Vote – Who Are Your Favourite Couple?
Let’s be honest, in the history of tellyland we’ve been pretty starved for lady-loving ladies. Over in the states they’ve had it even worse than us. In my lifetime (shurrup down the back) the first lesbian couple on TV were Beth Jordache and Margaret Clements in Brookside back in 1993, American audiences had to wait until Tara put a spell on Willow in 2000. Although they did have HRH St Ellen come out in 1997, she unfortunately remained single. I’m also informed that Nancy Bartlett Thomas (Sandra Bernhardt) in Roseanne wasn’t behind the door in nabbing the ladies back in 1992.
Since then we’ve had a few outstanding lesbian pairing on TV. For no good reason, other than the fun of researching the images, we decided to ask you, “Who is your favourite lesbian couple?” Here they are in rough chronological order. There are o spoliers in here but some of the vids aren’t safe for work.
Beth & Margaret
The writers of soap-opera Brookside had every shied away from controversial topics, including homosexuality. Gordon was out and proud in the late ’80′s causing all sorts of chats over tea in the UK. It was in 1993, however, that they changed the lives of man young lesbians, yours truly included.
They introduced a young women, Beth, who was, while killing her abusive father and burying him in the back garden, questioning her sexuality. Actually, she wasn’t questioning it, she was sure of who she wanted and it was the gorgeous red-head next door, Margaret. It was revolutionary. Here were two beautiful young women who were hugely popular characters and they fancied each other. There was nothing negative a person could say about them. Plus, as with everything in Brookside, the acting was top-notch. Anna Friel was heart-breaking as she went through her attraction to Margaret and coming out to her mother. She succeeded in letting Beth grow into the knowledge that it was ok to be gay; she became more confident and proud of her sexuality.
When they kissed (and my heart stopped for a second), discussion programme were suddenly full of people discussing homosexuality. It opened the door, without a doubt, and poor Anna Friel (who played Beth) has been typecast since, even though she was only in the show for two years, ending her time on Brookie fifteen years ago.
Love Them For: That kiss at the bottom of the stairs
At the same time as Beth was macking with Margaret, Zoe Tate in Emmerdale was starting to think she might be a friend of Dorothy. Some viewers thought the storyline was a reaction to Brookside‘s popularity but you have to hand it to the Emmerdale writers, they stuck with Zoe’s sexuality. Until she lost it, got preggers and stuff. But still….
Zoe had a few relationships along the way, but the most serious was with Emma Nightingale. They were two middle-class lasses to showed the TV-watching world that lesbian couples were pretty much the same as straight ones. They went through family crises together, drank in the Woolpack with everyone else and were your usual couple. They caused a bit of scandal when they decided to get married but the only thing Molly Sugden was worried about was whether you wear a hat to a lesbian wedding.
Love Them For: Just how boringly normal they were
Xena & Gabrielle
Don’t even try to tell me that they weren’t a couple. These ladies were the quintessential lesbian couple: they met, ran away with each other the same day and tried to change the world for the better. While wearing leather.
When Xena: Warrior Princess started in 1995, it wobbled a bit. People didn’t know what to make of it. Here’s a gorgeous woman going around ‘doing a kung-fu’ with her side-kick. Once they got over the breat-plate, that much people could understand. However, viewers of a certain age and ilk were wondering if they were the only ones thinking “they’re dykes!”. The first season was a hit, as kids loved it for all it’s chop-sockey good versus evil fun; but the creators had hit a nerve with adults too. This was something they weren’t expecting, thinking the viewers would be pretty much the same as those who enjoyed their other show Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. To their eternal credit, the creators responded positively and not only acknowledged the sexual tension between Xena and Gabrielle but encouraged it. Indeed, from season 5 onwards, it was pretty much assumed that they were lovers. In the final season there is a three-episode arc where Gabrielle needs her true love to save her, many men try but it turns out to be Xena who is her true love. Hello?
The romantic relationship between Xena and Gabrielle brought the notion of “lesbian subtext” to the fore in American TV and film and the spilled-over into real-life debates about same-sex sexuality and gay rights.
