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February 18, 2005


Why The L Word is still important, I guess +

Slate has a decent piece on this weekend's season premiere of The L Word, the Showtime series about pretty lesbians in LA who all wear pearlized eye shadow. Personally, I let The L Word go after about 6 episodes last season, mostly because of the tedious focus on Goddamn Jenny (Mia Kirshner) and her dithery and endlessly selfish process of "finding herself", which mostly consisted of messing around with Marina, freaking out, leaving her boyfriend, marrying her boyfriend, flirting with a bloated Julian Sands, messing around with Marina some more, freaking out some more, and writing a lot of terrible prose poetry. What a snore.

This season will (hopefully) have less of Goddamn Jenny, and none of that foxy Marina (who is sadly off the show), and more butches (although, I suppose, the introduction of a single butch character would be a 100% increase in butches.) It will still likely be an overly talky and sometimes dull soap opera about an ensemble of characters, some of whom are better developed then others. But, since it's about lesbians, the assumption in the media seems to be that it's inherently important. The author of the Slate article thinks the show is important because it depicts lesbians as being mostly like everybody else: drinking coffee, getting divorced, going to bars, having problematic relationships with their parents, lounging around topless, and applying fresh coats of lipgloss. In other words, they are apolitical, as compared to our dominant cultural conception of being a lesbian:

"This conception of lesbianism [as a political choice] is a bummer. It makes it so that the options are being a heterosexual who has sex for pleasure or being a lesbian who has sex as a form of protest. Which sounds like more fun to you? Obviously, we are in a different lesbian era now. While The L Word is eye candy, a glossy production on which everyone is luminous and constantly having explosive sex, it is also a memo to the nation (including the lesbian nation) that there are other reasons for women to have sex with each other than to dismantle the dominant paradigm."

I think that mediocre TV is still mediocre TV, and it's too bad that the very existence of a show about lesbians is in itself a political statement. But it's better than having no such show at all. I guess. -Amy

The L Word is definitely a victim of its own concept - even series creator Ilene Chaiken recalls how "at her initial pitch meetings, in 1999, she was met with the TV equivalent of polite smiles and patronizing head pats; then, after the success of Showtime’s gay-male series Queer As Folk, the cable channel told her The L Word was a go." But does that mean it can't be a good show, too? Hopefully we'll discover that this season. But here's some interesting L Word trivia, recently discovered via cable television: Marina has a history as a homewrecker, as she also was the plant in The Firm who seduced Tom Cruise in the Caymans. -Emily

categories: Gender, TV
posted by amy at 12:33 PM | #

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