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So happy together: for gay and lesbian characters, finding love and a happy ending is a fairly recent phenomenon. Here are some of our favorites.

Being queer in the movies, on TV, and in plays doesn't mean misery and woe anymore. Witness these happy gay milestones--the pop-culture events in which the boy gets the boy, the girl gets the girl, and no one has to die at the end.

Here's a subjective look at some of the landmark moments when the audience didn't have to squint to catch the pink tinge and the characters didn't apologize.


BOYS Cable networks like HBO and Showtime have made unapologetic queer love stories much more commonplace in recent years, whether it's David Fisher reuniting with Keith on Six Feet Under or Queer as Folk's Michael and Ben working out their HIV issues. For our happy landmark, though, we'll take the brief moment in 1989 on thirtysomething when two gay men were first seen in bed on network television. Finally, after decades of foreplay, a gay man on TV scored.

GIRLS Yes, that much-hyped lesbian wedding on Friends garnered lots of attention, but for unapologetic queerness, we remember Roseanne--Sandra Bernhard dated Morgan Fairchild; Mariel Hemingway kissed Roseanne and said, "Next time, let's leave the wives at home"; and Roseanne's mother ultimately realized she liked looking at Playboy a lot more than the other moms did.

Honorable mention for both sexes goes to Northern Exposure, which was queer from the very beginning (one of its first episodes covered Walt Whitman), featured a gay marriage, and even did a flashback episode in which the town was founded by two pioneering lesbians. Too bad one of them had to die tragically.


BOYS Harvey Fierstein's landmark Broadway smash Torch Song Trilogy showed drag queen Arnold Beckoff searching for true love, surviving the sudden loss of a lover, and creating his own alternative family. Sure, it was a mainstream hit, but this was a queer show speaking to a queer audience. If straight people wanted to attend, they could--but they'd better sit in the back and keep quiet.

GIRLS Unlike gay plays, substantial dramas with lesbian-lover protagonists are still far too much of a novelty in the mainstream theater. Rides into the sunset are certainly few and far between for women on Broadway. Female playwrights have always done bold work, and one can point to substantial shows like Jane Chambers's A Late Snow from 1974 (a distaff but far less bitchy Boys in the Band), her Last Summer at Blue Fish Cove from 1976 (lesbian romance with a bittersweet twist), or Cheryl Moch's 1985 play Cinderella, The Real True Story (in which the title character and the princess realize they don't need a prince at all). Even as recent a show as David Mamet's Boston Marriage stands out as an all-too-rare example of lesbian theater.

As for that landmark lesbian theatrical show that puts its stamp on popular culture? It's apparently a happy event we still have to look forward to.


BOYS We all remember, of course, the many wonderful queer movie romances of the '80s and '90s. Our mates across the pond gave us the swoony romanticism of Beautiful Thing, the cross-cultural snogging of My Beautiful Laundrette, and the class-differences-be-damned climax of Maurice, where aristo and servant go off into the sunset holding hands.

But nothing beats the midnight-movie staple The Rocky Horror Picture Show for stirring up memories about the first time some felt free to be themselves in public. Sure, Tim Curry died at the end of this 1975 horror-comedy--but he came back for the big musical finale! With audience members cross-dressing and getting up on the stage to act out dances, queers weren't just accepted--we were the stars!

GIRLS The independent film boom of the last decade or so meant that more lesbian movies were being made and, more important, seen. Films like Go Fish, The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in, Love, and It's in the Water brought satisfying girl-girl love stories to multiplexes everywhere.

However, most women think of Desert Hearts as that first landmark--the indie flick from 1985 may have had a qualified ending, but it was truly positive in the best sense of the word. Most important, Helen Shaver and Patricia Charbonneau had chemistry to spare. Straight audiences wouldn't realize how sexy sculpting was until 1990's Ghost.

Video valentines

Same-sex TV pairs we love include

[A] Northern Exposure's town founders, [B] Roseanne's odd couple, and [C] Six Feet Under's Keith and David.

Stage and screen sweeties

Lovestruck lads and ladies were featured in [D] My Beautiful Laundrette, [E] Beautiful Thing, [F] Boston Marriage, and [G] Maurice.

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Article Details
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Title Annotation:gay milestones in television, movies, theater
Author:Giltz, Michael
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Cover Story
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 18, 2003
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