Posted October 15, 2010 by in CULTURE

Colour me in: racial diversity in Lip Service

by Devil’s Food Cake

You guys should know – there are perks that come with writing for TMC, one of which is most definitely preview discs. Oh the joy I felt when the first episode of Lip Service popped through my letterbox – it was a pretty sweet feeling. And the premiere of Lip Service this week was pretty exciting too: now that the first season of the Real L Word is over, I’ve been waiting for something gay and trashy to watch while I do the dishes. But by the time this week’s premiere rolled around, I’d seen the first episode around five times, and there was something about it that bugged me more and more each time. For those of you who assume I’m about to get my angry black woman on, you’re right.

I asked this question at the press screening and I’ll ask it again now – why is Lip Service so white? I can honestly think of no good reason at this point in time to keep characters on television white-washed – it’s not like a bunch of lesbians are going to watch the show until they see a black person, at which point they’ll promptly turn off. It’s highly unlikely that anyone informed thinks that black or brown people can’t be gay. I’d dare say that it’s nigh impossible that the world would self-implode should characters of colour be included. So can someone tell me why, in this day and age, the writers felt fit not to include anyone of colour on the main cast?

The three main characters from Lip Service.

I promise that the tone of my question was much less aggressive when I asked this question in public. But the prompting behind it was not. And the answer I was given in no way assuaged my upset – apparently writers today are totally up on writing wardrobe specifics and hair length specifications for their characters, but ethnicity is not one of the descriptors they write down. In the words of the panel, ‘the best actresses for the roles were cast, regardless of ethnicity’.

Without meaning to sound petulant or incredulous, I find it hard to believe that the BBC, who churn out thousands of hours of programming every year, would leave such a detail as ethnicity off the list of specifics they require of an actress or character. In any case, surely it can’t be said that there were no talented women of colour who tried out for any of the roles? And, regardless, surely, even just as a token, a character of colour could have been included on the cast? Before anyone leaps up to tell me that there is, in fact, some racial diversity on the cast, let me point out that one of the two black women is the cheating ex of one of the endearing mains, and the other is the straight girlfriend of the intensely slimy Jay. Both of these women appear on our screens for around five seconds each in the first episode. The panel made sure to point out their existence in response to my question, but were unable to confirm that either would play a larger or more meaningful part over the coming five episodes.

We’ve already talked about the findings of the recent BBC research into the portrayal of LGB people in the media, and questioned what it actually means to us as audience members, and it has been pointed out that one of the specific requests made by participants was not just for increased LGB presence in the media, but for increased diversity within that presence. Not all gay people are cut from the same cloth, and in the same way as it is important to reflect the diversity of population by increasing LGB presence, it is necessary to reflect the diversity of the LGBT population.

In the meantime though, if you feel like watching some actually diverse lesbians on TV, I can suggest a couple of shows that might be right up your alley:

Callie Torres from Grey’s Anatomy

Emily Fields and Maya St. Germain from Pretty Little Liars

Emily and Maya

Kalinda Sharma from The Good Wife


Seriously – The Good Wife is one of the best shows on television right now, and you have no idea what you’re missing if you’re not watching it. Also, Kalinda is freaking amazing – she’s by far one of the most badass, fantastically written characters I have ever seen. ALSO – the gay thing? Hasn’t been confirmed. But watch this and tell me she’s not playing for our team: