Kathy Griffin just played an over-the-top lesbian activist on Law & Order. It was so overblown, that it made us think that the portrayal of lesbians has been regressing recently. Inside, the historical arc of on-air girl-on-girl smooching.

The lesbian kiss is a tool used by television show for three reasons: To boost ratings, make a point, or raise awareness. Some shows have their best of intentions, while others pander as much as they can to give a dying show a quick ratings boost.

Joely Fischer and Ellen DeGeneres on Ellen


Ellen kisses her longtime friend, Paige, who is struggling to accept Ellen's lifestyle. This episode came on after Ellen admitted she was gay on the air, but it was the first time she kissed another woman on the show. This was definitely not a ratings grab, as the show's ratings declined steadily after Ellen's admission that she was a lesbian on-air.

Roseanne Barr and Muriel Hemingway on Roseanne


Muriel Hemingway put the moves on Roseanne in a gay bar. Known to be a gay rights activist, Roseanne wanted to show that lesbians don't just exist on the coasts, but in Middle America as well. It was well placed, not exploitative, and wasn't done as a cheap grab for ratings.

Calista Flockhart, Elisabeth Shue and Lucy Liu on Ally McBeal

The ratings for Ally McBeal were in a freefall, so the writers decided to take normally boy-crazy Ally and have her kiss not one, but two women on the show in a desperate grab for ratings.

Jennifer Aniston and Wynona Ryder on Friends

Friends, no stranger to lesbian plotlines, had a cameo by Wynona Ryder in which she forgot the lesbian kiss she had with Rachel. Not too exploitative because the whole episode focused around this incident, but a pretty blatant attention grabber because how can a lesbian kiss between two very famous, attractive women not get ratings.

Everyone on The L-Word

The L-Word didn't just have lesbians kissing, it had lesbians living. The first show to finally flesh-out the struggles and lifestyles of lesbians beyond novelty and titillation.

Sonja Sohn and Melanie Nicholls-King on The Wire

While not the focal point of the show, The Wire pays a good deal of attention to Sonja Sohn's character, Kima Greggs, a tough Baltimore police officer who also happens to be a lesbian. Her relationship is treated equally as any man's on the show, showing that no matter the sex, maintaining the life of a police officer and keeping a healthy relationship is a challenge, no matter the sexual orientation.

Madonna and Britney Spears at The VMAs

The lowest point in pandering.

Jennifer Aniston and Courtney Cox on Dirt

Blah. This might be the worst of the bunch. Remember Rachel and Monica? Well they're back! And totally making-out if any of you guys out there wanna look! Obviously you didn't, because Dirt got canceled faster than you can say publicity stunt. A nice regression from The L Word.

And finally Kathie Griffin on Law & Order last night, where they mentioned the word lesbian no less than 40 times.

Are we going backwards? With Kathie Griffin's performance last night, have we reverted back to gawking at two girls making out as novelty?