. And season 3 of Orphan Black is there finally :D So thank you for helping me discover that if nothing else!
Yaaaaaaas! Thanks for this excellent news I can now rewatch :)
“lesbians on sitcoms have never really recovered from Ellen coming out” – this calls for a moment of silence for my beloved Anne from Go On, which I cannot believe was 4 years ago.
YES. Go On also is one of very few things that portrayed young, childless widowhood. I kind of thought I was the only person who watched it.
THAT WAS FOUR YEARS AGO!?
There are many things I love about Person of Interest and a few have already been mentioned, but to add one more: if you remove Root and Shaw’s feelings for each other, most of the season 4 main plot just falls flat on its face. Many TV romances feel like they’ve been written in five minutes for the sake of adding a romantic subplot (usually “man and woman interact twice, fall in love”), but that’s just not the case with these two. They’re the main romance; the guys get the flashbacks of past girlfriends and the occasional fling with no connection to the plot, but most of the time they don’t even get anything.
Also, and this might be mean, I find it absolutely hilarious that CBS’s super conservative target audience wanted to watch yet another show about middle-aged white men, and instead ended up watching their traditional manly action hero take orders from women and two morally ambiguous queer ladies flirt about doing kinky things to each other. Their outrage gives me so much life.
And there is so much outrage,too!
Facebook is a smorgasbord of hate comments, which just prompted the POI page to post more outrageousely positive Shoot stuff.
However, both Root and especially Shaw really turned into fan favourites all on their own.
I really wish they would have spent more time on Martinique, though.
Lol you mean Martine ?
With what has been teased about season 5, if they can get their way and CBS stops being a butt for five minutes (unlikely, but one can hope) the mainstream reactions should be priceless.
Although there was that one time when the official CBS website posted an honest-to-god shipping slideshow to celebrate them (“8 reasons we love Shoot” or something similar). It was so surreal. Part of me still thinks an intern snuck that in and they just forgot to delete it.
I was sad Martine (that was a weird autocorrect! I’m sure Sarah Shahi would’ve loved to film the show in Martinique though, judging from her dislike for the NY climate) only lasted one season. I’m not particularly fond of Lambert’s smug pretty boy face and I was hoping he would be the one to go first, but alas. They did reveal some of her backstory in interviews after the season ended, but I’d have liked to see that on screen instead of, say, John and his therapist.
Ooh I’m intrigued what was her backstory ?
Apparently before being recruited by Samaritan she was supposed to be an investigator for the International Criminal Court in the Hague and she saw too many people get away with horrible crimes. That would explain why Greer’s plan would’ve seemed like a good idea to her. Not sure what happened in the Samaritan training program that would make her think it’s acceptable to shoot up shopping malls full of civilians and torture people, but I guess we’ll never find out now…
Remember when Jenji Kohan explained that Piper Chapman was the white, middle-class woman she used as a trojan horse to introduce viewers to the queer, poor, women of colour who actually populate most prisons!? Fucking brilliant. Well, Jonah Nolan and Greg Plageman have done the same thing with Person of Interest. They pitched a crime procedural staring Michael Emerson and Jesus solving crimes before they happen, but that was just the trojan horse to get them to actually buy a show about a bisexual Persian sociopath government assassin and a deaf lesbian killer for hire who accidentally fall in love while working to prevent an AI apocalypse.
Even before that I’ve always admired how, during the very first “procedural” first season, they constantly flipped the damsel in distress trope. The women they had to help always had agency. Yes, sometimes they were in over their head in deep trouble but never more so than the men they helped, and more often than not the narrative made space for them to be active in their own “rescuing”.
I’d like to respectfully put forward BBC show Shetland
Person of Interest is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I can’t believe how mindblowingly good the show is and Root and Shaw’s relationship development is just amazing. I read some spoilers and it seems like they’re going full force with Shoot in season 5. Can’t wait.
I think Tom(Cole from Fosters) uses both he and they pronouns in person, which is kind of a big deal, because not many non-binary trans men on tv(let alone trans men in general).
Also, just finished watching the Netflix show Flaked. While it’s not a queer at all, the main character’s(played Will Arnett) ex-wife is in a relationship with another woman, and neither die(yet). It’s a minor character(think like small-ish part of two episodes, but it is there. It’s as solid show, but I kind of feel like it’s catering a bit too much to the Western Los Angeles crowed with some of the jokes.
Wait, Delphine wasn’t shot in the head though, was she?
Apart from that, excellent list! :)
I was thinking some thoughts about Showtime’s House of Lies and wondering if anyone affiliated with AS has seen it? I’m not convinced it belongs on this list, but I’d love to see a queer analysis of it. Alas, not many people seem to watch it. There’s a nonbinary, biracial teenager and a bisexual woman in the cast, but neither of them is a main character, and to be fair the bi woman is not the most sympathetic character. It’s a super diverse show with a black family at the core, and genderfluid Roscoe and his boifriend Lex gave me life last season.