Love Them For: Getting people talking
Helen & Nikki
It was, rather embarrassingly, my mother who told me to watch Bad Girls when it came out first. In another case of superb British television, excellent writing and perfect acting joined to create something special. It came on to TV in 1999, no fanfare, no hype but immediately grabbed everyone’s attention. The first season started as they meant to go on, covering controversial topics like drugs, suicide and murder. Every character was three-dimensional and the writers mixed the comic with the shocking. During the shows eight seasons, there were many lesbians and lesbian relationships, but it’s Helen and Nikki who still make the heart skip a beat.
It could have been such a cliche; misunderstood crim calls for right-on officer. However, the writing and the acting were sublime. Both actresses submerged themselves in the characters and created such chemistry that we were hanging on every word.
At the end of the last season who can forget the immortal line, “Life is shit”? Then, through the next couple of seasons, they went through some topsy-turvy times with hot-headed Nikki losing the rag and principled Helen wondering what the hell she was getting herself in for. Top class drama with a top notch couple.
Love Them For: Their passion and intelligence. Plus that Scottish accent.
Willow & Tara
When did we get to the stage were it was ok for Tara to sing “Lost in ecstasy, spread beneath my Willow tree”? Things in the US seemed to go from lez-less to singing from the rooftops in double-time. When Buffy the Vampire Slayer started back in 1997, Willow Rosenberg was your standard geek played with miles above standard cuteness by Alyson Hannigan. It was in season four that Willow meets Tara and falls in love. There’s a nice correlation between Willow realising the extent of her magic and her love for Tara; each empowering the other.
It was another year, though, before we saw them kiss in a lovely scene where Tara is calming an upset Willow down after the death of Buffy’s mother. Willow’s coming out to her friends and her openness about her sexuality was dealt with as you’d expect from series creator Joss Whedon; funny, smart and right on the button. Her long-lasting relationship with Tara is treated with warmth and understanding, never hidden away to be used when the writers felt like it.
In season six, as Willow’s power becomes stronger and stronger, it seemed natural for the writers to make her the next ‘big bad’. But how would they turn the ultimate good-guy into a baddie? By killing the thing she loved most in the world – Tara. There was an uproar when Tara was killed off, some fans still haven’t forgiven Whedon. Her next girlfriend may have had the added advantage of a pierced tongue, but she was no Tara.
Love Them For: “Can you just be kissing me now?”
Bette & Tina
Love it or hate it, The L Word was revolutionary TV. In 1997, Ellen was shafted off the air for being a gay character but just seven years later, American TV had it’s very own all-lesbian show. The characters were apologetically gay, they talked like us, dressed like we might if we had more money and sat around in cafes like we would if we had more money. They slept with actual women and talked about things like orgasms and girlfriends and lovers, oh my!
In the first season, the couple at the centre of things were Bette and Tina; they were the mammies who grounded the others as they went about their gay ways. When we met them they were eight years into their relationship and completely dedicated to each other. They had the cutest child on television (I dare you to disagree) and raised her in their own modern barely-functioning family environment. They had their difficulties through the next seasons but we all knew that they were destined to be together, it was only a matter of Bette growing up and Tina getting a life. Once those two things clicked into place, presto!
The L Word was (in)famous for its sex scenes. Some were hilariously bad, some cringe-worthy but most were hot as hell. All of Bette and Tina’s fall into the last category. Whether it was a loving joining, an angry shag or lonely embrace, you always felt the heat and the love between these two. Bette and Tina were also one of very few grown-up lesbian couples on television; at the time most lesbian storylines were about coming out, or looking for love, but here were two women living the life, making the sacrifices and reaping the loving rewards.
Love Them For: Living happily ever after
Alice & Dana
A lot of The L Word was, frankly, unbelievable. Maybe I’m saying that because I don’t want to believe that anyone like Jenny Schecter could actually exist, but as the seasons progressed The L Word suffered from what a lot of shows go through. Instead of extending plots, examining issues and enriching characters, they make it shinier, with bigger guest stars, better clothes and cars, cooler sets and more sex. One thing they were consistent with though, were the relationships between the characters.
They nailed it with Alice and Dana. Here we had best buds, the comic element of the show, but whose friendship was as real and authentic as it was tender. When their relationship loved to a sexual one, we were all delighted. Their verbal sparring continued and even their sex scenes were funny (as well as hot). But this was a complicated relationship. Dana had just had her heart broken and was raw, Alice thought she’s found her soulmate but was too vulnerable for it to last. They were always destined to be the perfect double-act, but that doesn’t mean it’s the perfect romantic partnership.
