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Is "the L Word" love, or lurid?
The L Word
Member Name: miwa
The L Word
Date: 13/12/12, updated on 10/06/13 (65 review reads)
Advantages: pushed boundaries, some great actresses, JBeals
Disadvantages: theme song, the vortex of forgotten characters, insane writing, ect
[Spoilers in this one!]
I first heard about TLW when I was about 12 years old and I used to turn over after Animal Hospital finished on BBC 2 and watch Charmed on LivingTV. I saw an advert or the end of an episode and I remember thinking "huh. I get it. They want to make everyone think 'The L Word' is 'lesbian', but really, it's 'love'." I'm here now at age 19 to disseminate that theory.
The L Word has many facets to choose from when approaching it.
From the LGBT point of view, TLW was the first time that gay women had a show dedicated to their lives - not just as peripherary storylines, and not as one-time joke characters, but actual female characters who lusted after, had sex with, and made lives together with other women.
From the point of view of television, TLW is a massive series, comprising six seasons and 70-something episodes of 50 minutes each. The show was funded by Showtime and written and co-created by Ilene Chaiken. Though there were several distinct storylines, most episodes featured what amounts to softcore lesbian pornography within them.
The cast of TLW is large, with characters coming and going (or falling into the Vortex) between seasons, as well as most of the characters undergoing some sort of personality transplant as the series wore on (more on that later).
The very first words spoken in season one episode one were "I'm ovulating", thusly alienating any males who tuned in the hopes of porn. This is our introduction to lesbian power couple Tina & Bette. Throughout season one they attempt to find a sperm donor and deal with issues like having a mixed race child and miscarriage. Throughout their six years in this series, Tina and Bette break up, make up, display bisexuality as a form of betrayal to the lesbian sisterhood, cheat on each other, and have a lot of well-acted sex scenes together. JBeals (Jennifer Beals, who plays Bette) is basically the jewel of this series, as a beautiful, intelligent, passionate and artistic woman who struggles with infidelity, race and her feelings towards her father.
Season 1 also introduces Jenny Schecter, who is who the audience sees through, as her eyes open to the "lesbian world" of 2004 LA. Jenny moves in in episode one and through a tumulous break-up of her relationship with fiance Tim, finds her niche along with the other lesbos.
Shane, well, what do you say about Shane? Shane is what everyone knows, whether they watch this show or not, and Kate Moennig basically carries the flimsy characterisation, as Shane's main, if not only attribute is that she is "hot".
And of course there is Alice and Dana, Alice who is, again, Leisha Hailey and all her manic humour, and Dana, who works as a perfect foil for her while exploring her sexuality for the first time.
Any and every issue is brought up in The L Word: from gay marriage to cancer, homophobia to child abuse, cancer to deafness to transgender issues and finally, murder. However, rarely is it that The L Word dares to scratch the surface of these issues and delve deeper inside them: as they are constantly being brought up and then dropped just as suddenly, they feel more like a ploy for "otherness" and uniqueness than genuine progressive attitudes to subjects rarely shown on television or discussed at all. The writing feels more like that of a soap opera than a serious drama; if only the writers could have put more effort into what came after instead of focusing on episode titles beginning with "L"!
In particular, TLW's treatment of the character Moira/Max, a transitioning female to male transgender introduced in season 3, is especially horrific, culminating in a biologically-impossible pregnancy and impending single fatherhood for him after his gay lover abandons him. Though rarely does a character get a worse treatment than Jenny Schecter, formerly the "eyes" of the audience into a burgeoning subculture, who in her time in this show cheats, lies, kills a dog, goes crazy multiple times, is kicked and absolutely ruined as a character, only to be murdered with no killer revealed. It really is only Mia Kirschner's acting that salvages the writing of Jenny in any respect.
As the series went on, the writing became even stranger and a self-aware - such as a moviemade with all the characters being played by actors within it the in-show movie. I... struggle to explain the levels of ridiculousness this is, it really is amazing to watch.
The acting in TLW is generally of a high standard, especially considering few of the "inner circle" frequent characters are played by lesbian or bisexual actresses. It is obvious that many characters are carried by their actresses, so much so that it would take too much time to list them all. In the DVD extras there are several truly hilarious self-aware commentaries by Leisha (Alice), Kate (Shane) and Erin (Dana) which really show how much was in the acting.
The music used in TLW is bad to fair. I appreciate the use of Client, Peaches, Goldfrapp, Uh Huh Her (Leisha (Alice)'s music project) but all of this is lowered by the themetune of season 2 onwards. It is simply the worst opening to anything I have ever seen in my life. I wish I could believe it was sarcastic.
In summary, The L Word is a phenomenon all of its' own, a self-perpetuating machine of laughs and groans. Sometimes boring, sometimes borderline pornographic, it defies any label that came before it. If you're gay or curious, welcome to watching this out of obligation: bring up a chair, alcohol of your choice, and watch this with friends while devising a drinking game, and read some reviews of it on autostraddle if you love to laugh. This is truly the best way to experience TLW and all its twists and turns, melodrama and misinformed-ness. But please keep in mind that this is not "the way that, the way that we live".
Summary: An interesting experiment