Fans of Lesbians on TV: The L Word’s Generations

by Jill Dolan / University of Texas at Austin

The L Word
Showtime’s The L Word

Now in its second season, Showtime’s The L Word premiered January 18, 2004, to a certain amount of fanfare, given its status as the first television series to address lesbian lives and loves (as its tag-line boasts). Media critics speculated about its appeal, underlining the eye candy of its ensemble of young, thin, fashionably hip, mostly (though not exclusively) white stars. Feminist and lesbian viewers and critics worried over its demographics, bemoaning the lack of flannel shirts, of women of size, of women of color, of any lesbians who didn’t appear to be financially well off (demonstrated by cavorting in cool clothes and nice houses), porcelain-skinned, and physically flawless.

I’m a feminist and lesbian scholar and spectator who’s also hungry for eye candy. My own interest in the series, and the fact that it’s become the occasion for my first ever expression of passionate fandom, stems from how it flirts with subcultural references somehow grounded in my own history of lesbian identifications while maintaining an accessible surface style. I look for subcultural signs and find them in unexpected places, such as the music choices that graced particularly the first season’s episodes — Joan Armatrading, the Murmurs, Rufus Wainwright, among others — or the credits, which boast a proud genealogy of lesbian and feminist artists — including Lisa Chodolenko, Rose Troche, and Guinevere Turner — working as directors and producers. I listen for the shout outs on The L Word that signal to me — a 48-year-old first introduced to lesbian culture in 1977 — common memories of particular peccadilloes in American lesbian practices, like falling in love with unavailable straight women, or dancing and drinking as the initiation rites of a queer lifestyle. When those references connect, I feel the simple pleasures of watching a public representation of something I think I know.

Lesbian author Sarah Schulman has said that her (our) generation is the last that came of age without any cultural representations against which to judge our experiences. Representations generated from “women’s culture” in the 70s and 80s were rigorously, resolutely feminist, “woman-identified” rather than overtly sexualized, although those of us who were baby dykes at the time certainly used them for how they incited our lust and our passions. Mainstream culture, if it engaged lesbian narratives at all, did so with disdain and disgust. If I remember correctly, the first lesbians I ever saw on television appeared on an episode of Medical Center, the series that starred Chad Everett; one woman was older and desperately in love with the one who was much younger and of course “really” straight. The episode traced their relationship’s dissolution as the younger woman took up with a man, and ended with the older woman’s physical isolation and emotional betrayal. I can palpably recall my own attraction to the scene, surreptitiously peering into the television, trying to cloak my own anxious interest in something that reminded me of myself. At the same time, I knew the moral of this story was that being one of these women — especially the one left behind — was a degraded, despicable thing, not a subject position to which I should aspire.

But whose identifications with television are ever about noble aspirations? I clung to every image of a lesbian I stumbled across, and can remember in the cells of my body the shame that accompanied my attachment to all of them. I can recall the horror of the people who watched with me, and how the lesbian scenes or characters were used by producers and spectators (my family, my friends) to make moral judgments, to set off the good women from the bad, from the fallen. I didn’t have words like “heteronormative” with which to redeem myself; I couldn’t protect my own nascent desire with theories that critiqued the way I was being taught to see myself.

Cast of The L Word
The cast of The L Word

How could I not, then, become a fan of The L Word, whose producer is a 48-year-old Jewish woman (two identity vectors that match my own) who clearly came of age in a universe parallel to mine? How could I not find myself cathecting with stories whose narrative arcs take interesting, funny, graceful leaps of faith straight into the messy center of lesbian relationships? The show communicates something of what it means to have a sustaining kinship network separate from families of origin that winds into and out of sexual and emotional attachments not necessarily defined by domesticity. Couples form and dissolve on the show, but the friendships among these women sustain them through their entanglements with others who can never quite claim them, at least in the first season’s trajectory. Their birth families judge them, mooch from them, or avoid them, but their slights prove incidental to the characters. They gather in public places — in this case, The Planet, which was a coffee bar in the first season and has expanded to a full-fledged restaurant and nightclub in the second — to define and debate their lives, just as in my generation, we created who we were by meeting up in bars just as regularly. The show represents lesbians forming each other through their interactions, looking out at the rest of their world through the support of their own circle of influence and understanding.

