Blogpost #5: Where are all the butch lesbians on TV?!

Happy Saturday everyone! 

This weekend is a beautiful one here in San Francisco. Last night we had a lovely bit of rainfall and this morning blue skies! I'm so happy to wake up and see THIS beautiful video that Wells Fargo released featuring a 2-Mom family learning sign language as they prepare to meet their adopted daughter for the first time.

 "We are going to be your new mommies". Screencap via YouTube. 

"We are going to be your new mommies". Screencap via YouTube. 

None of the actors have dialogue in the commercial, there are subtitles throughout as they practice phrases in sign language. The narrator reassures their audience that Wells Fargo will be there for you, "when two become three". It's a touching portrait that I'm thrilled to see from such a large financial institution. It's just one more glimmer of visibility for the LGBTQ community but we need MORE!

Click on the video above to play, "Learning Sign Language" from Wells Fargo. 

Where are the Tide commercials with 2-Mom and 2-Dad families using cloth diapers??? Where are the car commercials showcasing a cute pair of bears taking a road trip to Joshua Tree for their honeymoon??? Or the trans-Daddies choosing a stroller to buy that's safe when they want to take a trail run with their baby and their dogs?? Where are the womyn and genderqueer people who shop at Target for their household needs?? Where are the mothers & fathers, the sisters & brothers and people who identify as others represented?! All of whom live and breathe each day using products, services, and goods made by these huge companies.

It was nice when everyone rallied their support for LGBTQ rights when the nation was boycotting Indiana's religious freedom bill a few weeks ago. If we are happy about that kind of support, why are we not making more of a fuss about total inclusion and visibility in everyday media, TV, and film? Why do we not also care passionately about accurate representation of our shared community of people? We do care, but perhaps it just will take more time than we would like.

I was thinking about this last night as I watched last weeks episode of One Big Happy, the newest show produced by Ellen DeGeneres and created by Liz Feldman that features a femme lesbian character having a very planned pregnancy with her best guy friend and now, unplanned new roommate. 

 Image via NBC Universal Television. All Rights Reserved. 

Image via NBC Universal Television. All Rights Reserved. 

Lizzy, the pregnant lesbian (which could be an alternate title for the show), is single and pregnant from her man-friend's sperm. Prudence, the loveable, busty, British character is introduced in their pilot episode. It isn't long before Prudence walks into Lizzy's kitchen stark naked. (Sorry NBC, but I couldn't help but think that adding a nudist character to the show was an attempt to get more viewers! Specifically more heterosexual male viewers!) 

Nudity aside, the real issue I have with One Big Happy is that Lizzy still is complying with heteronormative standards of what is "acceptable" for lesbians on TV shows. She's blonde, she's (for the most part) a femme lesbian, and loves to crack campy lesbian jokes. I say "for the most part" because every now and then Lizzy gets some incredibly butch moments. I won't spoil them for you but she does pull her butch cred every now and then in subtle ways.

The character of Lizzy is easily consumable in a network-wide attempt to make her lesbian character more appealing to the largest percentage of viewers possible. She's cute, she's perky, she's witty, she has great style, and she dresses in feminine ways that say, "I'm harmless! I may be a lesbian but don't worry, I'm not rough around the edges, I'm not visibly gay in my gender and style presentation! I have no tattoos, no gauges in my ears, and no Doc Martens! So don't worry Mom & Dad! Don't worry everyone watching TV! I am a safe gay character!" All the more reason that Lizzy needs to fall in love with a woman who is more alternative, more genderqueer, more masculine-of-center, more butch! On that note, I hereby declare a challenge...

THE CHALLENGE

To the writers & producers of One Big Happy I issue a challenge: Lizzy inevitably will meet another female character to fall in love with, correct? If and when this happens in your series I challenge you to make that character a butch or genderqueer woman. I dare ya! If I had twitter I would tweet the S-H-I-T out of that challenge directly to Ellen herself but I don't use that silly 160 character service. I already have too many distractions in my normal life to have to look at that thing and figure it out! 

There are plenty of handsome ladies out there you could cast as her new love interest. Here we present a list of just three contenders. To the writers & producers at NBC, consider this your starting plates, to whet your appetite: 

1. Rain Dove Dubilewski - Not only is she androgynous but she is a writer, model, and animal rights activist! Her height and hair are fabulous, but that goes without say. You can read an article she wrote about the treatment of horses in Central Park here: The Real Story Behind Central Park Horse Conditions. You can also follow her on instagram

 Photo from the Tumblr universe. If anyone has a photographer credit please pass along! 

Photo from the Tumblr universe. If anyone has a photographer credit please pass along! 

 Photo by Nina Galicheva. 

Photo by Nina Galicheva. 

