Sunday, May 10, 2009
Adios, the heLL Word - thanks for the mammaries!
Hasta la NEVER AGAIN, L Word.
As queen of the lesbiatronic pop culture world and gay media historian, I would be remiss if I failed to mention that The L Word sung it’s final goodbye. Lesbians in the world are currently uniting to send me hate mail from all corners of the globe for my impending comments and are currently blacklisting me out of the club. But alas, now that the parade has ended, I must confess...
The L Word. For those living on Mars (or of the breeder variety), this show was the gayelle equivalent of “Sex And The City.” Only with more ridiculous characters, horrid plots, unimaginable story lines, zero continuity, poor research, and bad editing.
Yes, I did watch almost the entire series. Why? Because I’m a glutton. I am one of those folks that puts themselves through the unnecessary for the momentary amusement it might give me. Might. This happened a few times throughout the six year run, but certainly was a gargantuan waste of life. If you want good gay TV, look no further than Queer As Folk (QAF), one of the greatest cable shows ever made.
The L Word was basically the trailer park of gay programming. I suppose the show’s creators believed the show had a built-in audience with hormonal straight men, bored-out-of-their-mind gays, straight women who love stories about being a woman, and gay and bi chicks galore. And, maybe, a drag queen here or there. I suppose they are right, how else could you explain the fact that this thing lasted SIX SEASONS??? Bad from the beginning, bad ‘til the end. And, apparently, utterly watchable. I believe this also is a result of the “train wreck” phenomenon that allows reality television to dominate the media. It’s just so cringe-worthy and freakish, you can’t stop watching.
After all this time, the one thing that personally redeemed the show and made me a loyal viewer was Jennifer Beals. What was such a great actress doing on this pathetic lifeless show? And how was she able to take a monstrous script and turn it into Oscar drivel and actually appear to care? Who knows. We forgot all about the Jennifer Beals who welded and danced in bad eighties movies and were refreshed by one of the few women who actually looks better twenty years later than any of those other wannabes. Not to mention that as one of the show's straightest actresses, she played the best lesbian of them all.
Jennifer Beals played the domineering Type A personality (and avid art collector with a cheating problem), Bette Porter, whom we couldn’t stop loving, no matter how many times she screwed up. Her love interests ranged from the boring and monotonous Tina to the many women she took up with inbetween (and during) the Tina years, including The Carpenter and The Hot Deaf Chick (the miraculous Marlee Matlin, giving what could possibly be the only terrible performance in her life). I am NOT an advocate of cheating. But if I was Bette, I could see how that might be enticing. However, nothing was hotter on the L Word than the great make-up sex these two would have or the obvious physical chemistry onscreen between TiBette. (In retrospect, maybe that’s why Bette stayed with Tina...)
Marlee Matlin’s arrival onto the scene of the L Word was interesting in that deaf visibility is always a rarity in the media, and lesbian deaf visibility is nonexistent. As usual, former Oscar winner Marlee shows us once again that she can redefine the things we think about and the way we see the Deaf experience. However, it’s also obvious that this was contemplated because she is the real-life best friend of Jennifer Beals (regardless of what the writers admit to), thus making this union incredibly contrived – and, well, awful. Marlee Matlin clearly can’t get into character long enough to stop thinking about making out with her best friend and it
painfully shows. There is no passion or credibility to this on-screen relationship at all. My partially digested steak could kiss better than that and I can truly say that I have never been less turned on by two hot women kissing in my life than Jennifer Beals and Marlee Matlin. Sigh, such wasted opportunity. Even Jennifer made allusions on an interview that she was the obvious better kisser. I obviously agree. NO ONE can screen kiss like Jennifer Beals. For reals.
Then, we have Jennifer Beal’s big sister Kit, played by none other than the foxtastic Pam Grier. Pam is a goddess, a legend, and has always been a lesbian icon, so naturally they made her the only straight character on the show. Why Kit Porter even had to be written into the storyline is beyond me. None of her natural gifts were utilized in the making of this show, no one tuned in to watch the straight washed-up-older-woman-with-no-life who kept dating losers and the “manny” nor did they even care about her former addict past. Essentially, here was yet another incredible actor given absolutely nothing to work with. If I was directing this picture, Kit Porter would have either never been part of this cast at all or she would have been holding up 7-11’s and banging every sexy broad on the block.
So much talent, so much bad writing.
Alas, we are given one of the heroes of the gay chic world, Leisha Haley, to… again, have zero use made out of her being cast in the series and to have the awesome-lesbian-with-the-mad guitar-skills play a bisexual with bad dating luck that hosts a boring radio show that no one cares about. Upon being cast, Leisha promised to do her best to represent the bi community to the best of her ability. Yeah, I can see so clearly how long that lasted. (More bi faux-paus later.) Alice was given one of the most nonsensical story lines humanly fathomable, when the ONE guy they hooked her up with super briefly was a man who was convinced he was a lesbian (naturally, they all think this, but this guy was a beyond-credulous character that doesn’t exist anywhere in the human spectrum). Would you guess, she refers to herself as a lesbian throughout the rest of the series. +1 for keeping promises, consistency, and perpetuating horrible bi stereotypes. Alice falls for one of her best friends, poor tennis phenomenon Dana, who was plucked out of the herd by the writers (as one of the most favorable characters) to be killed off in the slowest most horrible way by breast cancer, pissing off not only the entire L Word universe but even the actors themselves who were enraged (trust me, there were plenty of other offenses you all should have protested just as much). After an entire season of Dana dying and audiences everywhere being depressed as hell once a week, Alice finds love in her hot black girlfriend, the kick ass military soldier, Tasha. Oddly enough, Tasha was one of the few characters on the show that ever felt real, and whose story lines were actually incredibly relevant (Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell).
