The Way That We Live

This has been a long time coming. The L Word ended in 2009, so it has in fact taken me about 1,000 rewatches to get here, I wish I was exaggerating. The L Word fucked us all up. Whether it was creating grossly inaccurate expectations for living, to grossly inaccurate portrayals of how to relationship. We all walked away from the L Word thinking that we could cheat, lie, do all the drugs, and somehow live in gorgeous duds in LA with girlfriends and best friends who would love us anyway. Which ok, everything in moderation; but The L Word was everything in extreme excess. And yes, that is what t.v is for, except so much of The L Word felt real. It wasn’t so much like watching fantasy, for a young lesbian it was watching what could be. Which is why, it fucked us all so hard. Let’s explore how, character by character, The L Word totally screwed us all.

Bette – Let us start with the matriarch. Bette was The power dyke. Educated, strong willed, cultured, independent, fiercely loyal, and wealthy. In many ways she was a total inspiration, and someone not only to look up to, but aspire to be. But lord was she a tyrannical mess.

Masculinity and Double Standards – As we see often in life and on The L Word, “masculinity” is often used as a free pass to be, for lack of a better word: a jackass. As the main breadwinner in the house for years, and the one who did not carry Angelica, Bette was written as the “man”. Take for example when Tina was caught cheating, the world ended, she was ostracized from her friend group and seen as a confused bisexual who just couldn’t seem to make up her mind about her sexuality. Bette least we all forget was a serial cheater, and was allowed to be just that. She was allowed to throw tantrums when Tina challenged her power or questioned their relationship, but allowed Tina no such space. Granted Tina was far from perfect (we’ll get to that), but if we were to assess the one who had the most strikes in their relationship, in my opinion it would be Bette. Bette’s unwillingness to meet Tina on equal levels is on par with many heteronormative relationship structures. Tina should of course not be pardoned for her cheating, but it should be noted that when Tina strayed, it was for love, while when Bette did, it was for power; she fucked her TA for gods sake. Bette was always allowed the space to excel at work, even when she was fired she ended up on top. With the series ending with the viewer knowing she had a job waiting for her in New York. Bette was always wanted, where as Tina was constantly punished for being a strong femme.

Mixed race – So I really have never understood this aspect of Bette’s character. Mainly because the only time Bette ever felt the need to state that she was mixed, was when she was up against a wall. Being POC was never a full part of Bette’s life. It was a tool she used when all other tools were too weak to help her win an argument. It also linked her to the extremely problematic mess of a character that was Kit. That these two possibly grew up knowing each other seems like the most ridiculous stretch in the history of character plot lines. Kit’s world is one of Black stereotypes; while Bette’s is of higher education and elitism.

Responsibility and Accountability –  Lol. Much like a white male of privilege, Bette never seemed to be held accountable for her actions. I am a firm believer that she killed Jenny. She saw someone who was going to challenge the perfect life she had finally been able to create. A job, a wife, and a child. There was no way she was going to allow anyone, never mind a powerful femme to destroy that. She did what she had to do, and felt no remorse for it, because this is Bette’s world, and the sooner you understand that the easier it will be for all of us.

Jenny – Is apparently the shows main character, which is funny because usually the main character of a show is the most likeable. This is a good place to say that if you are a Jenny apologizer, you will not like one word I have to say about her, and should probably bypass this character assessment cuz like I hate her. Where to begin.

Self Centered – GOD HAVE YOU EVER ENCOUNTERED SOMEONE AS SELF ABSORBED AS JENNY SCHECTER? If you have I am terribly sorry for both you and your therapist. It is safe to say that everyone in Jenny’s life was there for her entertainment. And solely for her entertainment. In essentially every relationship Jenny is in, it is for her benefit or amusement. Funny how she admits her love for Shane, when every other person in her life has finally had enough of her. Jenny needs to be needed. Max was a fun project when they first met. Maura was new, she was different, and she needed guidance, much like all of Jenny’s lovers. Jenny wanted to date those she could sculpt and mold, because honestly if your life was together why the holy fuck would you date her? Nicki was a young and naive actress, trying to figure out her sexuality and where her power in this world lay. Shane, well Shane never grew past being a puppy. And the poor vet she dated. Jesus where to even begin with that storyline – Jenny killed a dog in order to get back at the author of a bad review. She killed. A dog. And then proceeded to string someone along who was feeling vulnerable and unloved in her relationship. Which leads right into her other biggest flaw:

Narcissist – There was literally nothing Jenny would not do to come out on top. From dog murder, to stealing the film of her movie, to screwing over every single one of her “best friends” in the last season. And the thing is, the reason it is so easy for me to outright and fully hate Schecter, is that she shows absolutely no remorse for her actions. None. Her last thought before death was probably: No great artist saw success during their lives. In death, I will become infamous.

Sexual Assault – The L Word handled Jenny’s childhood and sexual abuse, in the most confusing and matter of fact way. While it never specifically victim blamed, it did allude that because of her past Jenny was now this insanely fucked up human. There was no space for conversation, because we were shown her abuse in an almost fairytale like way. Other than flashback scenes, Jenny never addresses what happened to her, and how or why it has shaped the human she is. Much like with so many other important topics, the writers dropped the ball on what could have been an eye opening discussion on what sexual abuse during childhood continues to do to adults. By presenting her abuse in such a fantastical way the viewer never got the seriousness of how powerful and life changing sexual assault is. You instead saw a manic pixie dream girl with no concrete understanding of how much her assault shaped her life.

Shane – Where to even begin. Where oh where to even begin. I personally blame Shane’s character for creating a generation of non dateable humans. The L Word, was all many of us had. No other t.v. show or movie depicted LGBTQ life the way that The L Word did. These people seemed like they could be our friends, they seemed like who we wanted to grow up to be. Shane made a generation of lesbians and trans men into walking fuckable yet detached douche bags.

Past – Shane had a rough childhood. She went through foster care, and the system, and therefore did was she had to do to survive. Shane’s teenage years are probably the most relatable to many LGBTQ youth growing up today. Kicked out of their houses for who they are, and forced to grow up much too fast. Unfortunately Shane came out of all of that a sociopath. An often funny and loveable sociopath, but a sociopath all the same. The writers also never showed how Shane was able to escape the streets. All of a sudden you see a human who is admired by all, with a job, money, and women literally dropping their panties for her.

Relationships – Da worst. God, Shane you are the worst. The actual absolute worst. Shane was always dependant on her looks to get essentially everywhere and anywhere. While fucked up, Molly is the only person who points out that Shane basically has nothing to offer. Now it is of course insanely fucked up not to note that of course Shane lacked a strong educational background due to the fact Shane grew up devoid of the privilege. This is yet another area where the writers could have done so much more. What an amazing space to start the conversation about the lack of resources and education those in foster care have to deal with. So what the viewer is left with, is that someone who grew up tough is given the allowance to be a vacant partner, who is rightfully allowed to leave when things get too tough, because poor Shane.

Style – I blame you for my teenage bangs Shane. I. Blame. You.

Alice – A character that started extremely rough around the edges, led to being one of my favorite characters on the show. While she had her flaws, she was one of the only characters that actually felt human.

Bisexuality – The writers killed sexuality on many different occasions. With many characters, on the show that strayed from being lesbians their other “tastes” where either made fun of, villainized, or treated as phases. Alice was probably the most experimental of all cast members and stuck by her choices, even mistakes, strongly. Her because flaw came from the transphobia she directed towards Max. She speaks out against him being a part of Our Chart, only to then shoot a podcast with him apologizing. The problem is, the way this scene is shot makes the entire thing seem more like comedy than a genuine apology. For those who don’t remember, Alice invites Max to a sit down at The Planet, which she has Shane videotape. While a very serious dialogue is going on between her and Max, a very horny Shane uses the time behind camera to zoom in on various women at The Planet. What the viewer than see’s is a butch lesbian obsessing over female bodies, while a bisexual and a trans man discuss how they fit or don’t fit into lesbian spaces. Their voices are in the distance, why Shane’s antics are front and center, ruining what could have been a groundbreaking conversation.

Carmen – It’s funny, while Carmen will always stand out in my mind, she really wasn’t around for that long, and her character really was not super developed. Yes she was Shane’s partner, and yes for a hot second she was fucking Jenny. But we never really got a taste of who Carmen was. She was a piece of many pieces Shane would devour and dispose of.

Latina – The two (and maybe only) Latin American women on The L Word were stereotypes. Carmen was a beautiful, sassy, and domestic woman. Papi was a working class player. Neither was given much substance, while both were highly sexual, and essentially nothing more than bodies. Interestingly enough, while Papis stay on the show was shorter, I feel like we were given a bigger window into her character. She was introduced as a player, but after meeting Kit saw the possibility of partnership. Carmen always just felt like Shane’s hot girlfriend.