2. Chloe Sevigny! 

She may be 40.5 years old but she is one of the pioneers of butch visibility on TV & film! Remember back to 1996 when she was cast in If These Walls Could Talk 2 alongside Anne Heche and Ellen DeGeneres? If you need to jog your memory check these photos out: 

To quote directly from the film "She’s what all butches should be...She’s sweet and sexy … chivalrous, persistent, thrilled to have a pretty girl on her bike". (Quote: AfterEllen).  So why not reintroduce Chloe to the 21st century TV audience? She's also blonde and would pair well next to Elisha Cuthbert (the actress playing Lizzy on One Big Happy). You know audiences love blonde-on-blonde girl/girl action, riiiight??? 

3. Hannah Hart

 Hannah Hart everyone, in all her soft-butch glory.

Hannah Hart everyone, in all her soft-butch glory.

 Book cover! Image via Amazon.com Marketplace.  

Book cover! Image via Amazon.com Marketplace.  

Hannah Hart is most widely known for being the host of My Drunk Kitchen. Hannah would probably be the front runner to be cast as Lizzy's new love interest. Why? She's cute, spunky, and not too hard for network TV. Her style has been evolving too from the very beginning. In her first video we see a sweet brunette in a beanie, now Hannah is sporting a snap-back and buzz cut-side-swoop like the notorious Cameron Esposito

Whether or not these three women present a unique new perspective for those in the television industry we may never know. We can hope though that the evolution of queer women on TV will happen sooner than later. Why? Simply because visibility and awareness matter. Visibility and awareness should be a priority for all TV shows and films RIGHT NOW! Visibility strengthens the community, increases awareness that young LGBTQ teens and even adults, are not alone and it helps to integrate and embrace the LGBTQ identity into mainstream culture. 

If you need more reasons why it's so important to have a butch, genderqueer, or androgynous character on TV let's just take a look back in time. We all remember Queer as Folk & the L Word being groundbreaking in their overwhelming presence of lesbians & gay people on TV but what else helped to create a foundation for LGBTQ characters? 

Here's our own handpicked list of TV shows & films that introduced more than just a femme-femme lesbian identity to TV audiences with the year they premiered, for your enjoyment or reference. Check 'em out! 

  1. Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love (1995) Laurel Holloman lights the flame as Randy years before she plays Tina on The L Word. 
  2. Set It Off (1995) a film featuring gangster lesbian Cleo Sims (played by Queen Latifah).
  3. Bound (1996) two words: Gina Gershon.  
  4. But I'm a Cheerleader (1999) with Natasha Lyonne & Clea DuVall *swoon*. 
  5. Better Than Chocolate (1999) bookstore lesbian love meets artsy short-haired lesbian love.  
  6. If These Walls Could Talk 2 (2000) Chloe Sevigny, Ellen DeGeneres AND Anne Heche?! 
  7. Queer as Folk (2000 - 2005) featuring lawyer-Jewess-dyke Melanie (played by Michelle Clunie). 
  8. By Hook or By Crook (2001) featuring a small town butch, Shy (played by Silas Howard). 
  9. The L Word (2004 - 09) featuring an all-time favorite, hipster butch Shane (Katherine Moennig), military butch Tasha (Rose Rollins), and transman Max (Daniela Sea). 
  10. Work Out (2006 - 08) featuring ambitious ab-tastic Jackie Warner, trainer in glitzy L.A.
  11. Glee (2009 - 15) Groundbreaking show in a million ways! (Even more surprising that it's on FOX). 
  12. The Kids Are All Right (2010) with Julianne Moore & Annette Bening as lesbian Moms. 
  13. Lip Service (2010 - 12) Ohhh Frankeh, don't cha know how sexeh ya arr? It's a Scottish L Word. Basically. Too bad it ended too soon... Find it on Netflix. 
  14. Rookie Blue (2010 - Present) Helllloooo Gail Peck! Good ship Golly full steam ahead! 
  15. Pretty Little Liars (2010 - Present) We <3 you Paige. 
  16. Lost Girl (2010 - Present) Paging Dr. Lauren Lewis...Dr. Lewis! 
  17. Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013) a beautiful film based on the graphic novel by Julie Maroh. 
  18. Orange Is The New Black (2013 - Present) Lea DeLaria and now...Ruby Rose!? The future is here girls and it's tattooed and oh-so-deliciously butch!
  19. Ray Donovan (2013 - Present) Katherine Moennig makes a comeback as this badass, no frills, lesbian.
  20. Transparent (2014-Present) Actresses Melora Hardin butches it up to sweep Amy Landecker off her feet. You may remember Melora from the hit TV show The Office in which she played Jan Levinson. Comedienne Tig Notaro makes appearances in the show too as Melora's partner and co-parent. 

Looking to the future audiences are already stoked to see Ellen Page & Julianne Moore makin' out in Freeheld and Cate Blanchett & Rooney Mara as lovers in the upcoming film Carol. According to IMDB both films are supposed to premiere this year but have no trailers or official websites yet. 

Let's hope that this is the beginning of a new revolution of visibility in all aspects of the media. For now, we'll stay tuned! If anyone has shows they think should be added to this list please send us an email! Enjoy the rest of your weekend!! :) 

xo Betsy