Pop Theory 17: Demystifying "The Real L Word"

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Pop Theory 17: Demystifying "The Real L Word"

[Editor's Note: This piece was originally published 7 August 2012 at my favorite AfterEllen, when The Real L Word was still in season...among other things.]

Greetings, Gentle Reader. I’ve returned from my holiday—a three hour tour week jaunt through Spain and Turkey—to the land of lesbian social media.

I want to deviate from my obsession with love to discuss, ironically as it may seem, The Real L Word. I have watched every episode of the show with both intrigue and trepidation. Oftentimes I have reveled in the garden variety of cultural commentaries (usually vapid, usually saturated with bad lesbian punnage, and frequently dripping with malicious humor (what Millennials take for “irony”) and sometimes even bitterness, but this season feels a bit different.

As an arguably indifferent viewer with an investment in the lesbian community at large, this season feels different in the sense that it feels slightly more nuanced in its storylines. I want to, on behalf of the more “serious” New Yorkers, puff out my chest and attribute this gravity to the addition of the all-black-clad queers who comprise the New York cast. Although, in all honesty, I feel it’s a combination of the Kacy and Cori storyline (the heartbreaking loss of their baby, Charlie, during their fifth month of pregnancy), and the atypical (and therefore extremely “queer”) storyline of Whitney being happily monogamous (which I applaud), in addition to the east coast addition of the punk rock band Hunter Valentine and their sometimes-maybe girlfriends. (OK—just Kiyomi. Grrrl, what is your deal?)

But, before I dip into a quasi-anthropological piece about the NYC cast, I want to address the aforementioned garden variety of cultural commentaries on this series. With the show’s demographic being sizably male (nearly 40%), my intuition, as well as my attention to the lesbo-webs, tells me that many lesbians have checked-out from watching the show, and that, in lieu of viewing it themselves, they turn to the online commentaries to keep abreast of any seismic changes that may happen within the lesbian cultural imaginary and the community itself from the events that unfold in the show itself.

I think one reason why the Real L is not able to, and can never function as, a unifying force within the L