I love the gender fluid kid and especially how his dad doesn’t really give a shit about his gender presentation :D
I watched I think the first two seasons and it was fun (Kristen Bell!!!) but it’s the kind of show I “forget” to watch after a point… (There’s just so many of them!)
I finished Season 2 last night. Not convinced that Jeannie isn’t bisexual as well, (they dropped a couple of hints in season 1, but never followed up, and we know what the endgame there is gonna be) but yes, Roscoe is a great character. Season 1 was also fairly sex positive imo, but season 2 backtracked on that with some really heinous fratboy stereotypes. (Most all of the Vegas stuff made me cringe, and Monica’s non-arc, yeesh.)
Yes, the writing of the Kaan family is brilliant, albeit a bit of a sausage-fest. But Tamara and April were also still great characters. The show is featured in the Showrunners documentary, (available on Netflix) and you can see a diversity in the writer’s room that is clearly responsible for some of the show’s nuanced takes on gender and racial issues.
And for you Hamilton fans, Leslie Odom Jr. shows up in one S1 episode!
TOTALLY HERE FOR BISEXUAL JEANNIE. They’ll never go there, but god, I wish.
I’m excited to see how the Kaan family dynamic changes with Jeannie in the mix now – hopefully some of that sausage-fest stuff will go down, and maybe Marty might be able to develop a healthier attitude toward women! We can hope!
We actually studied a few episodes of this show in one of my TV classes in college a few years ago as an example of a really diverse writer’s room, but we never watched that documentary and I need to check it out! I’m making a note for myself to watch it this weekend!
Right now I’m excited for the next season, but surprised and disappointed that we haven’t seen Roscoe in any of the trailers… it’s possible I care too much about that kid :)
Leslie Odom Jr. also shows up in Person of Interest :D He’s amazing in it !!!
People have already been saying it, and I’ve already said it, but I just need to reiterate:
SHOOT IS THE BEST RELATIONSHIP ON TELEVISION RIGHT NOW.
Was very happy to see Degrassi on this list! I know it’s a show for teenagers, but Paige and Alex’s coming out was so important to me that I’ll probably never stop watching this silly show.
Anyways, they had a really interesting queer storyline this season and I hope one of these days it gets some more mention.
Errr, unless I was mistaken, Delphine wasn’t shot in the head.
And you missed off ‘Call the Midwife’- which is excellent in every way and treats not only the lesbian characters well, but women in general.
This is a great list riese and heather :) Although I am yet to watch many of these shows… I’ll have to watch them at the end of the year when I am finally finished with high school and will have a lot more time.
good luck for your last months of HS! <3
Really, AS? Still no love for Black Sails? I know it’s not a show About Lesbians (though technically it IS about a gay dude trying to murder everyone because his boyfriend got killed, which…) and it is a bit on the violent side I guess, but two of the main female characters and one of the secondary ones are queer af, all are important to the story in their own ways, and all are still alive going into S4 (though I know that shouldn’t exactly be a point of praise, given recent events it kind of is).
Also, like Alcy said above, Call The Midwife is great at basically everything (though I do wish they’d let them come out, I’m convinced several of the other characters already know!).
I’ve already left a comment here and a lot of people have already said it but yeah, I too believe Root and Shaw are one of the most complex, fascinating and plain amazing couples on TV right now. Can’t wait for season 5 <3
C’monnnnn AS, WHERE is Black Sails!?
There are more queer ladies than you can shake a stick at, ALL of them major players, well-rounded, amazing, and, you know, alive. (Plus some queer dudes! Plus fantastic acting, great writing….)
Every time I see Lena Waite of MoN, all sound turns to background fuzz and small hearts halo her perfect, perfect face
Is there a reason why “unapologetic misandry” is being touted as a positive thing?
In a world plagued by violent misogyny, sometimes reveling in unapologetic misandry can help soothe the pain.
So annoyed that “reveling in unapologetic misandry” is too long for my location in my Twitter bio. Once again let down by The Man.
No, there isn’t. It’s a matter of freedom and faith.
Thanks to the recommendation in this article, this weekend I binged the first three seasons of East Los High via Hulu. I see that season 4 comes out this summer.
I love the show as a whole, and agree with the mixed reviews given to the queer representation. I think the “in love with best friend” thing is a very real thing that happens (testifying from experience), but I’m also tired of seeing it because it’s not the only option and it leaves us sad and lonely, which I’m tired of.
I wish they had given as much or more attention to the two other girlfriends/relationships Jocelyn had after her first. If they had, I would not be complaining about how they handled her first, because I do think it was pretty well done, as those things go.
Still, the show itself is amazing in a number of ways, and I give them a lot of credit for doing as much right as they do, not only for us but across the board.
I’ve also started watching POI. I didn’t have time to catch up before the new episodes started airing, so I took a chance and just started with the current ones, and I’m finding it much easier to follow than I anticipated I would, for a show I missed the first 4 seasons of. I hope to catch up on all the build up after the fact.