When the show ventures out of the confines of the characters’ West Hollywood neighborhood, it captures even larger lesbian public gatherings, like the notorious debauchery in Palm Springs at the annual Dinah Shore Golf Tournament and, on last week’s episode, a women-only Olivia cruise. These scenes complicate our heroines’ relationship to a wider, more diverse lesbian culture, which is often positioned as exotic in their realm, or made the butt of some of the show’s harsher jokes (like the reference to the “100-footers” in the Dinah Shore episode — that is, lesbians you can spot a 100 feet away — or the large, older women promoting spiritual sexual practices when the girls board the boat for the cruise). But at the same time, the large public queer scenes capture the spirit of pride and abandon and utter freedom that these events promote, and instead of judging them, the show revels in them. The characters love them; they roam through these social scenes in many ways as spectators, as the viewers’ substitutes, who anchor the pleasures of our own voyeurism. On this week’s Olivia cruise, many of the passengers attended a panel about “women and leadership” featuring Dana, the guileless, self-deprecating tennis star, and a wolfish, suave sex expert no doubt modeled after the prolific lesbian writer and lecturer Susie Bright. In another scene, they gathered in the evening in the ship’s cabaret, sitting with their arms draped around each other, dreamily watching Shawn Colvin perform. These references to the pleasures of women’s culture (although in 1970s and 80s women’s culture, Holly Near or Cris Williamson would have been performing) honor a part of history that’s rarely represented on television.

Even in its self-conscious goofiness and its necessarily melodramatic excesses, The L Word manages to get a lot of things right about certain kinds of lesbian lives. It boldly tangles with the insistence of desire, and our inability to refuse it, even when its consequences are chaotic and hurtful. Jenny’s coming out story in the first season was a complicated representation of a woman whose world is tilted by her first instance of sweet, shocking, irresistible same sex. Kit’s hesitant relationship with Ivan, the transgendered crooner who tickled Kit’s fancy with his pasted on mustache and goatee, caught at the edges of drag king culture. Bette and Tina’s determination to have a child and their disagreements over the race of their sperm donor referenced and critiqued the lesbian baby boom and its assimilationist tendencies. Bette’s affair with an African-American carpenter challenged the boundaries of monogamy and offered a way to question what fidelity means, along with complicating Bette’s biracial identity and her racial affiliations. The addition of the initially reprehensible Mark, Shane and Jenny’s videomaker roommate in the second season, might textualize the kind of straight male voyeurism to which critics accuse the show of pandering, but over the course of the last several episodes, he comes to be shamed by his own presumption that his lesbian friends are available for him to exploit and objectify. If the show is shouting out to straight male viewers, it simultaneously intends to teach them a thing or two.

In its combination of subcultural references that ground an older generation of lesbians’ experience while parading and parodying the lifestyles of a new generation of queer dykes, the series, for me, marks a place of affective connection. I feel, weekly, intense identification with a story that is and isn’t my own, embodied by young women actors who don’t look anything like me, yet provide screens for the projection of bits of my own desires and excesses, my own past and perhaps my future. The L Word allows me to revel in the inchoate history of my own identifications with versions of my own and other lesbians’ stories that I haven’t lived, that I might have lived, that other queer dyke lesbians might remember or invent. How could I not be a fan?

