Friday, August 2, 2013

Lesbian Television Series

There are a very few television shows that feature lesbians as central characters, but there are some good ones out there. This list focuses on series,or seasons, or just episodes - in which lesbian characters were central to the show.

I know, I know, this is a book review site. But I needed somewhere to put this list! It's not complete, but I'm working on it. Currently, it's more of a 'recommendations/shows I would like to see' list, than a all powerful guide to lesbian television.

  • The L Word was a ground breaking series - a glamourous drama show entirely, and openly, dedicated to lesbians. And as such, it deserves fame and recognition.
  • Orange Is the New Black is a prison drama that began airing in 2013. It is set in a women's prison and includes lesbian main characters.
  • Seeking Simone is a web series about a single lesbian hooking up with online dates - the first episode is cringe worthy, but it improves significantly! Plus, it's free. The story is narrated via a webcam, with flashbacks as Simone recalls her experiences. You can start watching on YouTube here.
  • Los Hombres De Paco is another fantastic lesbian series. Unfortunately, it's in Spanish (English subtitles) and often out of stock.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess Created before lesbians were mainstream, the relationship between Gabrielle and Xena is real and intense, and by the ending of the show it was hailed as one of the greatest lesbian series of all time. It is also to blame for causing many women to question their sexuality and an enormous amount of Xena uberfic! You can watch Xena online here. 
  • The Real L Word is a reality tv show set in Los Angeles, and is a spin off of The L Word.

Episodes Worth Seeing in Non-Lesbian Shows
These shows are well known and 'mainstream', and feature episodes, or entire story arcs, with prominent lesbian characters. They definitely take a bit more explaining though. This is by no means a comprehensive list!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer - The Fourth Season
In the fourth season of Buffy, Willow comes out as a lesbian and starts dating Tara, which continues into the fifth season. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is an awesome and brilliant show, anyway, but the natural way their relationship is handled makes Tara and Willow a very special lesbian couple in mainstream media.

There's a gradual falling in love throughout the season that's very sweet to see, and they finally come out in episode 20 (The Yoko Factor). You can watch Season 4 of BtVS online here (spoiler: it ends badly, but Willow remains lesbian throughout the rest of the series, with a minor relationship sideplot in the final season).

 Best Other Work Category, Gaylactic Spectrum Awards

  • Shortlisted 2002, 2003, 2004
  • Winner, 2001

Star Trek Deep Space Nine - The Fourth Season 
Star Trek stands true to its theme of exploring frontiers and features the first lesbian kiss in space - and one of the very first lesbian kisses on television at all.

Two symbionts, Dax and - both currently inhabiting the female hosts Jadzia and Dr. Kahn - meet again and discover they are still in love in Episode Five of Deep Space Nine. "Rejoined"

Watch the actual kiss on YouTube! (And you can watch the whole episode on Amazon Instant Video)

Season Five, Episode 5. Lucky Thirteen
While it's not a lesbian show, it's gay friendly and has a prominent (and hot) bisexual woman.

Thirteen (as named by House) is the smart, bisexual doctor on House's team, and in episode Lucky Thirteen she finally hooks up on-screen and falls in love. Sort of. This is House after all, and he can't resist playing master manipulator.

(You can just watch that episode online, or get all of Season Five for context).

This isn't a complete list, suggestions are welcome.

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  1. I know Whedon and Buffy gets a lot of praise, but I still feel all the good he did was erased by killing Tara and making Willow go evil only to be talked down by Xander. He can say whatever he likes but the message on screen was "being a lesbian is bad and you will get punished for it."

    Now I am in the mood to see some more Xena.

    1. You make really valid points! I hated what they did with Willow in the end. There's also an underlining negative message from Whedon's take on liberal female sexuality as a whole. For example, Buffy can't have a healthy sexual relationship. Her losing her virginity caused the almost-destruction of the entire world (Angel.) And then her time spent with Spike, she was completely self-loathing and was depicted more to be disgusted with herself. Spike nearly raped the girl, but somehow she still ended up with him?

      Not to mention Faith mostly being shunned despite being a dominant person and having a confident attitude towards sexuality. I'm not saying Whedon or the show was bad. Its still one of my favorites. But there is a negative message underlining the show that people don't notice. Just because Whedon used a female lead, he's labeled to be for the women's movement. But, there are just too many subliminal messages in the show for it to be true.

    2. I actually don't get that. A LOT of the characters had sex, and they all turned out different ways. There wasn't any consistent underlying message about sex, other than "people have sex and some people work out and others don't. Also some relationships are definitely not healthy". There are a LOT of main female characters, and I think they ALL have sex, often with no negative consequences and many were perfectly healthy (Oh sure, most of the relationships end at some point, but the show runs so long that it's inevitable. Also, not specifically the girl's fault).

