Here, but particularly elsewhere, a growing number of television series intended for adult, family or youth audiences feature lesbian characters or bisexual women. Whether or not sexual orientation is a key element of these shows, they portray a reality that has long been much less visible than love between two men. They also offer a variety of models for girls and women who have been missing them on the small screen.
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“I remember watching The L word in French on ARTTV when I was a teenager, says Florence Gagnon. I didn’t hear it out loud in my parents’ basement so they wouldn’t hear. It was the first time I saw lesbians in an everyday context. I didn’t even know how it was, lesbians, so we were short of models. »
The founder of Lez spreads the word, a lesbian and queer magazine aimed precisely at showing positive role models, didn’t really identify with the lives of these Los Angeles women “who ride around in BMWs.” But in the early 2000s, she had little choice on the small screen.
Filmmaker Chloé Robichaud and she wanted to put things right by making 2014 Female/Female, a web series focusing on the lives of a group of young lesbian women living in Montreal. “ The L word had changed both of our lives, but it wasn’t like us,” stresses Florence Gagnon, co-creator and executive producer of the 16-episode web series, which is split into two seasons.
Female/Female and The L word (created 2004) remain exceptions. Nevertheless, in the last decade, the number of series featuring lesbian or bisexual women has increased dramatically, even in mainstream programming. One of the things Florence Gagnon is thinking about is the couple Carrie and Arizona form on the popular series Grey’s anatomy. “It was really successful, she says, and it was a big step forward in television for the portrayal of lesbians. »
“There’s been some pretty impressive diversification lately, and sexual orientation isn’t necessarily the central narrative of the character like it could have been ten years ago,” noted Tara Chanady, a communications researcher who wrote a text for lezbiqueer Has. Visibility in the essay Queer TV, published last spring by Editions du Remue-Ménage. His claim is based primarily on the growing diversity on American television.
Of course there are and have been lesbians on Quebec television: in Living Memories, the academy Where unit 9. “Lesbian characters on TV who are in prison, it doesn’t help our parents to think that our life will be so beautiful,” slips Florence Gagnon, who thinks the same way Orange is the new black.
she prefers Without appointment, by Marie-Andrée Labbé, where Magalie Lépine-Blondeau plays a lesbian nurse-sexologist without it being important in the story. “I find it interesting,” she explains, because by featuring as many models as possible, we’re dispelling preconceived notions of what a lesbian should look like. »
Examples of series in this genre, aimed at family or youth audiences, are more numerous south of the border: The Fosters, One day at a time, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, atypical and many others feature lesbian or queer and sometimes even non-binary characters. Tara Chanady also reports on the series euphoriawhere female homosexuality is presented very centrally without even being named.
We’re trying to normalize by not naming anymore [l’homosexualité]. There is a more fluid vision of sexuality.
Tara Chanady, communications researcher
Less visible than gays
One reality remains, however: lesbians remain less visible on the small screen than gay men. “Gay men have always had more media exposure,” notes Tara Chanady. “It’s about equality between men and women in general,” says Florence Gagnon. Women face double discrimination: sexism and homophobia. Men also have more space in the LGBTQ2+ community, which is a reflection of our society. »
She is convinced that the fact that Female/Female Set boundaries for interest in a group of women.
If we did the same series but it was boys we would have been funded full jaws and we would have done eight seasons. A project between women has less power.
Both women are convinced that a better and stronger representation of lesbian realities on television can have a positive impact. However, it is important that this is done by women of diversity, they believe. “Unless it’s written by LGBT people, we tend to fall into clichés,” agrees Florence Gagnon. “I think it’s necessary to have series produced by women of sexual diversity – lesbian, queer or bi. Female/Female, Tara Chanady clarifies, it wouldn’t be the same if none of the participants appeared in public as part of sexual diversity. »
Six lesbian universes on the small screen
You can now find lesbian and bisexual female characters on a variety of television shows, from sitcoms to cartoon fantasy adventures. Here are a few.
The L word
Ellen DeGeneres made them come out in life and inside sitcom ellen in 1997. The L wordHowever, , which began airing in 2004, is the first series to address the lives of lesbian and bisexual women and was recognized in particular for its direct way of portraying sexuality between women. There is a lot of amorous intrigue, but the main part of the show lingers daily: Tina and Bette are looking for a donor for a child, Jenny has just moved in with her fiancé but is attracted to Marina, Dana is a pro tennis player who is afraid of it to come out in public, Shane is a killer… The L word contains not only lesbian characters, but a whole universe.
Florence Gagnon created with Chloé Robichaud Female/Female, which shows the lives of young Quebec lesbians mainly in their late teens or twenties. Sexual orientation is central to the universe of Female/Femalebut the topics addressed are all: love search, breakups, illness, age difference in a couple, etc. The series has a “documentary” section in which the characters talk about themselves, among other things come out or the need they feel to put a label on what they are or are not.
On HERE Tou.tv
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power
Inspired by a series from the 1980s, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (She-Ra and the Princesses of Power en version française) by trans creator ND Stevenson follows Adora’s quest and love-hate relationship with Catra, her childhood friend. The fantasy series features strong female characters and emphasizes body, ethnic and sexual diversity. Alongside the heroine tandem, several characters – males, but mostly females – live homosexual relationships which, while flaunted, never take a part in these supernatural adventures. Some characters with more ambiguous attractions evoke bisexuality and others gender fluidity. There are also lesbian characters in cartoons like arcane, The Owl House and Steven universe.
One day at a time
You can’t find a more classic sitcom than One day at a time : The series follows a family of Cuban descent from Los Angeles with a flamboyant grandmother (extraordinary Rita Moreno) who is nostalgic for her country, a single mother and two teenagers. Alongside these appearances, however, she tackles a range of issues related to immigration, social inequality and racism, but also homophobia and gender identity, as one of the characters will eventually become his come out and the integration of her non-binary partner into family life. One day at a time is not a “lesbian series”, but nevertheless shows what at first glance appears to be a conventional lesbian family life, as is also the case withatypicalwhere one of the main characters juggles between homosexuality and bisexuality.
On Netflix (Seasons 1, 2 and 3) and AppleTV (Season 4)
Created by the Wachowski sisters, among others (trans writers and filmmakers also behind The Matrix), sense8 revolves around eight characters from different parts of the world (USA, England, Germany, Iceland, Kenya, Mexico, South Korea and India) who discover that they are psychologically and emotionally connected. The series was notable for featuring a couple of women, one of whom, Nomi, is trans and is also played by trans actress Jamie Clayton. sense8 talks about homophobia but doesn’t make it a central narrative thread. Or just briefly. Sexual diversity is a fact here, as is ethnic diversity.
Rare Quebec series in which the main character is a lesbian. Sarah (Magalie Lépine-Blondeau), a sexologist in her 30s who works at a sexual health clinic, wonders about her relationship with her lover Maude. However, Sarah’s sexual orientation is not the central narrative thread of the comedy. Without appointment, signed by Marie-Andrée Labbé. There are also lesbian characters in Quebec series aimed at young audiences, such as the academy and… master key : In the 2019 version, Madame Coucou, once portrayed as a single mother, starts a family with another woman.
On ICI Tou.tv Extra