Image Credits:
1. Showtime’s The L Word
2. The cast of The L Word

Links
The L Word on Showtime – The L Word Official Site
LWord Fansite

Please feel free to commment.

image_print

24 comments

  • Pingback: FlowTV | This week on FLOW (April 29, 2005)

  • mass representation

    A main theme of Jill Dolan’s column is that of representation, especially of minority groups, in the media. One problem that no one has seemed to figure out is how to have one show represent everyone. Is it wrong that The L Word doesn’t represent all lesbians/dykes/queers? Of course not. How could it? This expectation that viewers and critics seem to share that minorities represented in the media should stand in for that group as a whole is ridiculous and should be consistently undermined in any way possible. A simple (though not really) solution to the problem would be to have more shows that featured minority characters and minority viewpoints, so that no one show or one character is expected to carry the weight of representing the whole group.

  • Travis Wimberly

    Diversity?

    First of all, I am in agreement with the above poster that no single show should be expected to provided a complete representational array of a given group. To chastize The L Word, for example, for not representing EVERY type of lesbian is to put too much responsibility on one program.

    However, the unfortunate reality is that NO shows seem to be taking on the challenge of portraying a different kind of gay individual. Therein lies the problem, because, seemingly, the ONLY representation available of gay and lesbian culture on television are those that are rich, beautiful and professional. What is harmful then, is not the existence of this particular representation, but the fact that no alternate representations are available.

    If every programming centered on gay culture takes the attitude that “we’re going to represent them THIS way–because it creates the highest ratings–and we’ll leave everything else to other shows”, then what we will have is a handful of shows that represent gays in the exact same aforementioned way, as each one essentially is “passing the buck” of responsibility for providing more varied representations.

  • Lindsay Meeks

    An attractive, yet cheesy first

    Every Sunday Sidekicks, the Austin lesbian bar, shows the L Word. This week, the crowd consisted of older, younger, white, black, Hispanic, Asian, pregnant, attractive, unattractive, butch, femme, and androgynous lesbians. I don’t think they really mind too much that the show is about a group of really attractive, successful women in West Hollywood and is not completely diverse. All they seem to care about is finally we have a show of our own. I was getting tired of watching shows like the O.C. that tease lesbians with their bi-curious stars that realize they really like guys anyway. And to be really honest, I’m extremely happy they’re all really attractive and doing well. Lifetime’s depressing movies about girls who come out and then get completely ostracized by society get old. And I’m young, and I dare say attractive, so I want to be like the women on the L Word (minus the drama). Lesbian cinema quite frankly sucks most of the time, and I almost never want their lives. While it’s interesting to learn about older lesbian couples, I definitely don’t want to fantasize about them. Let other shows give me reality. Sometimes I just want to be thrown into an alternate universe where I can imagine everyone’s gorgeous because I know everyone in real life certainly isn’t that way. I love that the L Word gives me women to lust after who at least appear to be gay.

    The main point of the L Word is it’s the first lesbian show specifically targeted at lesbians. It’s extremely cheesy, and I frequently wonder what the writers are thinking. Jenny’s stories are awful and really annoy me. The plot line with Mark seems far too didactic. A lot of the show seems more like an attempt to address issues rather than present a realistic representation of lesbian lifestyles. And yet, I continue to watch it every chance I can. Lesbian shows have a ways to go. The L Word is only the beginning, but something has to be the first.

  • I think it great that shows that celebrate and explore queer culture are becoming more prevalent today. Clearly the gay and lesbian community has been underrepresented on TV for too long. But I often wonder how shows like The L Word and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy have attained popularity in a country with such a homophobic political landscape. If television is a mirror of our culture, why do we as a nation seem to embrace shows with a liberal mindset, but still vote conservative? Do only progressive people watch TV nowadays? I think that sometimes people can use these shows to make themselves feel progressive by exposing themselves to queer culture that is safely confined in the TV world. But when it comes to issues that matter, like the Texas legislature banning gays from becoming foster parents, people turn a blind eye because it doesn’t affect them directly.

