"I kissed a girl, just to try it."
- Katy Perry
I know I am not saying anything new when I say that the lesbian story line is a gimmick used to boost ratings and to add that certain neanderthal sensationalism that will revive a show close to jumping the shark. When David Letterman says, "You know what Paul [Shaffer] and I are going to do for our season finale? A lesbian kiss," you know the public is hip to the TV producer's jive. When Madonna and Britney Spears performed that awkward choreographed kiss, nobody doubted that marketing was the motivation. However, aren't we now in a place where we should separate actual sexual orientation from small screen girl-on-girl action?
After seeing Madonna and Spears kiss, nobody seriously considered that the two of them might actually be lesbians. Nobody lost faith that Rachel and Ross would get back together because she had become a lesbian after kissing Wynona Rider. Small screen antics have done nothing more for the lesbian community than perhaps desensitize the viewer to the image of two women being sexually affectionate towards each other-- although that itself is a big step towards lesbians being able to comfortably demonstrate affection towards each other in public. The problem with the "girls kissing" episodes is that it is in no way a true representation of lesbian women or their relationships. There are an abundance of girls who will kiss another girl with one eye looking around for who might be watching, but this is not acting lesbian. These are not lesbian kisses. Clearly we need to separate the action from the performance.
Although there is a desire to have more gay characters on television that are not personifications of gay and lesbian stereotypes, straight characters sharing kisses is hardly fulfilling this. The kisses between women are a direct response to the male desire to see women getting it on. Men want women to play out lesbian fantasies for them while maintaining confidence that the women will return to their man loving ways. The desire to see women kissing is not about men wanting to watch actual lesbians-- that would eliminate them from the action.
The problem is, then, that when women who are not lesbians are represented as acting like lesbians on television, it marginalizes actual lesbians further. The pretend lesbians that are being offered up to the viewers reinforce the "lesbians are lesbians because they have not met the right man yet" stereotype. Television producers feel confident that their gay and lesbian content quota has been fulfilled and therefore release any responsibility of accurate portrayal. A sitcom or comedic drama's chief concern is not the accurate portrayal of anything really, but when it comes to the marginalization of a large population of women, perhaps a bit more attention should be paid.