The Worst Ever Female Coming Out Scenes On TV
These scenes left a lot to be desired.
A few months ago, I wrote a piece about the Most Memorable Coming Out Scenes on TV and dove into a few of the most important coming out scenes for queer women on TV, including Ellen from “Ellen”, Callie from “Grey’s Anatomy”, and Hallie from “Parenthood”. Some of these women got immediate acceptance and some fared less well, but their coming outs covered the range of reactions that some of us may well have faced and were handled with sensitivity by the program-makers.
This list is very different. It covers the scenes where a female character comes out and it is handled poorly (IMHO) by the TV show, whether the agency is taken away from the woman in question or her coming-out is co-opted by other characters who make it about themselves. Sometimes both.
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
Dougie (Life in Pieces)
When Dougie calls a roommate meeting unexpectedly, Colleen and Matt are worried what it could be about; guessing a chore wheel and having killed someone, respectively. To their great relief, Dougie actually wanted to tell them that she was gay (“the girl version is called lesbian,” she says), so they thank her for trusting them enough to come out and give her a hug. Then Dougie admits that she’s nervous about how she would meet a girl, so Colleen offers to take her to a lesbian bar with her soon-to-be sisters-in-law.
Had the episode ended there or taken a majorly different turn, Dougie’s coming out would not be on this list, but when the foursome arrive at the lesbian bar, it quickly becomes an excuse for Heather to kiss a girl in order to turn her husband on - gross! – and Jen to say that kissing a girl in public convinces men to give you stuff/doing stuff with girls isn’t cheating on your man. To me, this stole focus from Dougie and implied that wlw relationships are somehow less real than straight ones, which they’re not.
Since Friends arrived back on Netflix, there’s been a general agreement that a lot of the sitcom’s jokes probably wouldn’t fly if it was being made today – particularly many jokes made about Helena Handbasket, the transgender parent of Chandler Bing, and other queer characters.
Chandler and Helena haven’t seen each other for a long time by the time that Chandler is getting married. Their relationship has been strained due to the breakup of Chandler’s parents, Helena moving to Las Vegas, and her hitting on Chandler’s best friend Ross, but Monica wants to change that and flies her fiancé out to Vegas to invite Helena to their wedding.
In the series, I don’t remember Helena ever actually coming out for herself. In fact, even during the flashback to the divorce, Helena is outed as gay to her own son by wife Nora. (Note: This scene probably happened before Helena came out as trans.) We learn that Helena is a transwoman through other characters mentioning her, which could be okay if the vast majority of the comments weren’t jokes at Helena’s expense.
While Helena rekindling her relationship with her son did make the season seven finale more heartening, it’s sad that the majority of her coming out process was played for cheap laughs or mocked by the other characters.
In the episode "Please don't ask, please don't tell", we find out that Rhonda - the sister of the main character Andre - is a lesbian, who isn't out to her family. Her immediate family all have their heads in the sand and can’t see what’s right in front of them. In Andre’s case, he actually tries to avoid hearing about it when his wife brings it up.
Over the course of the episode, Andre does find out officially that his sister is a lesbian and has a long-term girlfriend, Sharon, who’s she planning to marry. To christen his newfound acceptance of his sister, Andre proposed a toast to Rhonda and Sharon's engagement at Mother's Day brunch, despite the fact that Rhonda hadn’t come out to the other family members at the table. Who does that?
Yes, he wanted his mother to accept his sister and that he told his mother that he wouldn't accept her, if she didn't accept Rhonda. But outing someone... It was really the pinnacle of what I’m dubbing the ‘straight savior’ complex; I’ve accepted you, so I’m sure everyone else will too.
Good news though, in true sitcom style Rhonda is happily out and preparing to get married at the end of the episode, having reconciled with her mum. But, TV shows should stop using coming out episodes to display what a nice person the main character is. (“He still loves his sister even though she’s gay! Huzzah!”)
Okay, so that was my worst ever coming out scenes/storylines for LGBTQ+ women on TV, but now I want to hear from you. How did you feel about these storylines? What other coming out scenes are problematic as hell?