Femme – What the writers lacked in giving Carmen a true personality, they made up for by making her bat shit crazy. Shane is a monumental asshole of a cheating douche bag. Dating her would make you crazy. We got to see Carmen freak out at the thought that the person she wanted to spend the rest of her life with, was actually just loving her until she found someone better. Shane’s actions and Shane’s cheating were never really shown in the correct light. That light being, when you constantly fuck someone over, they usually get sick of you. Instead Carmen chose to go down the path of marriage. Everyone woman that entered Shane’s life set out to “change” her, and after Shane fucked up time and time again, the writers wrote these women to be CRAZY FEMMES. Shane always was presented in a fairly calm manner. Artistic even. While these women suffered at the hands of heteronormative limiting stereotypes.

Tina – Tina kind of makes me think of watching paint dry. She was second fiddle to Bette, and therefore had to be written as the whiny wife. She seemed to always just be waiting around for Bette to get her shit together. She was less patient than the women who entered Shane’s life. Bette was given ultimatums, and made to suffer numerous times.

Kit – Ugh. Why write a Black character if you aren’t willing to WRITE a Black character. Very similar to Max, Kit’s character failed miserably. She remained likeable throughout the entire series, and funny enough was one of the only characters to take Max’s transition seriously and with compassion.

Race – Dynamite! Oh Kit must be entering a scene. If there was 1970’s slang being heard, there most be a Black woman entering the pristinely white world of The L Word, I am not sure on what planet we were supposed to imagine Bette and Kit being sisters, but ok sure. Bette somehow got all of the benefits of being a white passing woman, while Kit struggled with: alcoholism, sexuality, cheating, abortion, menopause, a homophobic son, people constantly trying to ruin her business, falling in love with a drag queen, god what am I missing? While kudos I guess, to the writers for making her a successful businesswoman, all of the snarls for making her seem like an extra from What’s Happening. What’s interesting is Illene Chaiken The L Word’s creator, wrote The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and now writes Empire. She constantly writes Black roles, and for anyone that has watched Empire, writes them really fucking well. How unfortunate that Kit was not given the same treatment.

Max – Max was the FIRST trans person I had ever seen on television. And for years, the only. Too bad The L Word completely and utterly destroyed him. I could probably write an entire novel on how badly Max’s character was written, because honestly there were just so many cringe worthy moments.

Gender and Sexuality – There was never any time taken to talk about the differences between gender and sexuality, which becomes extremely dangerous when you have a trans character who first appears as a lesbian and then starts taking T and becomes attracted to men. And then becomes pregnant?!? It is 100% true that some trans men chose to carry babies, but without any form of background Max’s character becomes a circus act. For most of Max’s early screen time we have to hear Jenny bitch about how hard it is for her to be with someone who is transitioning. Which yes, of course, any huge life change that your partner goes through is going to affect you, but this is Jenny, so all attention and compassion is lost for Max. The viewer is forced to feel bad for her. Which honestly is harder than chewing on a bottle of broken glass under the boat slip in P-Town. While pregnant Max is presented as what I can literally only describe as an angry caveman. The viewer is not drawn to feeling sympathy for him, but instead is looking at a disheveled, angry, and whiny gay man. His relationship with Tom is violent and abusive. Again, as it did many times beforehand The L Word presents men in an unsatisfactory light. Please for a second sit back and tell me if you can name one man in the shows history who is shown in a celebratory manner. I’ll wait.

Work – The writers did address how at risk trans people are, to being fired at their bosses free will. This is probably the only good thing we are shown when it comes to Max. He deals with his boss and douchebag coworkers to his best ability, and leaves admirably. Unfortunately his life then begins to spin out of control.

*You will note that I left out a few characters:

Helena – While I loved Helena, her character is pretty much filler. She’s great and sexy, and has a completely un-relatable life. She is perfect for entertainment value. I like to think that she got rid of Dylan real quick and is back on an island with Dusty.

Ivan – Ivan clearly was on his way to transitioning, but the writers clearly were not ready to write for him. I like to think that he showed up at The Planet one day and whisked Kit away.

Jody – Probably the only person who gave Bette a run for her money. She also showed that someone with a disability was just as capable, fucked up, and brilliant as anyone else.

