The spiral of silence and cultivation theories both support the importance of positive lesbian portrayals on television, both for lesbian and heterosexual viewers. Throughout the history of lesbian representation in media, lesbian characters have been both under and misrepresented. This study examined five lesbian characters on recent and current television shows to demonstrate how their portrayals subvert the traditional lesbian representations in media. It is concluded that while Emily Fields, Santana Lopez, Sophie Webster, Emily Fitch, and Naomi Campbell's narratives fall victim to some negative tropes in representation, they are generally revolutionary and powerful storylines, thus increasing positive visibility, providing positive role models for lesbian youths, and helping with a "mainstreaming effect" leading to greater acceptance socially for GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) youths.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Lesbianism on television; Coming out (Sexual orientation)

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Communication and Media Technologies (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

Department of Communication (CLA)


Jonathan Schroeder

Advisor/Committee Member

Franz Foltz


Physical copy available from RIT's Wallace Library at PN1992.8.L47 C37 2014


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes