‘The L Word’ has kinks to work out

GA Voice - - Georgianews -

Grow­ing up queer dur­ing the early 2000s was rather con­fus­ing for me. Al­though a lot of progress had been made in the LGBTQ move­ment, ac­cep­tance still felt like an up­hill bat­tle. We didn’t have a strong pres­ence in the me­dia I con­sumed and, to my knowl­edge, none of my close fam­ily mem­bers were queer. I didn’t re­ally know what gay meant un­til I was a teenager. Then, “The L Word” hap­pened. I dis­cov­ered it by ac­ci­dent, pos­si­bly while look­ing for shows I had no busi­ness watch­ing at that age.

The show was a bit racy so I had to sneak and watch it while my mom wasn’t look­ing, but I was hooked. To me, that show was the rep­re­sen­ta­tion that I needed. Not only did I see queer women, I saw them liv­ing nor- mal and suc­cess­ful lives. They had ca­reers and fam­i­lies that loved them through their mess. This show was also my first ex­po­sure to trans­gen­der peo­ple out­side of those hor­rid “Jerry Springer” and “Maury” episodes.

“The L Word” means a lot to me be­cause al­though my jour­ney as a queer woman has been com­pli­cated, that show made the ride a lit­tle eas­ier. That said, I had mixed feel­ings when show cre­ator Ilene Chaiken re­vealed that there was a re­boot in the works. Al­though this show did a lot for me as a kid, upon re-watch­ing it as an adult, I felt like some­thing should re­main in the pro­tec­tive shroud of nos­tal­gia.

“The L Word,” while ground­break­ing, was ex­tremely prob­lem­atic. Most of the main char­ac­ters were white and class-priv­i­leged. The ones that weren’t white were able to pass the paper bag test and were usu­ally stereo­typ­i­cal. A huge ex­am­ple of this would be Papi, the Lat­inx char­ac­ter in­tro­duced in Sea­son 4. She was the quin­tes­sen­tial hy­per­sex­u­al­ized Latin lover. An­other char­ac­ter, Tasha, was the ar­che­typal rigid, no-non­sense black butch les­bian. And, like al­most ev­ery other char­ac­ter of color, they pri­mar­ily dated and de­sired white women. The show’s dis­mal racial politics were most ev­i­dent in Bette and Tina’s re­la­tion­ship. The sto­ry­line about Tina not want­ing a black donor for their baby was cringe-in­duc­ing. The show’s anal­y­sis of Bette’s bira­cial iden­tity was su­per­fi­cial.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the show’s re­la­tion­ships fit com­fort­ably into het­eronor­ma­tive roles. Sure, peo­ple slept around, but it was more so for rat­ings be­cause peo­ple love to see les­bians mak­ing out and rolling around with each other. The show’s por­trayal of gen­der iden­tity and pre­sen­ta­tion wasn’t very fluid. The main cast was com­prised of con­ven­tional at­trac­tive femme women and the an­drog­y­nous Shane. Tasha and Papi weren’t in­tro­duced un­til the fourth sea­son. The show didn’t do its trans char­ac­ter, Max, any jus­tice. The other char­ac­ters, in­clud­ing his part­ner, were trans­pho­bic to him and even­tu­ally, his tran­si­tion was just men­tioned in pass­ing.

Hope­fully, in this new so­cial jus­tice­fo­cused cli­mate, “The L Word” will have worked out its kinks. I’ll be watch­ing.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.