Love Them For: Cracking you up
Dana & Lara
Yep, we’re still with The L Word. One of the best scenes in the show was in the first season, when all of the girls got together to see if a woman Dana liked was gay. In efficient FBI-style they assessed her but came up empty; Lara was her own woman, not a cliché. The kiss that followed, just to show Dana the truth of her sexuality, set the precedent for their relationship; quirky and sexy.
Dana Fairbanks was one of the best characters on the show. She was smart, talented and hilarious. Coming from a conservative family, she had to fight for her right to be out, but did so with a little help from her friends and a big push from Lara. The ideal foil for Dana’s neurotic, vulnerable personality, Lara was strong, soft and well-able to talk her off a ledge when necessary.
When the writers imploded and decided to give Dana cancer, Lara was unforgivably pushed aside by the writers. It seemed as if they didn’t know where she fit in the mix so they kicked her out. Were they afraid that Lara’s struggle would take away from Alice’s? Or did they run out of ideas? It was a huge misstep either way and a major mistake on the part of The L Word‘s creator, Ilene Chaiken.
Love Them For: Being so cute
Olivia & Natalia
Guiding Light was the longest-running soap opera in history when it went off the air in 2009, running for a jaw-dropping 72 years. Back in 2008, Olivia and Natalia hated each other. In fairness, poor Gus (Natalia’s hubbie) died because he was rushing to hospital to see Olivia, but his heart was a match for Olivia’s so she had her transplant, but Natalia hated her for it, but then she sees that Olivia’s daughter needs a mother so she starts to help her feel better and then they become friends. Breath. So then Olivia gets sick again and Natalia gets her to move in so she can help her and they’re so different it’s tough, but they get over it and they get even closer. Breath. Then people start to see them as the “two mommies” of the kids (they each have one) and they laugh about the lesbian connotation and then Olivia kisses her! O.M. G!
Ok, I’m mocking, but I have to take my hat off to the writers of Guiding Light, operating within huge restrictions they managed to portray a loving lesbian couple, who were smoking hot and deeply committed to one another. American soap operas aren’t known for a high standard of acting, but Crystal Chappell (Olivia) and Jessica Leccia (Natalia) did an excellent job. Their chemistry pinged off the chart. Now consider that they weren’t allowed kiss on-screen. The network were so afraid of a backlash that they banned it. Seriously, not a peck. It takes acting of a certain calibre to be able to communicate sexual heat when all you can do is hug, peck on the cheek or maybe have the odd forehead bump.
There was understandable uproar online from both straight and gay people – here were two characters who had been to hell and back in true soap style, who were raising their kids in a loving family but couldn’t even have a small kiss? This anger turned to unadulterated joy when the actresses announced that they could be part of the cast of the web series Venice: The Series playing a lesbian couple. When, in the opening scene, the two were in bed kissing, Otalia fans gave a global woop for joy. It was a long time coming.
Love Them For: “Do you want to see my ‘I love Olivia’ dance?”
Pepa & Silvia
I’m sure the folks who make the Spanish show Los Hombres de Paco were wondering who all of these Spanish-speaking people all over the world were and how they suddenly discovered the program. The success and popularity of the Pepa and Silvia was an internet phenonenon. Lesbians all over the world, who hadn’t a word of Espanol, were hooked. Then a few amazing women came together and not only edited the show to take out the non-Pepsi bits, but also added subtitles and uploaded to You-Tube. Genius!
Los Hombres de Paco is a cop show, filmed in dodgey cardboard sets with the actors hold water pistols trying to be taken seriously. It would have passed us all by had the creators not cast Spanish supermodel Laura Sánchez in the role of Pepa. Pepa, a cop and sister to the titular Paco, comes into town out and proud and with her eye set firmly on Silvia who she’s loved since she was a teenager. Silvia’s character had been in the show for years and had never shown an ounce of sapphism. But if Laura Sánchez can’t make you gay no one will.
Pepa and Silvia were great together. Pepa all fire and attitude – shooting from the hip; Silvia all patience and understanding – thinking before she acted. When it came to love though, Silvia followed her heart and could only resist Pepa’s charms for so long. In the episodes that followed, the pair went through the usual dramatic ups and downs but remained strong, even getting married in the last episode of season eight.
