In looking at the images of lesbians in the media there are patterns that show up consistently. Many of the television shows and movies show a common formula of how they portray a lesbian female. This formula is.
1. Seemingly straight teen meets rebellious lesbian/bi teen.
2. Outwardly straight girl struggles with questions of sexuality while tentatively entering into a relationship with lesbian/bi teen
3. Recently outed girl faces shocked and disappointed family/friends
4. Newly formed couple overcomes a separation to live happily ever after, or at least the teenage version of that (which means, happily together for at least a few months).
In looking at teenage shows we found that the story of the lesbian teen does in truth follow this formula. One example is Pretty Little Liars.
The character of Emily has followed this formula almost exactly. In the beginning of the show she met Maya, who has some rebellious characteristics including an occasional use of pot. Emily struggled with questioning her sexuality and moving into a relationship. She came out and her friends were supportive but her family was not. She was happy in that relationship but the relationship did end. She then moved into one with Paige who was in the video. The whole time she dealt with the mysterious A who threatens to reveal all, speeding up the process.
Another show that has used this formula was Glee. We watched Kurt deal with coming out and bullying. Recently the audience has been exposed to the Santana coming out story. The relationship between her and Brittany has been teased but Brittany is currently with Artie, the boy in the wheelchair. In this scene finally comes out to Brittany and is meant with support, but Brittany does not seem to want that yet.
It does not follow the formula exactly as she seems to be the rebellious teen in this scenario. She is often the bitchy character in the show. Brittany is the dumb blond cheerleader, who seems to be bisexual but currently in love with Artie. She has been struggling with her sexuality and seeing what Kurt went through scares her. Right now Brittany is the only one she came out to. In the last episode with the Born this way sequence the characters wore shirts with a fault on it. Brittany gave her a shirt that said Lebanese (it was supposed to be lesbian but Brittany can't spell) It will be interesting to see if she will come out to Glee club. Glee club is the friends but has parts of family in it.
Another show that dealt with this is Degrassi. Recently the character of Fiona, has come out as being a lesbian.
Fiona likes Holly J but she is pretty much straight. It ignores the whole rebellious piece. Fiona seems to again be the more rebellious character, with rehab from alcohol behind her. She came out to her mom and she was supportive. It is interesting how this show portrays so many issues and different viewpoints. In comparison they also recently dealt with a football player coming out story where the mother does not support it and ignores it.
Still it is rare to see a natural lesbian relationship that is just there. The closest example is from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Willow and Tara, both witches are lesbians. This did not follow the formula so much. They met but it was natural. They were at a Wicca meeting and both discovering they were not pretend witches but real ones. With a few brushes with death as common to this show. they were brought together. Buffy as the first Willow told was surprised but supportive, a natural reaction. This partnership lasted from the fourth season to the sixth season when a death ended it. This being one of my first exposure to a teenage lesbian relationship, was interesting to me. They have the forbidden layer of the witch but every character in the show is dealing with that. Also they were probably the most successful couple who would have lasted if it wasn't for death.
In thinking about lesbian relationships in media, there are not many examples. Recently it is coming up more. Is it because the public is more accepting of this? Is the sexualization of lesbian characters playing a role? How does it compare to the male portrayals? This is something that is very interesting to look at and explore.