Back to that topic of horrible bi stereotypes… which leads me very gracefully into the madness and sheer nonsense that was Jenny Schechter. Ah, yes, Jenny, the most reviled creature in modern television history (next to Kate Gosselin). Wouldn’t you know, she was supposed to be the only other bisexual character on the show, but by season two she was a militant hardcore dyke. Surprise, surprise. Jenny first pops onto the scene with her boyfriend and soon-to-be husband, until she meets the mysterious and alluring Marina (a creature far too sophisticated and cultured for this union to be feasible), who is consequently another of the only miracles to hit The L Word. Naturally, she was out after the first season. Probably realized what a colossal career mistake she was making. Ok, maybe that was after her brief cameo on a future episode. We are meant to believe that the brilliant stable Marina kills herself. (Though just watching Jenny Schechter, we want to do the same thing). Jenny is the aloof pretends-to-be-talented-but-isn’t writer who eats mushrooms in Season 1 and looks at beluga whales and refers to them as manatees. Yes, that is actually a story line. And no, she wasn’t tripping at that moment. Maybe. Jenny offends in every possible way, from cheating and ripping people’s lives apart to going on to have weird dream sequences. They wrote her as a completely different character altogether in Season 2 and made her best friends with the show’s most loved character, Shane, in an attempt to get the audience to forgive the demon spawns that wrote her into existence. And, they never stopped rewriting her. The only thing that ever stayed consistent about Jenny Schechter was that she never made any sense and you wanted to punch her in the face.
Let’s not forget the real reason some viewers tuned in: Shane, i.e. the wounded polyamorous puppy dog that just wants to love - well, fuck - every hot chick in town (and her mother), and who just can’t seem to get herself to settle down. No doubt, the edgy androgen Shane (who sent gay and straight women’s hearts aflutter) got the most action out of any character on the show, and hit up all the hotties. Some of her many trysts involved the exotic Sarah Shahi (who couldn’t pull of being Spanish no matter how hard she tried), cougar Rosanna Arquette, delish Clementine Ford (spawn of guest cast member gone TV gay Cybill Shephard), Tammy Lynn Michaels, Kristana Loken, and every other eye candy in plain view... even craptastic Jenny Schechter! (Why did it not come as a huge surprise that Eric Roberts was Shane’s father???)
Perhaps nothing was worse than the walking disaster that was Max, unsurprisingly a friend of Jenny’s. Hurrah for Trans visibility but I don't think this is what anyone had in mind. Max, who transitioned into a male by the end of the series, had to be the most laughable character on the show (played equally bad by Daniela Sea, otherwise known as the Zac Efron of lesbians – and the lesbian famous for being famous, and for possessing zero talent and taking up space). Max and Jenny should have been shipped off to some desert island where the lesbo-man known as Alice’s ex-boyfriend could turn Max into the Pregnant Man and Jenny into OctoMom II. That would have been SO much more entertaining.
So many characters we’d like to forget: the manny (and all of Kit’s ex's), Lesbodude, Papi, Max (a.k.a. the Brawny man), Jenny, bad kisser Jodi, Ivan the drag king (yes, the straight Kit fell in love with a drag king, because that’s so realistic), Helena (sorry, being British does not ALONE make you interesting), the very annoying Angelica, who distracted Bette and Tina from having hot sex all the time and giving them any semblance of an interesting life, and our piñata otherwise known as Jenny (who gladly dies in the last season, a fact used to actually hype the last series – which should tell you everything - and after all the buildup and suspects and plots, her killer is never revealed at all. Jenny most likely drowned herself in the pool, after reading reviews of her D-list film).
One of the few things the show got right was the cool and unique sequences at the beginning of the series that gave back-stories on the characters or interesting juicy tidbits of gay women around the world throughout time, and even cued us in on the fact that Bette banged Alice at the opera back in the day. Naturally, these all but disappeared. (Even there the researchers were on vacation, in an episode the show references a scene in West Hollywood in 1979. WeHo did not become a city until 1984.)
RIP, L Word, I am sure you will continue to haunt celluloid around the world in reruns and perpetuate unrealistic ideas about what gay women’s lives are really like. Believe it or not, true bisexuals really exist and aren’t just confused people who will switch teams overnight, Bette Porter would never spend the rest of her life with Tina, Kit and Ivan aren’t going to run off into the sunset, and Daniela Sea will probably continue her Paris Hilton-like extravaganza, cheapening the quality of television with as much might as reality TV.
Goodbye and farewell. A few years from now, I’ll hopefully be watching shows that accurately represent members of the gay community, and I’ll look upon you and remember… um… hm… Ah, yes, Jennifer Beals getting off in a jail cell.
And that’s about all.
(By the way, I lived in West Hollywood for many years - in fact, in the neighborhood the L Word girls were supposed to live near - and never once saw anyone half as foxtastic as Jennifer Beals. No, Paris, you don't count.)
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