From Ellen to Gus Kenworthy: A history of gay kisses on TV

Wendy Geller
Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
Yahoo TV

Olympic freeskier Gus Kenworthy may not have had a medal-winning show on the slopestyle course Sunday (Feb. 18), but he did score a solid-gold moment when he gave his boyfriend, Matt Wilkas, a quick kiss at the bottom of the hill.

The embrace was caught live on TV by NBC as part of their Olympic footage, quickly went viral — and proved to be a milestone for a young man who, as a youngster, never “dreamed of seeing a gay kiss on TV at the Olympics.”

Although perhaps the first gay kiss televised from the Olympics, Kenworthy and Wilkas’s smooch is not the only same-sex one that’s been showcased on TV. Here’s a rundown of 10 more famous gay kisses that have made history on the small screen.

L.A. Law, 1991

When actors Amanda Donohoe and Michele Greene moved in for a lip-lock on this episode of L.A. Law (the moment builds at 26:40 in the clip), the scene marked network television’s first lesbian kiss on screen. It was an undoubtedly daring moment — even for a show with a history of pushing the envelope — but NBC reported “really mild” response from viewers.

Roseanne, 1994

Roseanne Barr never shied away from controversial topics in her hit series, and addressed gay issues several times on the show over the years. In this particular episode, Mrs. Conner herself receives the kiss from Mariel Hemingway, who plays a lesbian stripper at a local gay bar. The network, ABC, noted that viewers by and large reacted favorably, finding the episode funny.

The Real World, 1994

The late Sean Sasser and Pedro Zamora were one of TV’s landmark gay couples, with their relationship being explored on MTV’s hit reality series. The couple’s exchange of vows during a commitment ceremony — which included, of course, a kiss — was the first one ever broadcast on U.S. television.

Ellen, 1997

Ellen DeGeneres made history by coming out in both real life and on her sitcom, Ellen, in 1997. In the sitcom, Ellen’s character got hot and heavy with several men; however, in the show’s final season, she finally got to make out with women. In the video above, her evolution can be seen.

Dawson’s Creek, 2000

Dawson’s Creek holds the distinction of presenting the first “passionate” kiss between two men on prime-time television. Passionate indeed is a fine way to put it, as this kiss was nothing if not juicy: Actors Kerr Smith and Adam Kaufman move in for what can only be described as a full-on sexy smooch, with the camera locked on their lips (zoom to 1:10 in the video above).

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 2001

This show was one of the first mainstream programs to portray an ongoing lesbian relationship. The actual visual representation of it took some time, however. The closeness between actors Alyson Hannigan and Amber Benson unfolded gradually, with a natural-feeling kiss occurring during an emotional scene in the fifth season.

MTV Video Music Awards, 2003

Although neither Madonna nor Britney Spears identify as gay, their surprise, attention-grabbing kiss at the 2003 VMAs instantly was hailed as a fantastically outrageous moment, and became one of the most iconic images in awards show history. Poor Christina Aguilera is largely left out of this entire scenario, but her part should not be forgotten.

The American Music Awards, 2009

Unlike Britney and Madonna, American Idol alum Adam Lambert does 100% identify as gay, and he spiced up the 2009 AMAs by laying an open-mouthed kiss on a male dancer during his performance of “For Your Entertainment” at the AMAs. It was indeed very entertaining, but caused Good Morning America to cancel his appearance on their show the following day.

The Fosters, 2015

ABC Family’s The Fosters, a show focusing on the story of a lesbian couple and their family of biological and fostered children, made TV history by showing two 13-year-old male characters in the youngest-ever gay kiss on screen. This one perhaps warranted a little special handling due to the ages of the actors, but overall captured that adolescent feelings of excitement, confusion, and awkwardness are not limited to any boundaries.

Orange Is the New Black, 2015

Netflix’s prison drama has shown off plenty of lesbian kisses, with perhaps one of the most poignant being between actors Taylor Schilling and Laura Prepon, shown above.

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