6 of TV's Newest Female Friendships—and the Lesbian Continuum
By Chloe Fitzpatrick
With buzzy television shows such as Orange is the New Black (with our favorite Natasha Lyonne as a grizzled junkie with a tender heart) and Girls shocking audiences and garnering raves from critics (it seems Lena Dunham may forever be the much-debated voice of some generation), we have entered a new wave of female-centric storytelling. But that type of pop culture female bonding is only the latest example of the lesbian continuum represented on the pop culture yardstick.
When legendary theorist and poet Adrienne Rich coined the term “lesbian continuum” in 1980, she opened the door to entirely new meanings and functions of female friendship. The power of comradery between women had always existed, of course, but never had anyone so perfectly put their finger on what made intimate and loving relationships between women—sexual or not—powerful, political, and erotic.
In Rich’s essay Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence, she defined the continuum as “a range—through each woman’s life and throughout history—of woman-identified experience, not simply the fact that a woman has had or consciously desired genital sexual experience with another woman.” She continued:
“As we deepen and broaden the range of what we define as lesbian existence, as we delineate a lesbian continuum, we begin to discover the erotic in female terms; as that which is unconfined to any single part of the body or solely to the body itself; as an energy not only diffuse but, as Audre Lorde has described it, omnipresent in 'the sharing of joy, whether physical, emotional, psychic,' and in the sharing of work; as the empowering joy which 'makes us less willing to accept powerlessness, or those other supplied states of being which are not native to me, such as resignation, despair, self-effacement, depression, self-denial.' If we consider the possibility that all women [...] exist on a lesbian continuum, we can see ourselves as moving in and out of this continuum, whether we identify ourselves as lesbian or not.”
Whoa! Sorry to get all Women’s Studies on you, but it’s a pretty cool theory and allows me to talk about my favorite television programs so everyone just calm down and ride the wave. The point is that female friendship is important to the happiness of women, depictions of female friendship in the media are in themselves acknowledgement of lesbian existence, and we should all be delighting in and celebrating the lesbian continuum at all times. Now let's talk about TV shows.
Television history has been graced with many beautiful expressions of love between ladies. Our culture would would be lost, or at least unrecognizable, without Lucy & Ethel, Jo & Blair, Cagney & Lacey, Laverne & Shirley, Tia and Tamara, the women of Friends, Roseanne, Girlfriends, The Golden Girls, Sex and the City-- well, you get the idea, the list could go on and on. For fear of leaving out important pairs, I am only including ladyfriends that are currently on the air (and I will most definitely miss a few, so please add to the conversation).
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