  • The L Word is a breath of fresh air for television and our culture. I’m a heterosexual white male but I do believe that the “homosexual revolution” is a second civil rights movement in the making. One can never rank historical events, but I think it is safe to say that homosexuals have been oppressed for far too long—under the “values” heading in American politics. Who sets the values and determines what should be normal in our society? Is it June Cleaver or Carol Brady? No I believe it’s up to the individual and their peers—whoever they may be. I find it outrageous that institutions would oppress someone based on their private life—The Texas Legislature as an example. The L Word recognizes the lesbian presence in our society, which is formidable and doesn’t lack a voice. I’m sure the author is not the only person who relates to the show and its content. It has a unique opportunity to address a new market while providing a new message about lesbianism. Such a message might involve an educational aspect about homosexual orientation that might quell the moral panic of conservative America. A message highlighting that these are real people, with real feelings and issues, might be a good first step. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy is stereotypical at best and not representative. It’s foolish to think that all gay males love fashion and shopping. The L Word has not taken that route. It addresses tough issues like coming out, and interacting with friends which can be a tough issue in itself. Conservatives will end up watching this show out of curiosity. Hopefully, they’ll have all of their questions answered.

  • Sandy Salilnas

    Our culture nowadays is being open-minded toward new things that use to be discarded and peculiar. Media is a form of freedom of speech. The L word is a show that exemplifies the evolved changes of the stereotype of a Lesbian. The show instead of following the stereotype of what and how a lesbian is, it completely reverses that role. Instead it shows lesbians in a positive view as very modernized, stylized, intelligent women. Back in the day, in any type of show that had a lesbian they would display that being a homosexual was not a way to go or that person could never live in a world where heterosexuals dominate. The outcome of being a lesbian would lead to isolation. Those misrepresentations of people in the media can certainly have a dramatic impact on a person’s life as in how to portray themselves in a dominate heterosexual world. This show seems to celebrate the pride and spirit of lesbians and displays these women in a normal form rather then making them pariahs. The strong high culture references are affirmative about homosexuality. They promote this an audience without showing no shame or wrong doing like in previews shows. I think viewers like the show because it demonstrates that homosexuals are just as human as heterosexuals or even better. By being human, they show their everyday problems and hardships they go through being a homosexual. And this to a heterosexual audience is interesting and different from what they see in their own lives. It is intriguing because viewers are able to see the other side of things but not necessary agree but are aware and have gained knowledge from what they see. I think people watch the show because people get sick of watching a reflection of themselves on other TV programs so they watch the L word to entertain themselves with other people’s problems.

  • Not having the cable network that The L Word airs on I have never seen it. Although, I have heard a great deal about the show and have been exposed to the ‘buzz’ that it has created. It reminds me of when Queer Eye for the Straight Guy first started becoming popular a little over a year ago, and then followed more and more gay/lesbian programming on the air. I think these advancements are great for the respective communities because the only exposure you would have to them prior to shows like Queer Eye was in film and the occasional one-off episode topic of homosexuality in a TV drama. What Queer Eye is doing is creating a buzz, subculture response to these shows and exposing more and more people to the lifestyle. In doing this, Queer Eye pretty much reinforces stereotypes of the flashy stylish gay man. However lesbians to date have been stereotyped as larger, older, un-stylish (ie flannel shirts and short hair). The L Word is bringing lesbians into the pop culture circle now as young, trendy, beautiful women, not unlike those shown on Sex and the City. And from what Jill explained in the article, the events on the show are much like those on Sex and the City, therefore appealing to heterosexual fans of that program, perhaps young, beautiful women like those actually in the show. So, I, in agreeance with Jill, believe that the L Word is diffusing the homosexual stereotype in new and improved forms to allow further access into the diversity of the gay/lesbian community.

