The L Word Effect

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The L Word Effect

With the final season of The L Word mere moments away, I’d like the take a moment and reflect upon its impact on our community. Surely dykes had never before experienced such mainstream, Hollywood, glamorous exposure before Ilene Chaiken dreamed up this series, and I have totally (even if sometimes guiltily) enjoyed its presence on Showtime, in magazines, on the web and the weekly watch parties at the local bar.

But being the cynical creature that I am, I can’t help but think about the ways in which the creation of this image of sexy, feminine Los Angeles lesbians has done as much harm as good.

There are the familiar arguments about representations of women in the media, the ones about unrealistic beauty standards being forced into the brains of young women — which absolutely hold true for The L Word, as well. While it is great for a young queer woman to see images of queer women out there, period, what kind of message is it sending to the girl who can’t afford to buy designer clothing or who will never wear a size four without physically harming herself? Granted, a better argument could probably be made about the young dykes who can’t afford Showtime to begin with, but I digress...

And what happens when these images of lesbian glamazons reach the hetero mainstream? Of course, part of the reason for the show’s success to begin with is that reaching that mainstream wasn’t so much of a stretch…The lovely ladies of The L Word all fit nicely under a hetero male gaze. Yes, even Shane. And Tasha, the only butch character (Yes, I said it. Shane is NOT a butch.), is also the only queer black character on the show. Can't they get a little more original than casting the black woman as a butch and vice versa? Black women have long been masculinized in American culture.

If the show had featured the tattooed, pierced dykes with fauxhawks or the butch daddies that I tend to go for, you can guarantee it would not have had a chance. So what, you might ask? Isn’t it good that we have any representation at all? Can’t we thank The L Word, in part, for contributing to the progress queers have made over the past several years with the fight for marriage? Is it so bad to “clean up” our image and conform a little to gain political footing and civil rights? Personally, I do not think it is worth compromising ourselves to get ahead. But what do I know? You tell me. What I can say for sure, is that The L Word effect has been felt all across the country.

In closing, a little anecdote... Shortly after the premier of The L Word Season 1, a dyke friend of mine who teaches public high school in suburbia was handed a magazine with The L Word cast on the cover by a well-meaning coworker. My friend was then asked when she was going to start dressing up like the new, hip lesbians.

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Comments [109]

mgvera's picture

Beauty is beauty, you know it

Beauty is beauty, you know it when you see it, you know it even before you think about it.

mgvera's picture

You call it crumbs? For me it

You call it crumbs? For me it was the whole pie, cherry and all and I can't get enough of it. Where was The L word during our whole entire lives???

Steph H's picture

Helena???

Helena???

ElizKoke's picture

this is really interesting,

this is really interesting, because i would argue, i think, that Kit (and maybe Alice) is the only only true "femme" on the show.

peacekitty's picture

Well I watched the season

Well I watched the season premiere of the L-word again last night without my straight friends who had never seen it before.

I cleared my mind of any expectations and I have to say I think I judged it too harshly the first time. Ilene Chaiken really was listening to the fans, at least so far in terms of Papi and Tibette. I also noticed some "camp" that I missed before.

Now approaching episode 2 with an open mind... Smile

"Fight Prime Time. Read a Book"

ElizKoke's picture

i meant to say in favor of...

i meant to say in favor of...

ElizKoke's picture

not that butch= flannel

not that butch= flannel shirts and crew cuts..

but masculine and working class signifiers are being tossed out in place of feminine upper class ones.

ElizKoke's picture

but ya know what i mean?

but ya know what i mean? like... the LWORD lesbian is the NEW lesbian! No more flannel shirts and crew cuts! Prada Dresses and Jimmy Choos!!

it worries me a tad.

Smile

Dornac's picture

I do agree. I don't question

I do agree.
I don't question the creation of beauty, we do agree I think on this point. Beauty is a question of regard (une question de regard).

I was saying that to excite, to stir up fantasy, beauty is needed.I am talking about sex here.
The counterexample is pornography, it works on some people.

In TLW, I think that we have butches beauties (so, not that straight beauty stereotype you are talking about).
Don't you think so?

Erin Blackwell's picture

je veux dire que meme le laid

je veux dire que meme le laid devient beau dans les mains, a travers le regard, d'un maitre. e.g., gericault, les tetes des fous. rembrandt. van gogh.

c'est a nous de definir le beau, le laid. ca s'appelle la mode. la beaute est une creation. elle ne va pas de soi. elle est relative.

meme la pornographie peut etre belle. tout depend de la touche, de l'oeil.

oui, je parlais de ce que devient stereotype, comme straight girls, cette seule beaute la.

Dornac's picture

"you can aestheticize

"you can aestheticize ugliness", yes, that's what I meant. So we do agree. You HAVE to aestheticize ugliness on a screen, in reality, things are more complex.

It's a question of regard, gaze both in art and in reality.

If you were talking about stereotypes (supermen and superwomen), a dictatorship of a type, it becomes like "I eat beans everyday". Some like it (I don't).
But yes, there is an exception : pornography. Pornography is ugly but can turn on some people (not me).