It was also in this episode that the writers swallowed their creative tongue, killing off Silvia. At her wedding. Still in her dress. I mean, please! Anyway, the folks who make the Los Hombres de Paco will now be wondering were all those viewers disappearred to when the next season starts. Maybe it’s already started, meh, who cares anymore.
Love Them For: That scene in the garage. Dayum!
Maca & Esther
Spanish telly continues with more lesbians in Hospital Central. On the air for 18 years (they run long in Spain), the show’s main character Dr Macarena “Maca” Wilson Fernández, has been on the show for 10 of those years, and her relationship with Esther has lasted as long, with the odd drama thrown in for good measure.
It’s fascinating to watch as Maca and Esther’s partnership reflects the growing acceptance of gay couples in Spain over those years. Their relationship is treated exactly the same as others on the show; no muttered jokes, just complete acceptance. Unfortunately, though, it looks like they’ll leave the show this season. Exciting times but not half as exciting as all of the crap this pair have had to go through in their decade together. Affairs, break-ups, reunions, weddings and divorces – it’s all part of life on the box.
Buzz on the internet has been huge, and Hospital Central had the same fans as Los Hombres de Paco, waiting up all hours to get the next translated installment of their favourite couple. It doesn’t harm things that Patricia Vico, who playes Maca, is an absolute babe. But what will happen next? All eyes are on the pair as Maca finds out she has a sister she didn’t know existed. What will happen and will she be as gorgeous as Vico? Get thee on to You-Tube.
Love Them For: Battling hard to be so happy
Arizona & Callie
When the writers of Grey’s Anatomy decided not to bring back Dr Erica Hahn in season five, the world went “huh?”. It didn’t make much sense to viewer, or to the actress, but she was gone and Dr Calliope Torres was single again. The internet went nuts, we had a perfectly good lesbian couple and they went and ruined it on us. There was real dread that Callie and her sex-friend McSexy would hook up again.
We need not have worried. As the door slammed behind Erica, Arizona strode through it. Originally, the people behind Seattle Grace were worried about Dr Arizona Robbins. They brought her in as a guest to see what the viewers would think. Would we like her? Yes we would!
Jessica Capshaw, who played Arizona, was hot off the set of The L Word and was well used to playing gay. She was open about chasing the role and hoping against hope that she would be kept on. Little did she know she would end up being the only lesbian character on prime-time US television.
Calzone have been hugely popular with audiences gay and straight. For a start, the individual characters are great fun; Arizona is all childish energy and sunny outlook, backed-up with brains to burn and Callie is quirky, self-deprecating and a bit geeky. Together they click. Another aspect of interest has been the difference in their stages of coming out.
Arizona is out and proud, while Callie is just getting used to being gay and having to tell people about it. Indeed, the stand-out episode in recent times has been the one in which Callie comes out to her father. The reaction is bad, so Arizona confronts him. Goosebumps ensue.
After the debacle that was Callica and its end; Calzone are a breath of fresh air.
Love Them For: How they get each other
Naomi & Emily
Seventeen years after Beth and Margaret got it on, British television continues to give us realistic depictions of young gay people. It’s also interesting to see the difference in the character’s reaction to their own sexuality and the reaction of the viewing public to an on-screen gay couple, since the Brookside story. Nowadays, the characters are much more sure of themselves and their rights as gay people and the viewers just don’t give a damn, once the show is entertaining and the couple believable.
From the moment Emily comes on screen in Skins, she is nervous about her attraction to Naomi, but never conceals it from her. She fancies her and chases her in a realistic way, with lots of flirting and lingering looks. When Naomi starts to realise that she feels the same way, it’s hard on her, just as it is for us all. But kids these days are tough and honest, she gets over the panic and falls into Emily’s arms.
The actresses who play Naomily are over the moon with the positive response to their characters. It’s a hugely positive sign when two up-and-comers jump at the chance to pose for lesbian mag like Diva, and talk openly and intelligently about their roles. If we continue to have couples like these ladies, we’ll be doing alright.
Love Them For: “Be brave, and want me back”
So, after that run-down, what do you think? Who are you’re favourite lesbian couple? Have I forgotten anyone? Do I need flogging for over-looking something obvious?
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