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The L Word (Part 1)


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Old 27-01-2004, 01:18   #1
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The L Word (Part 1)

Does The L Word Represent? Viewer Reactions Vary on the Premiere Episode
Malinda Lo, January 2004


For many of us, last Sunday night’s premiere of Showtime’s The L Word was a significant event: never before has there been an entire television drama about the lives of a group of lesbian and bisexual friends.

It was like the Lesbian Super Bowl as women across the country gathered together in living rooms and online to watch the show and talk about it afterwards. While the ratings for the premiere have not yet been disclosed, message boards and search engines have been flooded with requests for more information on the series and its cast since Sunday, and so many more people than expected logged onto Showtime's chat with Jennifer Beals immediately following the premiere that Showtime's servers crashed.

To celebrate this event, I invited a group of my own lesbian and bisexual friends to watch the show with me in my San Francisco apartment, and their reactions echoed many of the views posted in the last few days on L Word message boards across the internet: there was some good, some bad, and some very ugly.

The Good: Lesbian Insider Information

We all loved Marina (Karina Lombard). She was unexpectedly, unmistakably sexy, and we watched her sophisticated moves on an unsuspecting Jenny (Mia Kirshner) with fascination (and some of us were even taking notes). Not that we didn’t appreciate Shane (Katherine Moennig)—who has been positioned as the “resident heartthrob”--but there was almost universal agreement that Marina far outstripped her in sex appeal.

We also loved the bored comment Alice (Leisha Hailey) made to her friend Dana (Erin Daniels) in the lesbian bar: “it’s the same boring faces night after night.” Even in San Francisco, a town that could have “Gay Mecca” as its nick name, we do see the same girls all the time. Alice’s charting of her group of friends’ sex lives had us laughing as well; seeing such an open secret of lesbian life on television made the show feel especially authentic.

To top it all off, we loved the lesbian sex—it was convincing, and it was hot. As my friend Dawn said, “That was the first time I’ve seen a lesbian-on-lesbian thing on television where it wasn’t all filmy. There wasn’t a sheer curtain in front.” Essentially, the dialogue and imagery included enough lesbian "insider" information for us to feel like we could recognize ourselves in the show—something that is certainly a significant step forward in representations of lesbians and bisexual women in the media.

The Bad: "Bush Confidence" and Shane's Appearance

Unfortunately, there were also some bizarre missteps in the writing that made some of us question whether the writers really were lesbians. The discussions about bush confidence, butt waxing, and nipple confidence seemed strange at best, and ludicrous at worst.

Perhaps LA lesbians wax their butts (TMI, anyone?), but nobody talks about “bush confidence.” These phrases smacked of an effort to avoid saying gender-bending things like “Shane has balls.” Maybe we’re lesbians and sometimes we like to spell “women” with a Y, but we speak English too.

While we’re on the subject of Shane, what was up with her hair, and that weird leather outfit at the end? If the producers of the show are reading this, please give Shane a makeover. Maybe not this season, since apparently shooting has already wrapped, but if the show is picked up for a second season, take a hint: she looked ridiculous in that leather outfit that showed off every last bone in her back, and her hair constantly looked like it had been recently electrocuted.

The Ugly: Too Many Straight Men

Like many viewers who posted their thoughts online, my friends and I felt that the inclusion of men in numerous sex scenes—from the man jacking off behind the screen at the start of the show to the truly unfortunate threesome—pandered to a straight male audience and was outright offensive to lesbian viewers. As a viewer nicknamed "kasademon" posted on the Showtime message boards, “it is trendy to be a lesbian now, but I am offended by the blatant hetero involvement throughout the show.”

The low point of the show was arguably the threesome scene with Bette (Jennifer Beals), Tina (Laurel Holloman), and the random straight man they picked up at the art show. After Bette and Tina’s emotional discussion about the difficulties that a mixed-race child with two lesbian mothers would face, the threesome felt like a 180-degree turn into straight porn. In addition, the fact that two lesbians living in West Hollywood would willingly have unprotected sex with a strange man seemed extremely stupid. Bette and Tina would be fully aware of the dangers of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, and we found it ludicrous that they would subject themselves and their baby to that risk.

As "MizTiaa" on the Television Without Pity message board stated, “I cannot believe that in this day and age anyone would be so deplorably stupid as to have unsafe sex with a stranger in order to get pregnant. I was absolutely floored by the unbelievable stupidity of it, not to mention insulted and downright disgusted.”

Focusing a major portion of The L Word on a lesbian pregnancy storyline has a high potential for disaster simply because it is such an overdone theme. The issues of race that were raised in the premiere demonstrate that The L Word can go in a different and thoughtful direction, but the threesome scene, as well as the flippant way in which many of the characters discussed finding sperm donors (hello, has anyone heard of a sperm bank?), was not a step in the right direction.

