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Lesbian kiss episode

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The "lesbian kiss episode" is a subgenre of the media portrayal of lesbianism in American television media, created in the 1990s. Beginning in February 1991 with a kiss on the American L.A. Law series' episode "He's a Crowd" between C.J. Lamb and Abby Perkins,[note 1] David E. Kelley, who wrote the episode in question, went on to use the trope in at least two of his other shows. Subsequent television series included an episode in which a seemingly heterosexual female character engages in a kiss with a possibly lesbian or bisexual character. In most instances, the potential of a relationship between the women does not survive past the episode and the lesbian or suspected lesbian never appears again.

In 2005, Virginia Heffernan, writing for The New York Times, examined the lesbian kiss episode phenomenon. She concluded that women kissing women is often used as a gimmick during "sweeps" periods, times when Nielsen ratings are used by the broadcast networks to determine advertising rates. Lesbian kisses are:

Eminently visual; cheap, provided the actors are willing; controversial, year in and year out; and elegantly reversible (sweeps lesbians typically vanish or go straight when the week's over), kisses between women are perfect sweeps stunts. They offer something for everyone, from advocacy groups looking for role models to indignation-seeking conservatives, from goggle-eyed male viewers to progressive female ones, from tyrants who demand psychological complexity to plot buffs.[1]

Michele Greene, who played Abby on L.A. Law, confirmed in an interview with AfterEllen.com that her kiss with Amanda Donohoe's C.J. was a ratings ploy and that there was never any intention on the part of producers to seriously explore the possibility of a relationship between two women.[2] The attitude about portraying lesbian relationships with any longevity persisted in Hollywood, as Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997–2003) writer Marti Noxon encountered resistance from television executives when setting the groundwork for the long-term relationship between Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) and Tara Maclay (Amber Benson). Noxon spoke of the resistance Buffy writers encountered in 2002, saying in an interview, "You can show girls kissing once, but you can't show them kissing twice… because the second time, it means that they liked it."[3]


