I did not watch Xena when it first aired. I only tuned in after a friend strongly encouraged me to see the warrior and her bard as a loving couple. Once I witnessed the obvious sexual chemistry between the two I was hooked. I bought souvenirs, read fan fiction, and even had a portrait of Lucy Lawless made. Yes, it’s true. I still keep that picture and my Xena lunchbox in the closet at home.
Other shows and couples followed. Over time there was no doubt when two women were more than friends on network television: Tara and Willow on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Bianca and Reese on “All My Children,” Dr. Weaver and Sandy on “ER,” and Callie and Arizona on “Grey’s Anatomy.” The “L Word” went beyond them all and portrayed a majority-lesbian cast in everyday situations.
Despite all of our advances in television recognition, “Rizzoli & Isles” feels like a time warp back to 1995. In commercials for the show, the two are shown speed dating. With a clink of their glass and a wink in their eye they just can’t seem to find a good man, leaving lesbians to speak out loud to their televisions, “No sh*t, you’re gay!”
From “Moonlighting” to “Bones,” we have been inundated with detective dramas that relied on a heavy dose of flirtation to sustain their ratings. Ultimately the characters may give in to the sexual tension, but more likely than not the audience was just left to wonder. The insult with “Rizzoli & Isles” is the creator’s need to give a definitive denial that these two characters are actually gay.
Show creator Janet Tamaro blames the debate on the characters’ sexuality on “two gorgeous actresses together who have great, natural chemistry,” adding they are “straight women who don’t fear the interest in or the speculation about their relationship.’”
Star Angie Harmon has even weighed in, saying, “I hate to disappoint, but these characters are straight. If we lose viewers because of it — sorry!”
Even more frustrating is how obvious it is that this show spurs the speculation and its ratings depend on it. Episode after episode, the characters are increasingly placed in positions that let lesbian imaginations run wild. But despite these manipulated scenarios, lesbians have stayed loyal supporters.
Most lesbians learn after a few heartbreaks that chasing a straight girl never ends well. Ultimately, the love will always be unrequited. The same goes for “Rizzoli & Isles.” These flirty straight girls will only break your heart.
As a lesbian I no longer outstretch my hands for scraps from the straight table in any area of my life, and the same goes for when I am at home with my girlfriend and wanting to be entertained.
That is not the time I want to dust off my magnifying glass to search a show for clues as to whether someone is gay. I have come nearly 20 years beyond doing that and expect creators in Hollywood to have come as far.
However, there are those moments when I push aside clothes in my closet to find the portrait of Ms. Lawless staring back at me. And I warm at the memories of Xena and Gabrielle coursing around Greece and beyond, sleeping together in the woods, fighting for the Greater Good.
Just as really, really good friends would do.
Melissa Carter is former co-host of “The Bert Show” on Q100, where she broke ground as the first out lesbian radio personality on a major station in the city and was one of the few out morning show personalities in the country. Keep up with her at www.melissatimes.com.