Network TV’s First Lesbian Womanizer Is on … Two and a Half Men?

Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation
Oct. 4 2013 3:45 PM

Network TV’s First Lesbian Womanizer Is on … Two and a Half Men?

Amber Tamblyn as Jenny and Jon Cryer as Alan Harper in a scene from Two and a Half Men
Ding-dong, Lesbos calling.

Photo by Sonja Flemming/CBS ©2013 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Looking for lesbian role models in a Chuck Lorre sitcom is like searching for vegans at the Kansas City Barbecue Festival: It’s theoretically possible that you’ll find one, but it would come as a huge surprise.

Nevertheless, when Two and a Half Men returned for its 11th season last week, it added a lesbian to its cast of characters, and she’s pretty different from the kind of gay woman network TV typically serves up.

Advertisement

This is a great leap forward, but anything would have been better than the rickety status quo. Charlie Sheen’s Charlie Harper character was killed off after the actor’s public meltdown in 2011, and the story currently has “half-man” Jake serving overseas in the Army. That left Jon Cryer’s Alan as the last, lingering hope of the show’s title making any sense whatsoever. Ashton Kutcher might be the highest-paid actor in sitcoms, but there’s a limit to how many episodes per year can revolve around his Walden Schmidt character asking why Alan is still living in the luxe Malibu beach house that Walden now owns.

Enter Amber Tamblyn as Jenny, Charlie’s 25-year-old daughter, who appeared from nowhere last week. She’s a chip off the old block—a boozer, an enthusiastic consumer of illicit substances, and, it turns out, a lady-killer. In the first episode, she picked up a waitress without so much as learning her name. The next morning, when Jenny paraded her conquest—clad in bra and panties—by her breakfasting relatives, she rubbed her aching jaw and mumbled, “I’m surprised I can even talk.”

In last night’s episode, Jenny provided the show’s writers with another chance to make an oral sex joke (an overcomplicated bit of business about “eating too much ginger”); she declared herself the most “masculine” person in the house (not altogether incorrectly, even though she wears décolletage-revealing tops and has long hair); and she showed off her skills as a pickup artist yet again when still another attractive young woman in skimpy underwear appeared from her bedroom looking severely underslept.

Lorre’s mega-hit The Big Bang Theory did a huge favor to TV nerds by breaking down a monolithic stereotype into a number of sympathetic and differentiated characters. (After all, Raj Koothrappali and Sheldon Cooper have very different tics and traits.) Could he do the same for TV lesbians, adding a loosey-goosey pickup artist to the ranks of brittle, uptight serial monogamists? (I’m looking at you, Santana and Calzona.) I’m not going to hold my breath, but so far at least, I’m glad Jenny exists. She’s providing viewers with a chance to show how comfortable they are with lesbians on television. CBS originally signed Tamblyn for a five-episode arc so the network could gauge the audience response. Just a few days after her first appearance, she was promoted to a series regular. Apparently, America is ready for a lesbian character who spends a lot of her time drunk, high, and nursing a sore jaw.

June Thomas is a Slate culture critic and editor of Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

Why Do Some People See the Virgin Mary in Grilled Cheese?

The science that explains the human need to find meaning in coincidences.

Jurisprudence

Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

What to Do if You Literally Get a Bug in Your Ear

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 2:35 PM Germany’s Nationwide Ban on Uber Lasted All of Two Weeks
  Life
The Vault
Sept. 16 2014 12:15 PM “Human Life Is Frightfully Cheap”: A 1900 Petition to Make Lynching a Federal Offense
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 16 2014 1:39 PM The Case of the Missing Cerebellum How did a Chinese woman live 24 years missing part of her brain?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 8:41 PM You’re Cut, Adrian Peterson Why fantasy football owners should release the Minnesota Vikings star.