Dana and Tasha – Are both perfect humans and should only be referred to as such.

The L Word, shaped an entire generation of LGBTQ humans. For better or for worse it has become an intrinsic part of many of us. While flawed in many ways, it does live on as a groundbreaking show that can still be watched with the same esteem and emotion as when it first aired. That emotion mainly being:

Fuck Jenny.

tv_the_l_word30

Advertisements

The Shane Complex

Every so often I do what every lesbian under the age of 45 does (no not go cruising at Cubby Hole). I watch a few hours (entire season) of The L Word. And as I’ve gotten older, and dated more I’ve come to the conclusion that almost every girl I’ve ever encountered bears a startling resemblance to a character on The L Word. No character has been seen more in the non fiction world than Shane.

I’ve decided to call this The Shane Complex. Shane Syndrome, Hot Mess, The Asshole Mantra, and Cold Hearted but Not So Cold Hot Heart Breaking Will Leave You in Shambles Disaster, were other working titles. Shane McCutcheon is the reason why so many lesbians think it’s ok to act like fucking children when it comes to dating. The Shane Complex is also responsible for a league of I Will Tolerate and Save You lesbians to emerge. They love their Shane’s. They allow them to keep on keeping on.

Assholes will be assholes. Assholes will always have girls in line to fuck them or a girlfriend, whichever they prefer. Assholes at least in the lesbian community are hot. Because they are confident, they aren’t worried about getting hurt, they are carefree and fuck obsessed. They are players and they love the game, because simply put they will always find Carmen’s, Paige’s, and (wince) Jenny’s. Girls (who aren’t Shane’s are maternal. They want to take care of something, of someone, enter good old fuck up The Shane.

There are more gays on tv than ever before. But as far as lesbians go our TV role models fucking suck. Almost every more masculine lesbian, queer, boi etc has had a fucked up past. Growing up I looked at Shane as someone who had been through it all, yet still landed on her feet with awesome friends and really really hot fucking girls. Yeah she crashed hard sometimes (that whole BMW Sherry Gaffe binge) but seriously girl was usually a ok. All of her problems were self made look at is this way: Shane is a fuck up. Shane knows she’s a fuck up. Shane still gets what she wants whilst still being a fuck up. Shane sees no need to change.

I am not a “femme” or “lipstick” or “power bottom” lesbian. I can’t pretend to know what their struggles are like I only know what mine have been like. Being gender queer or any form of visually male representation will get you in some trouble in the heternormative world. Girls are supposed to dress as such. So even if you are a big old lesbian as long as you’re in a dress lea just say you get to avoid a few issues. Now because of all of the shit I hear, have heard, and still hear I have a tendency to get a bit of an I don’t give a fuck attitude. This attitude crosses into many facets of my life. You see anger will show itself in many different ways. I can’t generalize but I would say that as a whole my trans, queer, and more tomboy looking friends have dealt with a lot and so no matter what smile is on their face when they’re at the bar trying to figure out who they haven’t fucked deep down they are going through some shit. Shit that 9 out of 10 of them aren’t planning on dealing with anytime soon, so to any new female suitor that comes along, well…sorry.

Shane was our role model growing up. Think about what every girl fell in love with about Shane on The L Word. We all try to embody that. Sweet, but ultimately unloveable, yet you will (for some reason) love this person more than anyone you ever have, possibly ever will. The Shane trap.

Shane never really had to face the person she was. You would see glimmers of hope, like when she got all Dad like with Paige and her brother but one reoccurring theme always came back to haunt her “people always let you down.” Which yes is true kind of, except Shane pretty much always had something to do with the letting down. Karma will also always, inevitably come back to get you. The Shane Punishment.

There is something about a puppy that will draw ridiculous amounts of attention. No, not just the fact that it’s cute, but because it needs you. Who doesn’t like to feel needed? A Shane resembles a puppy at first. But unlike puppies, who grow up into equally as needy dogs Shane’s stay puppies who well, become reptiles. An animal who will depend on you for food but otherwise remain withdrawn and cold. (lesbians I just had to bite every inch of my tongue to not use a cat but I don’t want to hear about how lovely cats actually are so I went with a pet I know most of you don’t have or give a flying fuck about)