Program Title U.S. air date Kissers
L. A. Law "He's a Crowd" February 7, 1991[1] Abby Perkins (Michele Greene) and C. J. Lamb (Amanda Donohoe).
Picket Fences "Sugar & Spice" April 29, 1993 Kimberly Brock (Holly Marie Combs) and Lisa Fenn (Alexondra Lee). After negotiations between producer David E. Kelley and CBS, the scene was reshot in lower light.[4]
Roseanne "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"[1] March 1, 1994[5] Roseanne Conner (Roseanne Barr) and Sharon (Mariel Hemingway). Full contact not shown. Sharon makes a cameo appearance in "December Bride", featuring the wedding of two men.
Lifestories: Families in Crisis "More Than Friends: The Coming Out of Heidi Leiter" March 7, 1994 Heidi Leiter (Sabrina Lloyd) and Missy (Kate Anthony). Based on the true story of Heidi Leiter, who attended her senior prom in Virginia with her girlfriend.[6] Neither character appeared again in this anthology series.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine "Rejoined" October 30, 1995 Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell) and Lenara Kahn (Susanna Thompson). Lenara Kahn never reappears on the series. As joined Trills, a previous male host of Dax and female host of Kahn had been husband and wife 90 years earlier.[7] Trill culture considers such rejoinings to be taboo; however, no remarks are made about Jadzia's and Lenara's genders.
"The Emperor's New Cloak" February 1, 1999 Ezri Dax (Nicole de Boer) and Kira Nerys (Nana Visitor). In the alternate universe, mirror Ezri and mirror Kira share a kiss.
Relativity "The Day the Earth Moved" January 11, 1997 Rhonda (Lisa Edelstein) and Suzanne (Kristin Dattilo).[8] Dattilo's character only appeared in episode. The series was cancelled four episodes later.
Sex and the City "Bay of Married Pigs" June 21, 1998 Miranda Hobbes and Syd (Joanna Adler). Miranda kisses Syd to prove that she, Miranda, is not a lesbian, and Syd never re-appears.
"Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl..." June 25, 2000 Carrie Bradshaw and Dawn (Alanis Morissette). Dawn never reappears on the series.
Ally McBeal "Happy Trails" November 9, 1998 Ally McBeal and Elaine Vassal
"You Never Can Tell" November 23, 1998 Ally McBeal (Calista Flockhart) and Georgia Thomas (Courtney Thorne-Smith).
"Buried Pleasures"[1] November 1, 1999 Ally McBeal and Ling Woo (Lucy Liu). These episodes are unusual in that all of the women involved are series regulars.
Party of Five "I'll Show You Mine"[1] May 5, 1999 Julia Salinger (Neve Campbell) and Perry Marks (Olivia d'Abo). Perry appears in one additional episode.
Talk to Me "About Being Gay" April 11, 2000 Janey (Kyra Sedgwick) and Teresa (Paulina Porizkova). On a dare from her friends, Janey flirts with Teresa, who turns out to be an actual lesbian. Janey decides she is not a lesbian after the kiss. Teresa was a one-episode character.[9]
Friends "The One with Rachel's Big Kiss"[1] April 26, 2001 Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston) and Melissa Warburton (Winona Ryder); Rachel Green and Phoebe Buffay (Lisa Kudrow). Melissa never reappears on the series. Phoebe kisses Rachel to see what all the fuss Melissa made was about.
Waterloo Road "Nowhere To Run" May 2, 2013 Nikki Boston (Heather Peace) and Lorraine Donnegan (Daniela Denby-Ashe)
Industry "Short to the Point of Pain" September 5, 2022 Yasmin Kara-Hanai (Marisa Abela) and Celeste Pacquet (Katrine De Candole)
The Morning Show "Laura" October 1, 2021 Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon) and Laura Peterson (Julianna Margulies)
The Bold Type "If You Can't Do It with Feeling" July 25, 2017 Kat Edison (Aisha Dee) and Adena El-Amin (Nikohl Boosheri)
Starting From … Now! Season 3, Episode 4 Dec 2, 2014 Steph and Darcy
Hightown "Fool Me Twice" December 26, 2021 Trooper Leslie Babcock (Tonya Glanz) and Jackie Quinones (Monica Raymund)
Famous in Love Season 1, Episode 10 June 13, 2017 Alexis Glenn (Niki Koss) and Rachael Davis (Katelyn Tarver)
Once and Again "The Gay-Straight Alliance"[10] March 11, 2002 Jessie Sammler (Evan Rachel Wood) and Katie Singer (Mischa Barton). Katie appears in three additional episodes of the series, and the two remain in a relationship, albeit secretly, until the cancellation of the series.
Firefly "War Stories" December 6, 2002 Inara Serra (Morena Baccarin) and the Councilor (Katherine Kendall). The Councilor is a client of Inara's and she does not reappear in the series, though it only had one season. Other characters note that they were previously aware that Inara accepted male and female clients.
Fastlane "Strap On" January 17, 2003 Billie Chambers (Tiffani Thiessen) and Sara Matthews (Jaime Pressly). Sara never reappears on the series.
All My Children April 23, 2003 Bianca Montgomery and Lena Kundera. First lesbian kiss in American daytime television.
The Joe Schmo Show Episode 7 October 7, 2003 Ashleigh (Melissa Yvonne Lewis) and Molly (Angela Dodson). In this reality television parody, Ashleigh and Molly kiss at the behest of a "network executive" who explains that the kiss is a ploy for ratings.
One Tree Hill "I Will Dare" October 19, 2004 Peyton Sawyer (Hilarie Burton) and Brooke Davis (Sophia Bush). Peyton and Brooke are both regular characters.
"The Heart Brings You Back"[1] January 25, 2005
The O.C. "The Lonely Hearts Club"[1] February 10, 2005 Marissa Cooper (Mischa Barton) and Alex Kelly (Olivia Wilde). Alex leaves the series four episodes later.