Gender and Representation: The Butch/Femme Debate

Many lesbian and bisexual viewers of Sunday night’s premiere found it problematic that the cast of The L Word was 100% femme (in appearance, at least). Discussions on message boards across the internet were heated and often judgmental, with some viewers claiming that the show was totally unrepresentative because there were no butch characters, and other viewers arguing that it was a positive move away from the stereotype of the flannel-wearing mannish lesbian.

What these discussions boil down to is not whether The L Word represents all lesbians—it simply cannot do that, being a 13-episode Showtime television drama—but whether The L Word is willing to engage with issues of gender. Sara, one of my guests on Sunday night, summed it up by saying, “They’re willing to talk about sexual orientation but not about gender. They clearly did not want to blur any gender lines.”

Gender, as many of you know, is not the same as biological sex (e.g., male or female); it is a collection of social behaviors that construct what we understand to be a “man” or a “woman.” Many lesbians manipulate gender by dressing in men’s clothing, moving in a masculine way, or reappropriating terms traditionally used to describe men (such as “Shane has balls”) to describe women. Using gender to serve your own needs rather than allowing gender to put you in a box can be extremely empowering, and it is a form of resistance to mainstream social norms that lesbians have been enacting for hundreds of years.

Is it surprising that The L Word features only feminine lesbians who could "pass" as straight? Of course not. It is not only a Hollywood television show made to be palatable to all viewers—including straight viewers who would probably not be comfortable with images of butch-femme relationships—it is also set in West Hollywood, a neighborhood in which, as many of my friends have put it, even the butches wear lipstick.

It is also very important to remember that lesbians who pass as straight women are still lesbians. As "monkeee18aol" noted on the Showtime boards, “There are those of us who like wearing some makeup, dressing up sometime, have long hair, like being feminine and love feminine looking women. We may not ride Harleys, wear tattoos and ties, and work on our own cars but we are very much lesbian women.”

So it is understandable that The L Word does not feature any butch lesbians in its cast, and it is still quite significant that there is a drama about lesbians at all. But (and this is a big but) failing to include even one butch woman on the show is blatantly unrealistic. It’s like making a fruit salad but only using apples, because your guests would be uncomfortable with eating oranges. Yes, apples are still fruit, but they are not the only fruit—and oranges can be just as sweet.

Let’s hope that in future episodes, the writers and producers of The L Word will be able to include a butch woman or even an androgynous, Jenny Shimizu-like one. What better way to combat stereotypical images of flannel-wearing, frumpy butch dykes than to include some sexy, sophisticated butches who have fashion sense? Believe me: they exist—I see them all the time in San Francisco. I’m sure we’d be happy to import some to LA to star in The L Word. ...

You can read the rest of the article at afterellen.com

I think that the show is the best thing I've ever seen in my life! I'm gay, and I've never seen such good representaions of lesbians. (I feel sorry for all thoes not in the U.S., you all will have to wait.)
 
Old 27-01-2004, 04:58   #2
jENytATy jENytATy is offline
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I'm in the US, however I do not have cable.. nor TV for that matter As a result, I too have to wait until they hopefully make a DVD out of the first season.

But I'm getting by by looking at screencaps and reading transcript of the episodes. Better than nothing
 
Old 28-01-2004, 00:16   #3
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jENytATy

pm me. I made a tape.
 
Old 29-01-2004, 19:00   #4
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the second episode was way better than the first [lotsss of sex], it's very witty and portrays relationships between women realistically IMO, atleast to a degree. it's not made by men for men and that is great, gives me hope for love

"Girls are straight...until they're not." LMAOOOO
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Old 29-01-2004, 19:49   #5
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I liked the second ep better than the first just because it was funnier! Like when Dana got squirted by the Alice, or the Lara Perkins mission, or the way Dana thinks it's Soup Cheif! LMAO. I heard that the third ep is going to be a riot!

So, who is everyone's fav. and why?
I like Alice. The way she's able to say whatever is on her mind is great! Plus, I think she has this small thing for Dana.
Dana: Maybe she's a different kind of lesbian.
Alice: yeah the straight kind.

Last edited by Dees; 29-01-2004 at 20:19.
 
Old 29-01-2004, 23:04   #6
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I really enjoyed both episodes, but I also feel the second was better than the first. While a series premiere can be most excellent, it is still a series premiere. The further a season goes and the cast, writers, and crew all begin to relate to the characters, the style, what and how the stories should be told, and one another, the better for the viewer. There was undeniable chemistry between the cast in the premiere and it only deepened in the second episode, especially with the *gaydar* mission. While it is wonderful that lesbian and bi relationships have an opportunity to be portrayed on US TV, I really found myself loving the friendship between these women.

Anyway, as far as my fave character, I(and my gf) am most definitely a Dana fan. In general, I like all of them but there is just this brilliant energy I see in this character and the actress, Erin Daniels. In some ways, I sooooo relate to her. Her awkwardly delightful innocent yearning mixed with a smart-ass defense mechanism is most appealing. Oh, and I absolutely ADORED the little smile after the locker room kiss. So cute!