      The Angel/Buffy thing was a pretty fantastic metaphor for being pushed into sex (or getting carried away) and then having him turn into a jerk once he gets what he wants. It's a pretty common experience, and it was presented as his issue, not hers.

      Buffy had a perfectly functional relationship with Riley. Apart from her own personal commitment issues - most of her personality was about being attracted to dangerous men. It was the men that was the problem, not the fact she had sexual impulses.

      Spike was definitely problematic, but again, their relationship was shown as self destructive, and an understandable outlet. She absolutely rejected him after he tried to rape her, and he ended up doing massive penance (going to get his soul back). They didn't end up together after that at all, though she got a lot nicer to him (among other things, he was supposed to be a person with a conscience and not quite as evil after he got his soul back); there's a difference between forgiveness and pretending it didn't matter.

      Faith was shunned because she was a jerk. Women can be jerks. It doesn't undermine feminism. In fact, having a diverse cast *improves* it.

      The Tara thing was awful. I can, dispassionately, see why she was picked to die, and I do believe Whedon's claims that he honestly had no idea about the lesbians always dying trope, or that she was picked because she was a lesbian, rather than a 'significant character that will have an impact, but not mess up the main casting'. If she hadn't been half of the ONLY major lesbian relationship around, it would have been heartbreaking, but not so much of a "lesbians must die" thing. They did sort of try and fix it a little by having Willow find another girlfriend later, although she obviously didn't have the same connection.

      Willow being talked down by Xander... well, they were basically brother and sister. The only other option was Buffy, but even she hadn't known Willow as long or as well as Xander. Also, he needed something useful to do, as he often just trailed around the others while they saved the day. I don't see it as a gender thing at all.

      Aye, Joss Whedon isn't perfect. But I'd say most of his problematic themes are in botched portrayals, not an underlying, deliberate (or unconscious) message.

    3. *Obviously Dawn doesn't have sex.

      **Also, Buffy expresses interest in, or actively dates, a very long string of boys, within and outside of, her school life. Those were all over the show, from sweet to majorly problematic to "setting her up for sacrifice" to "ending for his/her sake".

    4. This just popped up on my Tumblr dash and I had to share it: it's the perfect example of what I meant above by Buffy not being blamed for Angl turning evil.

    5. BtVS is one of my all time favorite shows, especially the episodes with the Willow/Tara relationship. Luckily enough, there's a lot of W/T fan fiction around on the internet. I love it how people still find the time to write it, and would actually be very happy if some publisher found at least the best writings to publish as books.

  2. I see you didn't mention "Sugar Rush." And, if anyone's interested in paranormal television shows with a female bisexual main protagonist, the show "Lost Girl" is also really good. There's also the web-show "Anyone but me" which is more "coming of age" story, and the new show "Orange is the New Black." Enjoy!

    1. Actually, I just looked at the list again and "Orange is the New Black" is on there. My mistake. But, it is a good show. So watch it!

    2. I can't! It hasn't reached NZ yet! (thanks for the other suggestions, though).

  3. I do think "Warehouse 13" deserves at least a mention on this page, or as it's called amongst the fans, Angst and Pain.

    Now, I don't really know how to explain that it's worth a mention since it's not actually a lesbian show. You see, one of the female characters, let's call her Wells, is a confirmed bisexual. The other female character, let's call her Bering, has no confirmed bisexual tendencies mentioned on the show.

    Oh, a pure subtexty show you say? And you'd be right. If not for the fact that the actresses decided for their characters to "Fall in love a little bit"

    So we're stuck in a twilight. On one hand there are no actual words on the show saying that they are together/Fell in love/Fell in lust with each other. But the actresses played it as such, dong a fantastic job along the way. And now the show's ending, with only 6 episodes to wrap things up in 2014, so we probably won't get any on screen confirmation beyond decent subtext.

    Honestly, I'd call it a modern Xena. While there are no open exchanges of I love you's. (And we're not going to talk about how things are after the last episode Wells was in) It's pretty much acknowledged by everyone involved in the show that they have "something" going on.

    Yea, my description probably sucks. But don't let that discourage you! Warehouse 13 is a fun show with great character and good messages about family and I really urge you all to check it out.

    I'll leave you with two things. One, if you want to know more about these two then I suggest checking out the "Bering and Wells" tag on Tumblr. Two, maybe check this little video out: Three,if you want to see a Bering and Wells fan dissolve into tears, tell them you smell apples.

    1. That does sound worth watching, thank you! (it's a pain figuring out which shows have genuine subtext and which just lend themselves to a lot of femslash, so this is a good pointer).

  4. Don't forget Lip Service!!