The Evolution Of The Gay Kiss On Television

by Keertana Sastry

It was the groundbreaking kiss heard 'round the country. Fifteen years ago today, Dawson's Creek premiered the first ever male gay kiss on primetime television when Jack McPhee and his boyfriend Ethan shared a beautiful kiss on the season finale of the show. For the last several decades, television shows have featured gay characters in their casts. But Jack and Ethan's kiss wasn't the first homosexual kiss featured on TV. This honor belongs to another popular show for its time, LA Law, featuring the first televised lesbian kiss. But with so many years of theatre, film, and television shows featuring important homosexual characters, why did it take until the year 2000 to actually see a kiss between two men unfold onscreen? Let's take a little trip down the evolution of the gay kiss on television, shall we?

The first time two homosexual characters even appeared on a television series together (as a couple that is), was in 1975 on a short-lived show called Hot I Baltimore on ABC. The series featured an older gay couple named George and Gordon. And even before that, a 1972 TV movie called That Certain Summer featured a gay romance between big stars Martin Sheen and Hal Holbrook. So why did it take another 15+ years for a homosexual kiss to appear on TV, and another 10 years on top of that for a male gay couple, specifically, to actually kiss?

1991: The First Homosexual Kiss Aired

After years of opportunities for TV projects to feature a homosexual kiss and break new ground, the popular series LA Law finally did when CJ and Abby shared a kiss on the series. Unfortunately the actress who played Abby proclaimed later that it was all just a publicity stunt, despite producers stating they wanted to add "more depth" to CJ's character. The American Family Association protested the kiss, but not much other fuss was made. However, a relationship between the characters was never created.

1993: Picket Fences

Two years later, the cast and crew for the series Picket Fences tries to air a scene in which two teenage girls kiss. However, their network, CBS, demands the scene be re-shot in the dark. No progress here.

1994: Roseanne Shares A Lesbian Kiss

One year after the Picket Fences debacle, the series Roseanne —despite ABC at first threatening not to air the episode — features a scene in which Mariel Hemingway's character Sharon kisses Roseanne at a bar in the episode "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The episode brought more than 20 million viewers.

1996: Friends Misses A Huge Opportunity

During the episode "The One With The Lesbian Wedding," Friends misses a chance to show Susan and Carol kiss in a perfectly normal, happy occasion: Their wedding. You would think that the end of a wedding ceremony would be the perfect time to have a newly married couple kiss. But alas, the show decided to skip it.

1997: Relativity Gets Bold

The ABC series Relativity features the first open-mouthed kiss between two women when the supporting character Rhonda, played by House's Lisa Edelstein, shared a romantic kiss with another woman, Suzanne, after their first date.

2000: Dawson's Creek

Although not TV's first official gay kiss (Will & Grace had two men peck as a protest), in 2000, we see first time two men passionately kiss on television in Dawson's Creek. Jack and Ethan's kiss in the finale episode aptly titled "True Love" is touching but ultimately ends with Jack having his heart broken. Nevertheless the kiss was necessary for the TV landscape. It showed that kissing, passion and love should be acceptable to show for all people regardless of sexual orientation.

This is the kiss that made it easier for other network series like Will & Grace, Glee, How To Get Away With Murder, Modern Family, and many more have real homosexual romance and relationships on television.

Editor's Note: This article has been updated.

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