Erin Blackwell's picture

it becomes a problem of

it becomes a problem of semantics. and politics. you can aestheticize ugliness. you can exalt anything. when a norm of "beauty" becomes narrow, constraining, and "ugliness" isn't allowed in... well, the world's diminished, one's sense of possibility's diminished.

even movies can see past the surface. great directors show us that.

lmz's picture

her"mrs danvers" terrified me

her"mrs danvers" terrified me when i was a kid...(she still does...)

Steph H's picture

After I looked up the link

After I looked up the link that Dornac posted I recognised her face straight away.
Playing Hamlet in one's 70s is pretty impressive....

Oh and I agree by the way, men do get to be ugly. Actually, they tend to get to be whatever they want to be....

Erin Blackwell's picture

judith anderson, the great

judith anderson, the great mrs. danvers in "rebecca" (hitchcock) very scary-dykey obsessed sadistic. in "laura" married to young vincent price, priceless in her hats, again controlling, mean. and she went southern in "cat."

she was a great stage actress who most famously brought back "medea" in an adaptation written for her. i saw play her HAMLET, yes, THAT hamlet, in her 70s.

bronniepickle's picture

New idea: shoe throwing

New idea: shoe throwing contest at a chinface reproduction of Jenny's face hurling insults at the viewer (e.g., "vagina wig"). Prize? the satisfaction of knowing you hit Jenny in the face with a shoe!

If you don't know what a "chin face" is, here are a couple of examples:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8j_z8vepBrA&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EsSVCwNEQbY&feature=related

bronniepickle's picture

I thought you said sock

I thought you said sock puppets wouldn't be that funny so I'm past that now. I have a better idea. I'm going to have a contest to see who can virtually hit Jenny in the head with a shoe while she throws insults at you (e.g., "vagina wig", etc). Jenny would be played by a chinface. The prize is that you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you hit Jenny in the face with a shoe.

If you don't know what a chinface is, here are a few examples:
"Girlfriend" - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8j_z8vepBrA&feature=related

"I kissed a girl" - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EsSVCwNEQbY&feature=related

Too mundane?? Please advise.

bronniepickle's picture

You're right, I think the

You're right, I think the sock puppets would add an aire of plausibility completely lacking in the show. Back to the drawing board.

bronniepickle's picture

Being ambidextrious in such

Being ambidextrious in such matters, I find Bette's vacillation between top and bottom to be quite sexy, fulfilling all possible fantasies (since I am in complete awe of Jennifer Beals' "choreographed" mastery of lesbian sex**). Both of Bette's sexual persona: dominant kickass bottoms and dominant kickass tops rock and roll. However, whiny, self absorbed indecisive tops or bottoms is a fantasy killer.
But the chemistry between Bette and Tina is so mindblowing that I say "who cares" about the whininess especially when I can watch those indescribably amazing sex scenes over and over in a vacuum on youtube without sifting through 100 hours of whining for every 5 minutes of jaw dropping sex.

**I should say "Tina" also has an equal mastery of lesbian "choreography" as "Bette" although I have historically disliked her character until she became more assertive and decisive (about the time Bette "bottomed" out).

peacekitty's picture

I thanked Ilene for what the

I thanked Ilene for what the site could have been and let her and everyone know that I won't be following L-word fans to the new Showtime site because 1) I'm not a sucker and 2) I'm displeased with the way things were handled.

Hey I had to be honest.

"Fight Prime Time. Read a Book"

K I T's picture

thanks for calling me a

thanks for calling me a sucker
after all i'm one of those people who did comment there 'etc.

the fact that i might feel trashed does not mean i have to tread them back as trash etc.
i for one do not see the point it wont do me any good

i did have some great times over there and that is what i want to remember.

so if that makes me a sucker ?
well a sucker i then i love and prefer to be

Xanadu's picture

Wow - the comments over there

Wow - the comments over there ... It never ceases to amaze me what suckers people can be!

All those comments that we should just be "grateful" and "thankful" ...

Yes I'm grateful for The L Word - it changed my life (the first few seasons, at least) and OC was good (in it's prime) - but I'm so over being told that I should be grateful because someone or some corporation threw the lesbian's some crumbs! ... Seriously!

I'm not going to ignore, that the way OC died was insulting and slightly un-ethical ... and that there is no rime or reason for killing off such an established site and loyal fan base, only to then attach it to another site.

lmz's picture

hmmm, is that so awfully

hmmm, is that so awfully funny ?

Tex's picture

It is daunting, isn't it?

It is daunting, isn't it? What he gets done here will be felt there....looks like we'll be posting going up....

Twitter Time @kdhales

Tex's picture

Yeah, on second

Yeah, on second thought....... Laughing out loud Roll baby roll!

Twitter Time @kdhales

Steph H's picture

Well neither would I.....

Well neither would I.....