I cannot wait for the next ep!
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Old 30-01-2004, 00:51   #7
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jennifer <=== da fave [also played a role on 24 where she had a gf ]
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Old 30-01-2004, 19:08   #8
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The L Word picked up for 2nd season!

http://www.viacom.com/press.tin?ixPressRelease=80254176
Quote:
The pick-up represents the fastest renewal in the premium network’s history, following its debut 11 days ago on January 18, 2004.
Quote:
the decision to renew THE L WORD was a no-brainer.’
Quote:
The first two episodes generated four times the Showtime prime-time average rating,
 
Old 02-02-2004, 12:12   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by Lux
jennifer <=== da fave [also played a role on 24 where she had a gf ]
Mia Kirshner is so sexy!

Can't wait to see it when it premiers in Australia.

Rhapsody
 
Old 02-02-2004, 13:10   #10
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I think it's an amazing show. I liked the pilot, though it had some flaws, but I can ignore those out of sheer happiness to finally see a TV show dedicated to the lives of lesbians and bisexual women. And such amazing actresses, too.

The second episode was better, I agree, and that whole gaydar thing had me rolling laughing on the floor... My favourite character so far is Bette (Jennifer Beals). Oh, and it took me a while to finally recognize the actress who plays Tina - that little smile seemed so familiar, then I realized she once played Randy in The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love...

xena225
 
Old 02-02-2004, 15:04   #11
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Third episode

It was way too short! I wish they would have shown more between Dana and Lara! 45mins it too short. Anyway, I think that everything in the third episode was so random. They skipped around alot. My favorite part was when Alice was breaking up with Gabby .... "Step off B#$ch!" LMAO! and "Cold in the streets. Hot in the sheets!" I wish Gabby could have been more nice! They looked good together.
And could Dana get any funnier! ""No, I'm not going to have sex with her tonight, it's our first date!" And the whole "Sun dress" Thing was cute. I'm upset that they didn't show any of the date between Lara and Dana though. But, when you look at it, this episode was NOTHING compaired with the preview that showed whats to come! The one thing that's burned into my mind is Shane hooking up with Alice's mom! Someone said that her mom was a MILF. LMAO. And, what about Marina's girlfriend? What's to happen to Jenny, and Dana ... Comming out to her parents!!!! Woa!!! Well, I think the next few episodes will be ALOT better than what we have seen so far.
 
Old 02-02-2004, 15:50   #12
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I thought the thing between Bette and Peggy was weird!

Bette is chatting with Peggy, the older gal who was a Lesbian in 1974, or so she says. Bette is there because she is desperate to get the Provocation line displayed. Then, they start talking, Bette's blouse is a open a bit low, she has kicked her shoes off, having a drink, curled up on this lady's sofa. The the peggy wants to show her something and Bette cries when she sees the canvas. They definitely shared an intellectually intimate moment. A bit weird if you ask me!
 
Old 02-02-2004, 16:42   #13
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All you don't have to wait for the TV show =D

http://www.l-word.com/videos/index.html
or
I prefer Jenny by the way cos she is gorgeous

Last edited by skye; 10-02-2004 at 16:16.
 
Old 02-02-2004, 16:48   #14
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Thanks Skye!!!!
 
Old 02-02-2004, 17:00   #15
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with some more information http://www.afterellen.com/TV/thelword-news.html
 
Old 05-02-2004, 21:22   #16
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skye

Thanks for the clips. Dana is such a dork! Although, if my friends told me not to wear a sun dress I wouldn't. I don't like dresses anyway! LOL
 
Old 08-02-2004, 08:05   #17
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So can I ask who your favourite characters are so far?

My favourite so far is definitely Bette, followed closely by Dana and Shane.

xena225
 
Old 09-02-2004, 13:44   #18
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Last nights ep.

Was great! I fell out three times! When Dana told about her "thing" with Lara ... didn't see that comming ...., when Lara shows up with the rose, and when Alice walks in on Jen and Marina! This show just keeps getting better and better. I LOVE Dana. She's so cute.


Alice: Well how did you leave it?
Dana: I left with out saying anything.
Alice: From your own apartment...??

alice in teh car honking her horn
FU#&ING FU*$ER.... classic.. that is EXACTLY what I scream in my car hahahaha

Last edited by Stop it!; 09-02-2004 at 13:55.
 
Old 28-02-2004, 05:31   #19
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mmmmmm shane is the best. love her !
 
Old 01-03-2004, 22:36   #20
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Last night was Soooo good! So many things .... Marina's dancing ... Shane's smile ... Bette and Tina's dancing and the "intervention" and the baby soul serimony ... Alice and Lisa's toy (LMAO) too funny ... Jenny finaly getting a bath ... And heartbreaking Dana and Lara, not to mention "I want to be the GAY ANACORNACOVA!" LoL.
I actually got misty eyed when Dana was talking to Lara. Erin does such a good job at portraying emotions. I can't wait for the first season to come out on DVD.
 
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