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Lip Service: A realistic and positive portrayal of lesbian life

This article is over 11 years, 9 months old
Julie Bremner looks at a new BBC drama that is putting gay life in the spotlight
Issue 2224
The cast of Lip Service (Pic: BBC/Kudos)
The cast of Lip Service (Pic: BBC/Kudos)

The new BBC Three drama series Lip Service, billed as dealing with the “real lives of lesbians”, grabbed my attention immediately.

Television programmes have come under fire recently for failing to give positive portrayals of gay characters.

The gay equality organisation Stonewall found in a study that most gay characters are portrayed as promiscuous, predatory or figures of fun.

Stonewall found that just 46 minutes out of 126 hours’ of output showed gay people positively and realistically.

This series, set in Glasgow, does not look as though it will totally negate the “promiscuous” label—although I question whether programmes with gay characters should have no promiscuity.

As I watched this programme I found its approach rather refreshing. The characters are rooted in the real world. Scenes happen in workplaces as well as in bars. And this is what helps to give the show its realism.

Most people have to carry on working while they have personal issues to deal with. Who hasn’t cried in the toilets or messed up an interview because of stresses in their personal life?


The characters are working class and life is shown to be difficult.

It reminded me of Shane Meadows’ portrayal of people when they are having a hard time in their personal lives.

Time will tell whether their relative financial circumstances and the economic crisis will come to have more of a bearing on their actions.

Politically, I think the most interesting point is that the characters’ sexuality is secondary to the plot.

Their sexuality clearly moulds their social relationships, but is not the overriding, all-consuming aspect of their lives.

They poke fun at each others’ sexuality—“Betty Bothways” is a new one on me, but this reflects the ribbing that people who state they are bisexual can get from the lesbian and gay community.

The sex is shown as a natural part of their lives which is as it should be. LGBT people are still having sex even under Tory rule—what a relief!

This drama stands out by focusing on the lives of lesbians and bisexuals— but they define themselves through more than their sexual preferences, and there are men in it too!

The writer Harriet Braun said: “Lesbians are under-represented on TV. I thought it was time we had some on our screens.

“I wanted to show characters who happen to be gay, but their sexuality is completely part of their lives.”

So far, job done.

While not overtly political I think we are in for some interesting discussions as one character, Cat, dates a policewoman.

The characters’ opinions in response vary from speculation that Cat will be turned on by the uniform, to saying that all police are baton wielding homophobes.

The clip advertising next week’s programme shows this debate looks set to continue. This reflects the discussions many Pride groups continue to have around the country as they organise large events.

The police try to reach out to the gay community but their role as the long arm of the state remains their overriding reason for existence.

Do I care what happens to these people? Yes. Does the world seem full of difficult choices and possibilities for them? Yes. I for one will spend time seeing how it turns out.

This series adds an hour a week to the positive statistics in my view. I’m looking forward to next Tuesday already.

Julie Bremner is campaigns organiser for Norwich Pride

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