  • Charlette L. Matts

    I suppose just being gay allows you to be in a type of sub-culture. The author of this article expressed an connection with characters that do not look like her and is seemingly not of the same social class just because they are all gay. I, an African American woman, never felt a special connection with Rachael from “Friends” just because we were both heterosexuals. I never felt a connection with Clare Houxstable, the beloved mother from “The Cosby Show”. We are both African Americans and heterosexuals. African Americans are also under/misrepresentated in television. Had I been a gay woman watching the L-word I would still feel underrepesentated and left-out. My African American lesbian friend can not look at the L-word and relate to that lifestyle. I don’t think that many of the lesbians that do not look like the characters on the show white, black or other could find such a connection either. Too many times we see that being a lesbian is okay or acceptable as long as the lesbians are still appealing to heterosexual men. Although the author says she could relate to the characters on television, I wonder if that assertion was based on actually seeing herself hanging out with these women or just being happy to see lesbian women portrayed positively. I still believe the show lack a polyphony of different types of homosexual women.

  • It is easy to oversimplify a minority group through shows like this however being the first of its kind it is just the initial step towards representing Lesbians on television. This show cant be everything to everyone right away but judging from the article it seems to do what it was meant to do well. Because it is the first of its kind lesbians will relate just because it is the only thing on television depicting their sexual identification. It will be years if ever before we see more shows that depict homosexual couples and broaden the array of stereotypes shown, but lets face it, the homosexual groups in the united states are a repressed minority that most still consider sinful. It will take across the board acceptance of homosexuality before producers pick up showsdepicting gay couples, so until then shows like “The L Word” will have to survive on pay cable stations and try and carry the weight of their entire minority community on their own.

  • The existence of shows like the L word in my opinion emphasizes TV’s attempt to appeal to and attract a wider demographic. It is interesting to see how far some TV shows will go just to attract an audience. Although I haven’t seen any episode of the L word, I am sure one of the requirements for an episode is that it is controversial and could create a perplexed reaction from the viewers. The fact that the author could relate with the show makes sense only to a certain extent. I know if there was a show dedicated to the lifestyles of Africans in America, I would be one of their most dedicated audience members. But if the show only addresses demeaning stereotypes or the casts weren’t Africans but just professional actors, I wouldn’t be found anywhere close to the TV set when the show is on. My point being that the only thing the author has in common with the casts of the show is that they are Lesbians. Their lifestyle is in no other way similar to hers. All in all, it is a step forward to recognize all the members of our society regardless of sexual preferences. The fact that many people watch it may not be that is a groundbreaking show, but that is gives a voice to an underrepresented culture in our community. Shows like the L word would pave way for more shows that appeal directly to the gay community, just like there are shows that directly appeal to the African-American community, the Hispanic community, and even the Caucasian community. When I was young and back in Nigeria, we knew nothing about homosexuality. All me and my friends wanted was just to get the attention of the girls. But when I came to the United States, I was shocked to see same sex obsession. I couldn’t figure out how people could end up being gay but the fact that this society condones it and is even making money from it is quite commendable. I guess the dollar bill has no cultural boundaries. If the show looses its ratings and advertisers, trust me, the show will be cancelled even though there are protests from several Lesbian Rights groups.

  • Corey Pemberton

    Broadcasting companies have become increasingly focused on narrowcasting their programs to very specific audiences. The creation of The L Word is a result of the natural diversification in television today. It is about time to address the lesbian lifestyle in a program; it could only be swept under the rug for so long. The creation of The L Word is an admirable event, if the show’s creator had created it for the right reasons. It is a positive thing that this show deals with real lesbian issues instead of petty, superficial escapades so prevalent in television programs today. On the other hand, the show’s mostly white, upper class, attractive cast is a distored view of reality to say the least. These characters cannot accurately represent the reality of lesbian culture, even if they undergo the same issues as real lesbians do. It seems like The L Word’s creator made this show for the wrong reason. This program was made to make money, and appeal to a particular demographic. Although The L Word offers exposure to real lesbian issues, its unaverage cast serves as eye candy living in a false reality. In this consumer-driven market, it is probably too much to ask for a totally accurate portrayal of reality. The show Average Joe based its program on the fact that the contestants were just “normal guys”, but even then they were put under extraordinary circumstances and the woman on the show was a model, no way near average. The fact is that people watch television to escape reality; they want to be entertained, and they will not let any distractions get in the way. It is great that the lesbian culture has this new exposure offered from The L Word, but lesbians will have to wait for a more accurate portrayal in the future to help them in their quest for social acceptance into American culture.

