No Happy Ever After - Really?

Why the distinct lack of happily-ever-afters for lesbian characters on TV?


Published:

Source: IMDB

 

Bored with the same old drivel on TV night after night, I casually picked up my phone and started to search for shows with a predominately lesbian lead character. Dozens of titles appeared, but mainly with LGBT leads, not exactly what I was searching for that night. I specifically wanted a gorgeously lesbian lead character, preferably in charge of the show.

 

So I was pleasantly surprised when a few reviews did pop up that I hadn't previously seen; namely Orange Is The New Black and Gypsy with Naomi Watts, a firm favourite of mine anyway. Sadly, Netflix have confirmed that they will not be filming any more Seasons of Gypsy, so another discussion for another time perhaps here.

 

Needless to say though I watched every episode of every season within record time of OITNB and I am looking forward to the next season coming to UK screens soon hopefully, with bated breath.  I love Alex and Piper and their complex personalities that just seem to gel when together and apart, and I can't wait to see what develops in Season 6. Yes, that's right people, Season 6.        

 

As here we have a storyline whereby up to now at least, one half of a heroine couple have not popped their clogs.  And thankfully a drama about two women that have survived well beyond the first Season, and a story line that sadly all too often eclipses any chance of longevity, that is, 'the gay death'.  A plague that has plagued many a story line that I won't waste time here recalling because all self-respecting gay women will know what I am referring to.

 

Which brings me on nicely to another review that leapt out of my phone faster than a leaping salmon making its way up Loch Lomond: JANET KING.  A legal drama about a Prosecutor for the Crown. 

 

Yes, Janet King.  What can I say here that hasn't already been said about the acting, the story lines, the context or the production?  There are no superlatives left to use, so I will simply say – pure genius.

 

Searching franticly on Netflix, YouTube, the Internet, literally all streaming sites for Janet King, I came up against wall after wall after wall.  Whatever did the term World Wide Web mean after all?  Anyway, she was nowhere to be found in the UK. Unbelievable when I think of Home and Away and Neighbours gracing my television screen for decades. Nothing wrong of course with these soaps, I bear no shame in admitting I absolutely loved Sons and Daughters and The Sullivans when I was growing up. 

 

But I wanted Janet King. I had to have Janet King.  And so no stone was left unturned in my quest to find her.  Eventually I had no choice but to buy the DVDs from Amazon. First to arrive was Season 3, then Season 2 and finally Season 1.

 

I was totally and utterly addicted. I couldn't wait to get home from work every night so I could feed my addiction. I was caught hook, line and sinker. Oh how I loved Janet King, everything about her, from her elegance, grace and serenity all the way through to her stubbornness and sheer single, or is that bloody-mindedness. The whole package. It doesn't get much better than this, so I thought.  Well actually yes it does.  And it did because of the prequel to Janet King: CROWNIES.

 

And it is through watching Crownies, which incidentally was a lot more accessible online, that I stumbled upon Ash Larsson, Janet King's long term partner. WOW WOW WOW!!!!!!

 

Because Marta Dusseldorp is all consuming as Janet King in Janet King, and because I watched the Series backwards, I was introduced very slowly and subtly to Janet's life, love's and tribulations, not necessarily in that order.  What became apparent by watching it back to front was her love for her soul mate – Ash Larsson, played by the delectable Aimee Pedersen.  In Crownies and Season 1 of Janet King, her character is played out beautifully and perfectly by Aimee Pedersen.  The two women complimented each other in every way.  The combination of Janet King's stoic, professionalism and Ash Larsson's happy go lucky, grounded attitude made for a perfect match made in lesbian Heaven.  Bliss.

 

And herein lies the problem, for me at least.  I do not comprehend or understand, probably because I don't want to as much as anything else, why or how killing off Ash could possibly develop the character of Janet King. She was already developed. She had established her personality in the show and stamped her mark in her professional life.  Why was there a need to find the one thing that could break Janet King; to find her Achilles' heel? Why not find a way of bringing Ash and the kids more to the forefront of her life?

 

I think the reason the premature sabotage of Ash has affected me so profoundly is because Ash was a fun person, she kept Janet grounded and sane throughout the craziness of the criminal world in which she moved. She brought a balance into Janet's life that is sadly all too often severely missing in a gay woman's world.  She provided hope, even if just for a brief moment, that when it seems like your working day could not get any worse at least in your personal life it couldn't get any better.

 

This strikes a chord with so many gay women. Straight women are constantly being told they can have it all. So why not me? This comes down to so much more than just simply another dead lesbian. I feel let down by story tellers. Why not kill off Andy Campbell or Lina Badir?

 

For me personally and a lot of gay women I know, living a life outside of the boundaries of institutionalised heterosexuality and choosing not to live with a man within the confines of a heterosexual relationship, hence rejecting societies norms and expectations, subjects us to all kinds of perceptions and problems.  And I don't mean not having someone to put the garbage out every week or painting the fence.  I'm referring to much deeper consequential problems 

 

Psychological and Mental Health, particularly in the form of depression, affects a lot of gay women and can stop us from living our lives to our full potential for the fear of being exposed and outed if we put ourselves out there. Therefore a staggering role model in the form of a happily, contented career woman showing that gay women too, can have it all, would do wonders for the self confidence and self esteem of those of us who are without question marginalised in today's (still not so) modern world. Even though Same Sex Marriage is legal in a lot of Western countries, perhaps the world is not quite ready to embrace the reality of what that actually means for the status quo.

 

On a lighter note, maybe in Season 4 if there is one, we can have a Bobby Ewing moment?  OK maybe not.  But whilst Bianca is all good and well and would serve as a lesbian distraction in any another show, she is not Ash.  No one is.  Behind every great woman there is always.....a great woman.  Ash was that great woman.  Bianca is not for Janet; she belongs to someone else in some other drama.  And why was there no 'bath scene' with Ash?

 

So my question is - Why couldn't we have a happy ending in Janet King? Hollywood is full of them. Mainstream television is full of them.  And everyone loves a happy ending, don't they?

 

All I can say is thank goodness for Lisa Ray and Sheetal Sheth in I Can't Think Straight.  Now that is what I call a happy ending.  A timeless, iconic lesbian movie that raises me back up whenever I'm feeling down. 

 

 

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