The L Word, love it or hate it, has shaped an entire generations way of thinking. None of the characters made as much of an impact on real life behavior like Shane has. We all hate Jenny Schecter because well she’s Jenny Schecter, but for some reason most of us are a ok with Shane. Yes we all will admit she’s a dick. But she’s charming, she can be sweet, and she exudes confidence that most people couldn’t even dream of carrying on them at all points in time. Shane represents the complexity of someone who you know has been through it all, will put you through it all, yet somehow something about them will make you fall in love. So what is Shane? Who are all of us who grew up in her shadow? Do we all need to grow the fuck up? Or because of the cards we were dealt have an infinite number of get out of jail free cards? Jenny got pushed off a balcony for being such a scum bag. (BY BETTE BY BETTE I DONT CARE WHAT YOU SAY IT WAS BETTE)

But the worst thing to happen to Shane? I mean her shop got burned down but like whatever, Shane always seemed to be able to pluck money off her magic money tree. We all grew up watching her slide right on by all the time. So why shouldn’t everyone try this lifestyle? Peter Pan (who was always played by an androgynous woman coincidence I think not) wanted to stay young forever. He snuck into Wendy’s room and asked her to come away with him. To a land of Lost Boys (Metropolitan) where there were pirates waiting (ex girlfriends) but regardless of their presence Peter Pan and his boys were going to get down and act like children for the rest of their goddamn lives. And Wendy? She goes home because she’s like Peter this was fun and you’re cute and all but this shit is cray cray.

So. Blame both Disney and Ilene Chaiken the next time you get stuck with Shane The Lost Boi -see what I did there?

Ilene This is Everything You Did Wrong

Ilene Chaiken you created the most legendary lesbian show of all time. The L Word is permanently cemented in all of our minds. Sometimes I go through my phone wanting to text Alice something and then remember…that she’s not real. But lez all be really honest here. The writing on The L Word kind of umm…sucked. The story lines were cray. The characters were unbelievable though we chose to believe they could actually be very real people (thank god Tina does not exist in my life). But what else has there ever been on t.v. that was written by us and was for us? The L Word was monumental. It still is. But Ilene it’s time someone told you. There are some things you really. Seriously. Fucked. Up.

1. Killing someone everyone already hated aka Jenny fucking Schector. I have actually never been happier.

2. Making a dick fuck like Shane seem like every lesbians dream & worst nightmare at the same time. Cut to now and every masculine lesbian having to hear time and time again: You’re like a total Shane right? Basically making being emotionally available…not a thing. And people being ok with it…yet constantly bitching about it…because well don’t we lesbians like to bitch? xo

3. KILLING DANA
This is probably actually totally thoroughly the worst thing that has ever happened on tv. EVER. I can’t even forgive you. Illene imma let you finish but everyone knows Alice and Dana had the best cable t.v. love story of all time.

4. Making me watch Tina have sex. Girl. You so wrong.

5. Making me watch Kit and Papi have sex. Girl. You dumb wrong.

6. Max.
The shitty as FUCK way you showed Max going through transitioning.
The fact that you got Max preggo with the worst homo alive’s baby.
The fact that you fucked up every single one of Max’s relationships.
The fact that UGH I COULD GO ON AND ON AND ON.
Way to bring a trans person onto t.v. and royally fuck it up. Royally.

7. Carmen never coming back.
Sarah Shahi is like Christmas. She must appear once a year.

8. Not tying up any lose ends. You can not just end a show where viewers essentially see the cast as family and then just. Poof. No. Sorry.

9. Shane fucking every hot woman on the planet, do every drug under the sun, turn tricks on Santa Monica Blvd for gay dudes…and yet not have any STD’s.

10. Shenny. Seriously? Shane + Jenny? Twat? I thought watching Jenny and Carmen pee together was the worst moment in the history of all things lesbionic…and then…Shane and Jenny kissed.

11. The fact that everyone had magic money. No one ever seemed to be struggling. Helena for like a month and a half buh like really. Shane literally never had a job for longer then 3 months yet she somehow was a successful business owner? And how did she become a celebrity hair stylist? WHERE DID SHE EVEN LEARN TO CUT HAIR? Seems kind of similar to The Real L Word no? O shit. Went. There.

12. Tina with a dude.

13. Everyone cheated on everyone. Every season. Great example to set there. Wonder why most lesbians can’t fucking commit.

14. Alice dating Lara. Uhm. What? Seriously.

15. The entire last season. All of it. Every single minute of it.

But. Look. They still hangout! It’s like The Real Real L Word.

Mind. Blown.