  • Kristyn Barnett

    I agree with the article written by John Rose. I do feel that the “homosexual revolution” will be the next civil rights movement in the United States. Everyone should be treated equally. This group of individuals has been discriminated against for years. On the other hand, it really hasn’t been that long because only in the past few decades have most of these people come out of the closet, and admitted that they were gay. Credit should be given to shows like The L Word and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy for threading on forbidding ground and and recognizing the presence of lesbians and gay males in our society. Their stories help us accept them as human beings with real feelings and issues. Without shows likes these most Americans would not have the chance to understand and empathize with this group of people.

  • The L word sort of seems like Sex and the City for lesbians. Lesbians are being represented in a contemporary manner, and are depicted truthfully. Most shows, even today, place a stigma on homosexual relationships. Finally, there is a television show that more carefully represents lesbians. Many television shows display homosexuality as being a fad or an experimentation.

    However, not all of society will completely ever be pleased with what is shown. Some will be offened that they are not represented, but this is how television works. The media will show what sells and what is popular. And majority of the population, for some reason would rather watch reality tv than view another part of our culture.

    So the only solution to representing all homosexuals is to simply add more shows to the television lineup. It is hard to satisfy all viewers.

  • I can understand Jill Dolan when she says she finds herself being drawn into the story from simply identifying with the characters lives. This is an everyday norm for heterosexual audiences watching everyday mainstream television. The L Word has taken narrow casting to the next level by not only finding a hungry niche market but also addressing a sub-culture in a way other TV shows refuse today. Homosexuality is more often than not used by mainstream television during sweeps week when they need to catch people’s attention by promising a lesbian kiss. Shortly after this incident occurs instead of working through what has just happened the lesbian character is swiftly written off the show to avoid ruining the main characters life with such a complicated situation. The L Word instead explores this sub-culture to give viewers a glimpse into a world that is more of a realistic portrayal. For lesbian viewers it must be a breath of fresh air to watch their life choices played out on screen, and the choices that they wish they could make being made for them, just as heterosexual women do as they watch shows like Sex and the City. As for the argument of it not representing every lesbian in America, and more over just those that are attractive and in the norm looks wise, please point out any TV show that represents anyone but the glamorized version of society.

  • Alicia Sandoval

    I agree with Alissa’s comment. I find it interesting that the more our nation moves towards an anti-homosexual political agenda, the higher the audience demand for homosexual depictions on television. Perhaps it is to sate their curiousity with the shock factor displayed on shows such as “Queer as Folk” with such graphic sex scenes or the honest depcitions of, as the author writes, “lesbians forming each other through their interactions.” I know “Queer Eye” has a strong straight male following due to its “helpful hints” as one friend told me, showing men’s desire for the knowledge they feel only Carson and the gang can provide.

    As for the decision of such narrow represntations of appearance, race and income within the characters, I understand the intetntions to disprove the typical lesbian stereotypes portrayed on other television shows, even “Will & Grace”(ex. Jack asks Rosie O’Donnell’s character to “Say something lesbian”,to which she replies “Home Depot”).I know the Lword and many shows to come will help to inform all audiences as the trend continues to grow and become mroe than exactly that, a trend.

    As for the criticism that the program depicts only wealthy and beautiful chracters, this has become a staple for popular television. In a world where people watch as others give in to society’s demands as shown on reality television to become successful(The “Apprentice”) and beautiful(“The Swan”, “I want a famous face”), television will forever perpetuate and validate the screen friendly existence of these people until another purely intellectual comedy such as Seinfeld comes along, like Sneha Koorse mentioned.

