Lesbian television is having a moment folks. There are more Sapphic series and lesbian characters in mainstream programming than ever. Of course, many of these series are riddled with issues, presenting white-washed, palatable-for-the masses queerness. However, some of them are good, really good, and even the chaff is often entertaining. You can get your fill of lady-loving programming on Netflix, so hole up with a glass of wine or your knitting ( I see you, crafty lesbians), and dig in.
Orange is the New Black: If you haven’t already watched it, you’re about to. Or you’re being harassed by your friends/lovers/partners to do so. I’ll join them in the brow-beating – watch it! OITNB is compelling, sexy and entertaining, and all the lesbian storylines will make your head spin. My partner and I watched a few episodes together, and she made me promise not to watch it without her. As soon as I had a day off, I immediately devoured the entire season (sorry boo).
What’s great about it: The show was created by a woman, produced in part by Jodi Foster, and features a women-centric cast with seriously fierce characters. There are folks from different points on the Kinsey scale, from different class and racial backgrounds, and with different body types and gender presentations. Additionally, OITNB features a trans-feminine character that is actually played by a trans*woman, and her character presents a moving, complicated and sometimes painful story.
And then there’s the sex (loads of it) and the babes. Most folks I know are enamored with Alex (Laura Prepon), but since I have a deeply-buried affinity for down-on-their-luck, underfed underdogs (I blame my rural upbringing), I dig ‘bad braids’ which is how I affectionately refer to Tricia (Madeline Brewer). There have been lez-centric prison dramas before, but none like OITNB. I reiterate: watch it already.
Bomb Girls: This is probably my favorite television series ever, and you can find the first two seasons on Netflix. It takes place in World War II-era Canada, and its name is inspired by the series’ setting in a munitions factory that produces bombs. With the men away at war, women move into the workplace and gain access to a kind of independence that wasn’t possible previously.
What’s great about it: The 1940’s aesthetic of the show is dreamy – think finger waves, dropped waist gowns and high-waisted, pleated women’s trousers. The series features tough women challenging gender roles in both their personal and professional lives, and there is a fantastic lesbian subplot. Another beautiful element of the series is the intense friendships between women in the workplace that create a rich sense of camaraderie that the viewer feels connected to. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the entire cast look like dykes in their factory uniforms and it’s a babe explosion.
Lost Girl: This series’ lead character is Bo, a bisexual succubus that was recently inducted into the world of the fae, and is charged with exacting justice and saving faekind with her Goth human sidekick. Bo develops a relationship with her dyke human doctor, and the push-and-pull ensues. There are witches, werewolves and Amazons in this series, and loads of supernatural drama.
What’s great about it: Did I mention that the lead character is a queer succubus? If you attend ComicCon, gush over Buffy or other fantasy programming, I think you’ll enjoy Lost Girl. It becomes pretty ridiculous at times, but is full of queer sex, fearless femmes and fae.
Lip Service: The BBC’s answer to the L Word is packed with dyke drama and intrigue. The series takes place is Glasgow, with a group of 20 and 30-somethings navigating relationships, work and friendships, and you can find the entire series (2 seasons) on Netflix.
What’s great about it: Heather Peace! She’s a real-life dyke that plays a hard-but-sweet police officer on the show. Also fabulous are the ladies’ Scottish accents, which for this American, make everything sound more appealing. The show certainly isn’t life-changing, and doesn’t push boundaries in many real ways, but is entertaining and saucy.
Lesbians on Prime Time
There are also a number of series currently on cable that capitalize on our society’s superficial acceptance of/curiosity about queerness. Shows like Mistresses, Pretty Little Liars, Ray Donovan and Chicago Fire feature lesbian characters, but since I haven’t been able to get past one episode of any of them, I’ll discuss the programs that I’ve watched and generally enjoyed.
The Fosters: This series features a bi-racial lesbian couple and their blended family of biological, adopted and fostered children. It’s on ABC Family, so it’s definitely watered-down and leans on stereotypes, but it does address (superficially at least) some weighty issues like familial rejection and out-of-home care for children, partner rights and immigration challenges. I appreciate the representation of a lesbian family, and that they are not wildly wealthy a la The L Word. I also like that there is some diversity represented in the cast, and that the Sapphic couple is neither de-sexualized nor over-sexualized.
Rizolli and Isles: Okay, so supposedly they’re not gay, but I’m holding my breath until the moment when they just tear into each other. They are ‘best friends’ kicking ass and solving crimes together, and seem to be perpetually single. And seriously, have you heard Angie Harmon’s gravelly voice? My partner insists that a lez-splosion will never happen, but I think it’s going to go down this season.