Spencer Carlin, South of Nowhere
Spencer Carlin (Gabrielle Christian)
At the start of teen drama South of Nowhere, lead Spencer Carlin was the new transfer student at King High School, having relocated from Ohio to L.A. with her family. She ran into rebellious girl Ashley Davis, and they quickly formed a close friendship. Over the course of the first season Spencer and Ashley visibly developed romantic feelings for each other, leading Spencer to discover her sexuality and realize she was gay. Spencer tried to run away from her feelings at first, went on a date with a boy, but soon realized it was Ashley she wanted and quickly left the date. At first Ashley, who had been struggling with a drug addiction, tried to push Spencer away, saying she “wants [her], but she doesn’t want to [hurt] her”. Spencer replied she could take care of herself, and also take care of Ashley, and the two shared a kiss (and a fade-to-black sex scene) and started a relationship.
Spencer and Ashley continued their relationship throughout Season 2. Season 2 also saw Spencer struggling to come out to her friends and family. While most of her friends and family were accepting and supportive of her, her conservative catholic mother was not. She forbade Spencer to see Ashley and later hired an ex-gay therapist to convert her. This prompted Spencer to run away with Ashley, but she eventually came back after her dad had a talk with her mother, who slowly started to become more accepting of Spencer’s sexuality.
The show struggled with criticism of Spencer and Ashley’s relationship being depicted as platonic and the girls being lovers in name only, with very few public displays of affection that would register as “gay” to an uninitiated viewer. Many fans took to online forums to express their discontent by the lack of physical intimacy. During an interview with AfterEllen.com actress Maeve Quinlan (who played Spencer’s mother Paula) stated: “She [writer-producer Nancylee Myatt] fought for more [physical affection] but The N is a teen network, and there were restrictions.”. Quinlan also said that fan outcry around the lack of physical affection did make a difference in terms of the content of Season 3. “I really feel like there was an impact from the viewers wanting it more; I think the network had to listen to it. And they did listen to it. So no, the show is absolutely not de-gayed. If anything, you’ll see more.”
Both Gabrielle Christian and Mandy Musgrave spoke repeatedly about the network limitations when it came to on screen depictions of their relationship. They were not allowed to lay in bed together, or kiss in bed – unless it was with a man (from: Girltrash: All Night Long Behind the Scenes 9/17/09), because it was seen as too sexual (Brunch with Bridget: Spashley).
At the start of Season 3 Spencer and Ashley’s relationship had cooled down after Ashley had spent the summer in Europe with her mother. Ashley hadn’t kept in touch with Spencer over the summer, leaving her to feel abandoned by Ashley and having to deal with her brother’s death on her own. Upon Ashley’s return, Spencer pushed her away. Ashley later tricked Spencer into talking; the two appeared to reconcile and kissed passionately, but Spencer decided to break off the relationship for good and stay broken up.
Spencer then meet wild child Carmen and the two started a short romance. The relationship only lasted two episodes, ending after Carmen got violent, first trashing an art studio and then, after finding out about Spencer’s ex-girlfriend Ashley, getting violent towards Spencer, calling her names and pushing her into a wall. Carmen then moved to San Diego in the following episode.
In the mid-season finale, Spencer came to realize that she still loved Ashley, and they kissed, made love, got back together and stayed together until the series end. In the final episode, Spencer had to make a choice to go to a college away from Ashley, but ended up picking UCLA and she and Ashley moved into a loft together.
In a web extra, ‘Five Years Later’ an adult Spencer and Ashley appeared as a married couple, and were expecting a child together, with Ashley carrying the baby created from Spencer’s eggs and fathered by Aiden (Ashley’s ex-boyfriend).
- 43 episodes.
Female love interests:
- Ashley Davies (Mandy Musgrave, bisexual, regular)
- Carmen (Brooke Vallone, lesbian, recurring, 7 episodes)
Relationship story arc with a woman: Yes
No male love interests
Relationship story arc with a man: No
Male love interest after being identified as a lesbian? No
Filter Relationship Arc:
Storyline during sweeps? No
 A relationship story arc is defined as explicit, developed on screen, and lasting more than 3 episodes. It is listed as questionable or subtext if romance is only implied, mentioned instead of shown on screen, part of a dream sequence, or otherwise not explicit for the viewer.
 Sweeps episodes air in February, May, July and November, the periods when advertising rates are set. A character is marked as "sweeps" when there is a very limited number of episodes that address their sexuality, all air during sweeps period, and the storyline is otherwise ignore/dropped.