  • Alethia McDaniel

    Even though Ive never seen this show, I feel as if I can completley identify with Jill Dolan in how she fels at one with this show. Its funny how when shows come out that seem to undermine what the status quo is every ” out group” has its chance to shine on television. I watch alot of television and from the shows I watch its very rare that I ever see a gay, lesbian, queer, etc, type couple. I also find it strange that media tends to group all of these identities, so far as sexual preference, or how you identifyyourselfinto one lump, which is being called”gay”. Yet, within the gay community there’s a variety of subcultures. The media tends to make the gay community, seem as if it were a monolithic society, you know as if their all the same, when they’re really not. I feel that lesbian women have fought so hard to just be accepted in society without the label of ” sexism” being stamped on their head. Many heterosxual women in the media already deal with this issue because thats how alot of women are portrayed any way.Ive realized that some men view lesbians as some type of sex toys, and eagerly await to see another women slob down her same sex, while they drool in ecstasy. What is that all about? These women really just wanted be treated and viewed as your regular everydayheterosexual couple.I also wanted to discuss how there is a certain representation of lesbian relationships played out on television.As discussed the characters look like dolls wich really doesnt surprise me because, when you’re in Hollywood everything is glamorized, even if its going against the status quo.

  • As I read the author’s statement that she clung to any lesbian images she could find,including negative ones, I was reminded of similar discussions we have had about blacks. We talked about the fact that, although many of the early shows starring blacks (like Amos n’ Andy or Beulah)were typically derogatory and extremely stereotypical, many blacks were just happy to be represented on TV at all. Although I agree that it is terrible to sterotype lesbians, or anyone else for that matter, I do think that TV has progressed in its effort to show diverse people and lifestyles. I also agree with the fact that one show should not be expected to encompass every single type of lesbian, gay, or queer…I don’t think there are ANY shows which show all aspects of a lifestyle, race, etc.

  • The L Word is a wonderful representation of a culture that has traditionally been looked down upon in the media. We are well overdue for programming that better represents different oppressed groups while at the same time striking back at the oppressor. For a long time now feminists have struggled to raise our cultures consciousness about the myths and inconsistencies present about lesbian life in today’s media. The L Word does just that and provides a sexy form of entertainment at the same time. Misrepresentation of homosexuals, as well any other minority group, is another form of oppression in society. The fact that the show doesn’t have complete diversity in its representation isn’t necessarily bad. The shows creators obviously had a particular structure for the show in mind and trying to squeeze in too much to please everyone can take away from the realistic aspect of the show. Instead, like the show does, its better incorporate other types throughout the progressing episodes. This show opens the door for many more of its type, and I don’t think it should be the responsibility of one program to include every accurate representation of all lesbian culture. In fact I think it’s impossible, therefore The L Word issues a challenge to other networks to step up in their programming and to help influence their viewers to be more open minded. There should be better representation of homosexuality, racial hybridity, racial coexistence, youth culture, and diversity in corporate America, as well as other things and from what Jill Dolan has shown me Television, although it has a long way to go, has taken one step closer to providing that type of diversified media. I do want to know what the key demographic of the show is and how they have responded to it so far.

  • Homophobia ravages this country and quite frankly disgusts me. I am neither queer nor homophobic. I have homosexual friends that I want to be happy and things like the Bush amendment seem morally wrong to me. So when shows come along that embrace the homosexual culture I can’t help but think that something in this country is changing. Queer Eye is a very good example of this. I feel that it is bringing on a slow change not by itself but in correlation with other movements of the homosexual community. I have never seen “The L Word” but after this article it has intrigued me to subscribe to Showtime. I hope that this show can provide a little insight to a homophobic nation as to what being homosexual is truly about.