Steph H's picture

Morning!!! I guess I can

Morning!!! I guess I can watch the festivities later when I get in from work - the time difference is quite handy! It'll be a nice diversion from the increasing doom and gloom over here..... perhaps you can loan us Barack for a while...

peacekitty's picture

I don't think Bette minds if

I don't think Bette minds if Tina rolls her. lol

"Fight Prime Time. Read a Book"

peacekitty's picture

I just wanted to copy all of

I just wanted to copy all of Leah's recipes. Smile I did that right away.

"Fight Prime Time. Read a Book"

Tex's picture

Morning, Steph! I haven't

Morning, Steph! I haven't been up this early in weeeks - ready for the festivities....

Twitter Time @kdhales

Steph H's picture

That should say "I think the

That should say "I think the Euro maybe our only option"....

Tex's picture

Me three BUUUUUUUUUT - what

Me three BUUUUUUUUUT - what has happened to Bette? She's turned into some sort of wuss - I'm not going to be able to take it if every sex scene has Tina rolling her - I can only stand so much.....

Twitter Time @kdhales

Steph H's picture

The way we are heading I

The way we are heading I don't think the Euro maybe our only option! It's all going horribly wrong!!!!

peacekitty's picture

Me too!

Me too!

"Fight Prime Time. Read a Book"

lmz's picture

Bronwyn i 'm really impatient

Bronwyn
i 'm really impatient to watch your socks opera

Steph,
i think you will save a few pounds this year ...

Steph H's picture

I agree!!

I agree!!

bronniepickle's picture

Shane???? Are you kidding?

Shane???? Are you kidding? Give me Jenny's attic!!! Laughing out loud:D:D:D
The chemistry between Bette and Tina in bed [only] is so hot that it burns the numbers right off my remote control!!!! The only problem is mining through all of the coal to get to that rare diamond once every two seasons or so. But, damn, it's worth it. Wink

bronniepickle's picture

You might even want to chase

You might even want to chase each Mojito down with a shot of purple passion (grain alcohol & grape kool-aid).

I tried to prepare a youtube dramatic interpretation of the episode with sock puppets set to the music of the Nutcracker Suite but it's just not as funny.

lmz's picture

ok i'm almost ready

ok i'm almost ready Bronwyn.
I just need a few bottles of this special good rhum from the other side of the pond someone told me about
(maybe my supplier will read this and do something to help ...)

LongBeachDogLover's picture

*************OFF TOPIC.......

*************OFF TOPIC....... WELL, SORT OF*********

As of Monday, Jan. 26, 2009 'Our Chart' will cease to exist.....

Ilene Chaiken make the announcement moments ago. It can be read at the Hook-Up.

http://www.ourchart.com/content/a-new-year-a-new-ourchart#comments

LBDL
xxoo

Lezbeth's picture

Was I just imagining that I

Was I just imagining that I saw IC as the writer and as the director on this episode? I thought I saw that in the opening credits.

peacekitty's picture

Yeah well I'm going to watch

Yeah well I'm going to watch it again tonight with no expectations. Maybe I just missed something the first time, but like you said, it seemed pieced together poorly and it had no real purpose.

I've seen some teasers of future episodes and they look good. Hopefully it gets better.

"Fight Prime Time. Read a Book"

Dornac's picture

So, what is a femme? Whatever

So, what is a femme?
Whatever street woman she is, why wouldn't she be femme?
You know my definition of femme is really basic: all non-masculine.

Or I miss something about "femme", wouldn't it be the same as "feminine"?

Not2Taem's picture

Kit, femme? Really? Kit is

Kit, femme? Really? Kit is street. Middle age, gone soft in the middle, don't push me too far because I do know what it is about, street. She may fall back on Lil Sis and her money, but the woman knows her way around. Femme is not just about the flowy gauzy shirts, which Kit wears to hide the middle.

Not2Taem's picture

I did notice the lack of the

I did notice the lack of the usual flow in the scene cuts. There is a scene of about 3 seconds with Helena at the bar that does not seem to serve any purpose at all. It seems likely that they just tried to get it all done in too much of a rush. That and I wonder if at this point the actors are really invested in it at all. I'd hate to have to spit out such drivel at a senior class play, let alone on international TV.

Not2Taem's picture

Nonstop sex scenes of

Nonstop sex scenes of Tibette? Gack! Please, not that. Give me self centered Alice whining. Give me poor lineless Kit rummed out yet again. Give me Jenny pitching a 2 year old bitch fit the way only Jenny can. But please, please not that!! I'd go blind.

But if you really want to make a lady happy?

Give me Shane!

Laughing out loud

Not2Taem's picture

From one ho to another, Got

From one ho to another,

Got to admit, I also let it rerun in the background while doing paperwork. Perked up for the best parts.

Not2Taem's picture

LOL No attic, but... ;)

LOL
No attic, but...

Wink

Steph H's picture

Cool - thanks for that!

Cool - thanks for that!

Dornac's picture

I don't remember her either

I don't remember her either (although I saw "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"), she is probably one of those actresses who are playing a second part so well that you confuse with reality, don't even realize how she is making a good job in understanding situations in a film, or how they make the story goes on.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judith_Anderson