American Dad! "Not Particularly Desperate Housewives" December 8, 2005 Linda Memari and Francine Smith. Linda is a closeted lesbian who kisses Francine to save her from being killed by the Ladybugs. Linda is genuinely attracted to Francine; however, Francine thinks the kiss was fake. Linda appears in other episodes; however, Linda's sexual interest in Francine is not discussed.
Crossing Jordan "Mysterious Ways" April 23, 2006 Jordan Cavanaugh (Jill Hennessy) and Detective Tallulah "Lu" Simmons (Leslie Bibb). Episode hints at the possible bisexuality of lead character Jordan. Bibb was a recurring cast member.
How I Met Your Mother "Best Prom Ever" May 1, 2006 Lily Aldrin (Alyson Hannigan) and Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders). Robin kisses Lily to give Lily the "lesbian experience" she never had. Both are series regulars.
"Big Days" September 20, 2010 Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris), Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor), and Robin Scheerbatsky all witness a kiss at MacLaren's Pub between Ted's ex-girlfriend Cindy (Rachel Bilson) and her date (Kaylee DeFer).
"The Broath" March 19, 2012 Robin Scherbatsky and Lily Aldrin kiss in order to seal an oath promising not to interfere with Barney's life, along with Marshall and Ted, who also share a kiss.
"Rally" February 24, 2014 Robin Scherbatsky and Lily Aldrin decide to make out after Robin suggests the ploy in order to wake up a hungover Barney. Lily willingly joins along with Robin and proceeds to make out with her female companion in a blithe fashion. Consequently, this would lead to Robin offering Lily another opportunity to make out after the issue had been resolved, however, Lily declines the wanton approach.
Las Vegas "Fleeting Cheating Meeting" January 12, 2007 Samantha Marquez (Vanessa Marcil) and Mary McConnell (Nikki Cox). Samantha and Mary, both series regulars, were portrayed as heterosexual although dialogue in several episodes indicates Samantha's possible bisexuality.
Dirt "Ita Missa Est" March 27, 2007 Lucy Spiller (Courteney Cox) and Tina Harrod (Jennifer Aniston).[11] The episode hints at a former intimate relationship between the two. Tina never reappears on the series.
Kyle XY "Free to Be You and Me" July 23, 2007 Lori Trager (April Matson) and Hillary (Chelan Simmons). Hillary was a recurring character.
Desperate Housewives "The Story of Lucie and Jessie" March 15, 2009 Susan and her boss, Jessie; Susan and Gabrielle. Susan (Teri Hatcher) and Gabrielle (Eva Longoria) were series regulars; Jessie (Swoosie Kurtz) was a guest star.
Greek "Dearly Beloved" May 4, 2009 Rebecca Logan (Dilshad Vadsaria) and Robyn Wylie (Anna Osceola).
"Divine Secrets and the ZBZ Sisterhood" May 18, 2009 Rebecca and Robyn; Rebecca and Casey Cartwright. The kiss in "Dearly Beloved" opened a three-episode story arc in which Rebecca questions her sexuality. The arc culminated in "Divine Secrets" with Rebecca deciding that she was not a LUG and her response to the kiss was because it was a new and unusual experience. Robyn did not reappear.
The Cleveland Show "Pilot" September 27, 2009 Lois Griffin (Alex Borstein) and Bonnie Swanson (Jennifer Tilly). The two kiss at the behest of lead character Cleveland as something of a going-away present.
Heroes "Hysterical Blindness" October 12, 2009 Claire Bennet (Hayden Panettiere) and Gretchen Berg (Madeline Zima). Gretchen kisses Claire and confesses to having a crush. Panettiere, who has acknowledged "experimenting" with female friends as a teenager,[12] persuaded the creators to include the storyline.[13] Zima's character was a recurring role. Heroes had previously planned a lesbian cheerleader character in 2007 but the actress took another job after just one episode and the part was not re-cast.[14]
FlashForward "Gimme Some Truth" October 22, 2009 Janis Hawk (Christine Woods) and Maya (Navi Rawat). Janis is a closeted FBI agent and Maya is a chef. Maya did not reappear on the series.
Gossip Girl "They Shoot Humphreys, Don't They?" November 9, 2009 Vanessa Abrams (Jessica Szohr) and Olivia Burke (Hilary Duff). The two kiss as part of a threesome with Dan Humphrey (Penn Badgley). Duff's character was a recurring role.
90210 "Rats and Heroes" March 9, 2010 Gia (Rumer Willis) and Adrianna (Jessica Lowndes) kiss after bonding at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Willis' character was a recurring role.
Community "Early 21st Century Romanticism" February 10, 2011 Britta (Gillian Jacobs) and Page (Brit Marling). Britta and Page become friends and later kiss, each under the mistaken impression that the other is a lesbian. Page did not reappear in the series.
Pan Am "Diplomatic Relations" January 15, 2012 Maggie (Christina Ricci) and Amanda (Ashley Greene). Amanda comforts a sad Maggie by wiping Maggie's tears, then telling her opinion on men, and kissing her. Greene's character was recurring; her sexual orientation formed part of a recurring story arc. Maggie's reaction to the kiss was discussed in later episodes.
The Simpsons "Lisa Goes Gaga" May 20, 2012 Marge Simpson (Julie Kavner) and Lady Gaga.
Riverdale "Chapter One: The River's Edge" January 26, 2017 Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) and Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes). Veronica and Betty auditioned together for the cheer team (the Riverdale Vixens). At the end of the routine, the judges do not seem very impressed so Veronica initiates a kiss with Betty for a shock factor. After some more persuading by Veronica, they both make the team.
Grey's Anatomy Back Where You Belong February 23, 2017 Arizona Robbins (Jessica Capshaw) and Eliza Minnick (Marika Domińczyk)
Roswell, New Mexico Sex and Candy April 20, 2020 Isobel Evans (Lily Cowles) and Blaire.

