Pop Theory 17: Demystifying "The Real L Word"

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Pop Theory 17: Demystifying "The Real L Word"

and classy, Bushwick. Legal and classy.)

Rents are not controlled in these loft buildings because they are still under code as commercial buildings; i.e. tenants have no rights (but residents are in the process of fighting for them).

At any rate, I can’t describe the level of squee I expressed when I watched the first episode of The Real L Word and saw Hunter Valentine enter a building on Bogart Street that I know so well.

Bogart is arguably the main drag of Bushwick. The L train stop is there, near the intersection with Siegel. There are a few coffee shops, restaurants (including Roberta’s, which usually has a three hour wait time; no reservations), a terribly pricey “green” gym (which isn’t technically “green” at all), a bike shop, a hostel (yes, a hostel), and a very pricey “natural” grocery store all within a 25 meter radius.

New York City can seem glamorous to those who live outside it. But for all its multiculturalism offered through its art, music, and food, there’s a lot of shit. And it’s kind of a shithole as in it’s really filthy. In episode 4, when Hunter Valentine’s bandmates (literally) fall out of their van upon their return from SXSW and proclaim “ughhh, it smells like fish,” well, yeah. Yeah, it does.

Perhaps one reason why we wear so much black here is that it’s easier to hide the filth (both real and figurative) that inflicts us on a daily basis.

The New York portrayed on The Real L Word is definitely a generational one—specifically, the Millennial Generation that lives in the quickly gentrifying, “hipster” parts of Brooklyn. I mean, Lena Dunham even had a Bushwick warehouse party on Girls. It’s, like, coolness dramatized. And I’m not being not-ironic—or something like that.

Soon there will be Girls tour buses that troll through Bushwick, just like the SATC tour buses that navigate all of Samantha’s, Carrie’s, Miranda’s and Charlotte’s haunts in Manhattan.

The thing about the Millennial Generation that also hinders the Chaiken’s second L endeavor from being able to unify the community in the same way The L Word did is that a lot of these youngins’ have had a cursory training in women’s and gender studies, which annoyingly means that these young ones have moved proudly beyond identity.

Identities—“lesbian,” “feminist,” etc—are, like, so Gen X.

The thing that post-identity identifiers (faceplant) don’t understand in all their eyeroll-inducing irony is that identities are the primary factors that build communities.

That is, how we identify determines the communities we participate in. Communities are defined and demarcated by identities.

In the end, The Real L Word might just be plagued by its realness. From the (television) corporation’s perspective, a show about lesbians is really just a soft-core porn show for straight men. (Romi seems nice, but I’m kinda-sorta-so-over seeing her have sex every episode.) The spectator’s gaze produced by the cameras (and the edited footage) does not pique the lesbian eye, especially the older lesbian eye. From the Gen. Millen. perspective, the show seemingly lacks a referent. Older lesbians understand the referent to be the original L Word and are disappointed by the qualitative difference between the fictitious world of lesbians in Chaiken’s fabricated Los Angeles and the “real” Los Angeles (and now New York) of The Real L Word.

For the younger, post-identity generation, the referent is actually themselves.

But, on a super-meta-level of irony, they just don’t seem to get it.