Warning: This article contains spoilers about the show Almost Family on Fox. Read at your own risk.
The other night, I was watching one of Fox’s newest television series, Almost Family, specifically the episode in which one of the main characters discovers her attraction to women. Edie Palmer, a smart, headstrong criminal defense attorney, while defending her father-by-secret-sperm-donation in a court of law, falls for Amanda, the female district attorney prosecuting the case. It sounds like the cheesy queer love story that has been absent from most network TV shows.
Image Courtesy of Fox
Only problem? Edie is already married. To someone else.
I have never understood why a TV show would frame an affair as something sexy or desirable, but creating a female character that cheats on her husband with another woman takes this to a whole other level. The tension between the characters is created entirely off of the forbidden aspect of the relationship, only heightened by the fact that it’s an opportunity for Edie to experiment with a woman.
It such an obvious way for the writers to make Edie sexier for the straight men watching. Her heterosexual relationship with her husband, Tim, allows them to get off on seeing her with a woman while still being able to picture themselves with her.
This should not be the point of a character who is attracted to both men and women (or a woman who realizes she is a lesbian while in a relationship with a man, it’s still unclear what Edie identifies as, and that’s fine.) Her character should not exist to queer-bait while also perpetuating negative stereotypes about the LGBTQ community, particularly the idea that they are more sexually promiscuous and likely to cheat.
Image Courtesy of Fox
The affair is framed in such a way that the writers don’t want us to want Edie to feel guilty, because she’s just figuring out who she is. She thought she was straight, and suddenly finds her world turned upside down when she finds herself infatuated with another woman. It’s supposed to be cute seeing Edie get all flustered around an out and proud Amanda, who shamelessly flirts with her and asks her if they’re “on the same team.”
But an affair is not cute. Edie has no problem lying to Tim, and when he starts to catch on, she uses the fact that he suspects a woman to completely invalidate his concerns. When he points out that Edie and Amanda had a “weird energy” in court because their argument got heated, she turns the tables and asks him if he’s bringing it up because it “turned him on” that the two women had a spark.
Using the “men get turned on by lesbians” trope, she then proceeds to give her husband a blowjob in her office to distract him from the fact that yes, his suspicions were actually correct. And yet, after all this, we’re clearly supposed to root for this person, because it’s soo empowering that she’s discovering her sexuality.Image Courtesy of Fox
In this action, Edie manages to completely invalidate her entire relationship with Amanda, passing off any sexual tension between them as something for Tim to enjoy. Maybe this will change as the season goes on, but it doesn’t seem like she’s aware she’s doing anything wrong, and Amanda certainly doesn’t feel guilty, either. They’re only going to hurt some man who doesn’t matter to their love story. Super progressive, right?
The writers also don’t seem to realize that by downplaying the seriousness of Edie’s affair to make her more palatable to the viewer, they’re actually downplaying the legitimacy of a wlw relationship. If it doesn’t “count” with a woman while Edie is married, then the implication is that it doesn’t count when she’s single, either.
All we ever really wanted was to see an LGBTQIA+ relationship treated like any other. We need to be equal, on all playing fields. And in this case, that means we need to take her cheating seriously, and it’s just not happening. So, Fox, next time you want to exploit a queer relationship just to seem progressive, maybe do better. Or, just don’t.