See also[edit]

Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ 21 Jump Street included a kiss between series regular Holly Robinson Peete and guest star Katy Boyer in "A Change of Heart" (1990) but it did not inspire the critical or popular attention later such kisses would engender (Capsuto 2000, p. 235).



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Heffernan, Virginia (February 10, 2005). "CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK; It's February. Pucker Up, TV Actresses". The New York Times. Archived from the original on November 4, 2012. Retrieved November 1, 2008.
  2. ^ Warn, Sarah (March 2003). "Interview with Michele Green (sic)". AfterEllen.com. Archived from the original on September 29, 2008. Retrieved November 2, 2008.
  3. ^ Conan, Neal (January 24, 2002). "Analysis: Portrayals of gays on mainstream TV and the future of gay cable channels". Talk of the Nation. National Public Radio. Archived from the original on June 22, 2015.
  4. ^ Tropiano, Stephen (May 28, 2003). "When a kiss is not just a kiss". PopMatters. The Prime Time Closet (column). Archived from the original on May 25, 2011. Retrieved October 31, 2008.
  5. ^ Gardiner, Jeff (February 18, 1994). "The Kiss Off". Entertainment Weekly. No. 210–211. Archived from the original on April 21, 2009. Retrieved November 12, 2009.
  6. ^ Capsuto 2000, p. 335.
  7. ^ Kay, Jonathan (June 30, 2001). "Gay 'Trek'". Salon. Archived from the original on June 7, 2011. Retrieved November 12, 2009.
  8. ^ Bianculli, David (January 10, 1997). "On 'Relativity,' a (Lesbian) Kiss is Not Just a Kiss". Daily News. New York. Retrieved November 12, 2009.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ Stasi, Linda (April 11, 2000). "'Talk' Is All Dogs & Kisses: The Producers of 'Talk to Me' Can't Risk Waiting Out a Second Season Slump for the Obligatory Lesbian Kiss-Scene, They Get to It in the Second Episode Instead". New York Post. p. 82. Archived from the original on June 22, 2015. Retrieved June 22, 2015.
  10. ^ Shister, Gail (March 15, 2002). "'Once and Again' needs to [sic] high ratings to stay with ABC". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved June 22, 2015. (subscription required)
  11. ^ Parry, Ryan (March 29, 2007). "Let's Be Friends". Daily Mirror. London. Archived from the original on June 6, 2011. Retrieved November 12, 2009.
  12. ^ "Hayden Panettiere's lesbian kiss". The Boston Globe. June 6, 2008. Archived from the original on October 16, 2009. Retrieved October 12, 2009.
  13. ^ Snead, Elizabeth (October 12, 2009). "'Heroes' newbie Madeline Zima wants to fly and kiss Hayden Panettiere again!". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 16, 2009. Retrieved October 12, 2009.
  14. ^ Ausiello, Michael (July 24, 2007). "Heroes Scoop: Cheerleader Exits, D.L. MIA and More!". TV Guide. Archived from the original on June 22, 2015. Retrieved October 12, 2009.

General bibliography[edit]