Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Is ABC Engulfed in Lesbian Panic?

Remember us? We're the ghosts of ABC's lesbian past.

TV Guide's Matt Mitovich responds to news of Grey's Anatomy actress Brooke Smith's firing by suggesting that ABC, previously recognized by GLAAD as America's most gay-friendly TV network, isn't showing equal love to all parts of the LGBT community:
Might have this frank exploration of two women coming to terms with new sexual orientations proven too hot for ABC to handle? Smith saw no such signs. "At work I had no sense of it. And more fans seemed to like it than not," she tells EW. "I don't think I'm ever going to know [why this happened]."

The answer may be obvious, if one looks at a pattern of recent story "twists" across ABC. Ugly Betty last season introduced with much fanfare Rebecca Romijn as a post-op transgender; now she's gone. Right out of the gate, Dirty Sexy Money lathered things up by pairing aspiring politician Patrick with a great transgender love; last week, she walked out of his life. So Grey's writing out a full-fledged lesbian such as Erica — versus the simply lez-curious Callie — would seem to fit this pattern. Meanwhile, gay males such as Brothers & Sisters' Kevin appear to go unpestered... at least for now.

Lesbians almost always get fucked over on TV, when they're on TV at all, so that part of the story isn't anything new. But for ABC to snuff out Erica Hahn in the wake of eliminating two transgendered characters -- and to apparently de-bisexualize Melissa George's upcoming role as a Seattle Grace intern at the same time? I think it's fair to say that's a bit alarming.

There are also rumors -- so far unconfirmed, as far as I can tell -- that Sara Ramirez will be leaving Grey's Anatomy later this season. Which would mean the dumb statement that show creator Shonda Rhimes released yesterday, the one that referred to Callie (last spotted enjoying two on-call room romps with the non-female Mark Sloan) as a lesbian, might point toward Callie exiting the show to gay it up somewhere off-screen, perhaps with a now-invisible Erica.

If Ramirez does end up leaving, that will certainly add to the intrigue. Last week I had this to say about her increasingly detached performances on Grey's:

And is it just me or does Sara Ramirez, who actively supports many gay causes, often looked disconnected from this storyline? My guess would be that privately -- it's doubtful she'd ever pull a Heigl if it's true -- she might not be thrilled with how it has been handled.

The no-Heigl bets could be off if -- emphasis on the 'if' -- she's going to be out of a job. It will also be interesting to hear what T.R. Knight has to say about this kerfuffle. If you've ever heard him talk about gay issues, including gay visibility on TV, you know he has very strong opinions -- opinions that probably match most of ours, no less -- that he's always willing to share with reporters. And his (kick-ass, in my opinion) response to the Isaiah Washington drama of late 2006 indicates that he isn't likely to put considerations of ABC's comfort, or the comfort of Grey's producers, ahead of whatever feelings of outrage or disappointment he might have about this torpedoed lesbian storyline as a gay man.

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