Well, boo f*ckin’ hoo

bette

Over at AfterEllen, Malinda Lo brings two articles about The L Word to our attention. So what, you ask? Well, these pieces are by straight women. One loves the show, and the other one used to, but has decided it has nothing to offer to straight women anymore. It’s the second article, by Hillary Frey in the New York Observer, that’s got me pissed me off.

As The Observer noted two years ago, The L Word drew straight women in droves. A gorgeous, L.A.-based gyno-utopia where women loved each other, loved fucking and loved their jobs, the show offered a wholesale revision of female empowerment. Remove most of the men, and voila! There goes the political and social friction that exists between the two genders and makes our co-existence so fraught.

On The L Word, women were free to roam in a cozy, lush environment of pools and palms, coffee shops and clubs. They barely seemed to work. They lunched and drank and woke up enticingly clear-eyed and bed-headed.

Straight women loved The L Word not because they all wanted to sleep with their own kind (and get that perfect bed-head); they loved it because the show was about them.

Okay. No.

Now, admittedly, it’s not necessarily about many of the kinds of lesbians I hang with, but it is about lesbians, Hillary. It’s not about straight people. There are roughly 47 gabillion other shows out there about straight people, Hillary. And maybe, just for a nano-second, you might want to stop the cutesy sibilant whining about “How Showtime’s sultry Sapphic saga stopped talking to straight women” and think about how us queers feel about that. Heteronormative much? Those 47 gabillion shows haven’t stopped talking to us lesbos. Because they never started.

Oh, and by the by, Hil, not that many lesbians are looking for a “soft-core, girl-on-girl version of Melrose Place.”

To her credit, Frey also accurately notes that the show over-relies on stereotyping (including straight people) and has become, well, “lame.” As Malinda Lo notes:

“If there’s anything I can tell you about [L Word creator] Ilene Chaiken, it’s that she has said she never writes with any particular audience in mind. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t taking a cheap shot at women who like men, but welcome to the land of bitching about The L Word!

Bitching about The L Word is somewhat of a lesbian bonding ritual. We know some of it sucks. We know it stereotypes a lot of people. We know it’s got at best, a tenuous grasp on feminism. And we watch it anyway. At least a lot of us do.

Because it’s our show. As is often noted, our Sex and the City. For all its faults and even though, despite what Frey thinks, to no small degree it is still co-marketed for straight middle America, it’s our show. Also, because there’s plenty of highpoints to love among the spottiness and uneven-ness. (Though not so much, ironically, with the excruciatingly lame and surficial storyline about the FTM character Max, the one character of the show Frey believes still “gets it right.” Whatever. That’s a whole other post.)

Still though, because Jennifer Beals as alpha-dyke control freak Bette Porter can do no wrong. Even when Bette is at her worst, Beals always shines. Because Leisha Hailey as Alice is a seductively sweet comic genius, every episode. Because Pam Grier is Pam. Fucking. Grier. Because it’s sex-positive. Because, even though they live in a glamorized la-la land, there are still characters we can all recognize. Because of the stable of great female directors whose work we get to see. Because of all the guest-bians. And yes, even sometimes because of the fabulous clothes.

Because the show really does get it sometimes. In ways other shows don’t even think about.

And Hillary, even because characters say things like, “Ugh—straight people.” You know what? We say that. I’ve said that. Not because we don’t like you guys but because you are the dominant group. You are everywhere. You are the norm. You get the breaks. You take for granted a lot of what for us, remains deferred. You so take for granted that television shows are supposed to be for you, you are upset when one makes you feel “shut out.” The inverse is true for us. So many shows aren’t for us, that when one makes us feel included, we hold it close, no matter how flawed it might be. Sorry if our show stopped talking to you but I’m not gonna lose much sleep over it.

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5 Responses

  1. So, here’s my question. Did they talk about straight MEN who watch the show?

    I always find it fascinating that men who are so repulsed by male gay sex are so interested in female gay sex.

  2. heh.

    Actually, that “soft-porn girl on girl Melrose Place” quote refers to the kind of show Frey thinks lesbians AND straight men both desire. She also writes, vaguely, “A cursory poll shows that straight men who have so much as glimpsed the show are loath to say so, let alone Tivo it.” I’m not sure that’s true across the board.

  3. Straight women loved The L Word not because they all wanted to sleep with their own kind (and get that perfect bed-head); they loved it because the show was about them.

    Um, WTF.

    I could never understand why I was supposed to be so into the whole girl-on-girl thing, either.

  4. I could never understand why I was supposed to be so into the whole girl-on-girl thing, either.

    I thought that was in the operating manual for you guys?

  5. I never got the manual, I’ve just been winging it.

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