The L Word: Welcome to Our Planet
I've been a fan of The L Word since the first ep, but never obsessively enough to buy a fan book like this. I was sucked into the L Hole, as Catherine calls it, because a new character was introduced who wields power tools, wears a flight suit and makes sculpture. Plus she's deaf and is played by Marlee Matllin who both signs and speaks. This visual bilingualism intrigued me immensely, especially since she stands up for truth, artistic integrity and self-knowledge. I was smitten as was Bette, the show's lead, played by Jennifer Beal who is more beautiful, now, than she was as a kid in Flashdance. She also made her character biracial which is so rare in media especially when played by an actor who actually is biracial. It is—as Showtime boasts—groundbreaking.
The show itself embodies lots of plot lines that are not represented anywhere else in television, not with such wit and humor, anyway, nor with such breadth. Not to mention that it feeds our insatiable appetite for intimate scenes between women. After the first season, the show's creators showed serious flaws in character continuation and development, plot choices and wardrobe design, rendering the show emotionally treacherous and prompting the formation of ad hoc support groups. Still it is the only show we can really call ours and has become extremely influential in setting the parameters for other queer media.
This fan book, which only covers season one and two, is pretty lightweight, but shows how the show was developed and has evolved. Lots of pictures, trivia, complete episode recaps and lists of now famous lines, props, pivotal scenes and plot turning points.
Some of the L Word Plots that I have lived:
The sperm donor search was the opening plotline of season one. I did spend some time searching for a sperm donor during my wanna-baby window, but decided against the whole project. Catherine and I got to watch our married lesbian friends go through the process so this is pretty much the cornerstone plot of lesbian life today. The L Word made it funny and bearable.
The Planet coffee house where the girls hang out and talk is key. The most vibrant queer/bohemian hang-out of my day was The New Varsity bar, restaurant and art-house, movie theatre. I was in love with a tall, attractive lesbian there who managed the theatre. Tall, sexy, Marina runs the Planet in the L Word and became the lesbian heartthrob of the opening season. The Varsity died of high rent trauma and was bought by Barnes & Noble for a bookstore, despite our valiant efforts to save it as a theatre. The Planet closes briefly, but is saved by a drag king with money.
One of the characters, Jenny, writes and publishes her memoirs and receives scathing reviews fitting for her level of narcism. Sincerely hope this will not be my fate and am constantly reminded by Jenny of my own self-obsessed youth. Jenny is the pivotal character in season one, since she is lesbian-vampired by Marina. That is, she was straight until Marina snared her. This is familiar territory as reported in one of my essays, "Confessions Of A Lesbian Vampire" published in the anthology "Dyke Life" back in '95.
Jenny and Shane search for a roommate in season two and screen an assortment of homophobic and inappropriate candidates. I was always in charge of the roommate search; it is one of the more onerous chores of being queer because inevitably someone is going to say they aren't comfortable living with homos or they come with their own freak baggage because they think that since you're queer you'll be okay with it.
Two L Word characters do a teach-in on tolerance and gay people for a classroom of 5th graders. I did a handful of these in my career, but only at high schools. I got the same question—"How do girls do it?" but from a sincerely confused girl not a snarky boy.
In season three the L Word killed off one of it's most popular characters with breast cancer because the creators wanted to raise awareness of breast cancer. Fans agree that this was possibly the biggest mistake in lesbian television history (which is basically 85% The L Word). Both Catherine and I were videographers for a metastatic breast cancer support group study, so are very familiar with this journey to death. Our professional opinion is that a young, fit woman would not have been taken so quickly by a mere infection. Catherine watched her best friend die, as did many in the decade of AIDS; breast cancer was the disease celebre of the lesbian community.
In season one, Christian Fundamentalists picket our heroine Bette at home and at the art gallery where she works because of a controversial art exhibit. It doesn't take much to set these people off. I received bible-quoting hate mail for my appearance as an out lesbian columnist in the Palo Alto Weekly, a free newspaper. It sent chills down my spine and every time someone self-identifies as a Christian, the hair stands up on the back of my neck. So it was very gratifying to see how vehemently Bette and the others stand up to this fight. I can't say I've ever done a prison scene, though. That's the gratuitous, silly, fun part of TV.
Highly choreographed sex scenes and kiss scenes in the L Word have raised the bar to such a degree of heat, that it's rare to have any complaints in this department, plus the women are so beautifully shot. Some of the actors, who are mostly straight, are better than others at embodying desire. Scenes with Helena can turn on a dime into such full blown want that it hardly matters what the plot line is.
The L Word is, naturally, not afraid to take a liberal political stance about the Iraq war and George Bush; the very existence of the show itself is a political act that has made George Bush's America bearable. Then there are the other nine months.