  • Caitlin Thornton

    The Burden of Beauty

    Despite the show’s less than 100% believable representation of average lesbian life, I’m glad there’s a show that attempts to build with a degree of depth at least aspects of lesbian life, rather than just trying to represent the whole thing in an issue episode on an otherwise ‘mainstream’ show. It’s also a credit to the show that it displays a host of lesbian talent, with the chosen music and the people working behind the camera. I’ve never seen this show, but when I’ve walked through the videostore and seen previous seasons on the shelf (obviously The L Word has maintained some level of mainstream success if it’s lucrative for Hollywood Video), I’ve often been a little angry or sort of laughed. The beautiful women on the dvd covers seemed to be feeding into the ‘accepted’ lesbianism; the lesbian fantasy of straight men. And it seems unfair to me that some of the only women for lesbians to identify with in pop-culture are so high up on the looks and lifestyle bar. However, after reading Jill Dolan’s article I am a little reassured. I hadn’t considered that lesbians might actually enjoy some eye candy too. I do feel that the show is trying to market itself to as broad an audience as possible with the selection of such beautiful actresses, but is it really guilty of any more than any other show on television? Is anyone you see on tv in appearance like you and I? Since the show is one of so few (perhaps the only) shows trying to represent lesbians, the burden of representation is great. In that light, it should take care not to exploit the women it is trying to represent.

  • Jill Dolan’s article shows how immediate of someone can relate to television. However, The L word represents a different type of story in relation of the queer community. Although I agree with Jill that the cast does seem to follow a trend of being thin, fashionable, and of an upper-class status I do believe it ignores some of the styles, or “lifestyles” that many queer women may lead. The reference to having a kinship which goes beyond blood exemplifies the reality of love. Alex uses string and push-pins to thread together characters and who’ve they slept way to show that everyone is connected in some from or their other. The idea of the L word cast being a family allows queers to feel at home with their friends, and makes the cast a relatable one. Unlike “Sex in the City”, it went beyond friendship and brought up many issues which Jill mentions, such as adoption, and when kid falls in love Ivan.Although each character is formed to fit the stylistic ideology of a “queer” on television, the personality of each character is more prevalent. It seems as if everyone and anyone could relate to at least one of the main characters, or even guest characters. This shows that although one has a sense of self, and their placement in society–there is always someone of different to relate to, despite race, class, or sexuality. I believe the L-word is a well produced of show of Lesbians, because it brings them into a space among our community who live in our heterosexual dominated community. The L-word continually brings in characters and situations that most queers can relate to, which is why it’s such a deserving sitcom.

  • I do agree with the author of this article in the fact that the L-Word can portray accurate representations of lesbian desires, struggles, and particular aspects of the subculture. Although I enjoy the show for a number of reasons, I still find it troubling that the group of lesbians represented is generally shown living comfortable, upper class lifestyles in positions of privilege that many other lesbians do not have. First, the lesbians featured are all highly fashionable, thin, and have successful careers, all of which requires political, social, and economic agency as well as financial stability. Not all lesbians can afford to live such lifestyles nor are they given the opportunities to do so. Since these lesbians are all thin, fashionable, and still highly embody tropes of femininity, the show portrays an exclusive group of lesbians which ultimately serves to divide lesbian communities into further categorization with specific aspects of acceptability By having the characters be successfully established in their careers and community, the show does not explore in depth the structural reasons of why other lesbians may not be received with such acceptance or have such agency. The show also does not explicitly address the controversial issue of gay rights and the conservative policy making that is currently limiting the lives of queer citizens. In other words, the show does not seem to elicit impassioned opinions of opposition to the dominant social discourse that portrays people who identify as queer, transgender, etc. as “others.” Although the show does include the controversy of same-sex adoptions it does not serve to express the urgency of queer issues and the need to eliminate stereotypes and open up dialogues with citizens outside the queer community to form a more solidified movement for social change.

  • me encanta esta series, la vida es asi…son muy valientes al salir a la sociedad como enrealidad son

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *