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“I certainly hope that it leaves them wanting more. I’m not intending to wrap everything up with a neat little bow!”
Fans remain disgruntled with the poor storylines and choppy scenes of the last season (and especially the last episode) of the L Word. Was Ilene Chaiken trying to go out on such a bad note just so to make it easier on us to say ‘goodbye?’ It didn’t help — a crime mystery centered around ‘Who Killed Jenny?’ who is an alter-ego for the writer is quite meta as in ‘Who killed the L Word?’ (Answer: Ilene Chaiken), but not particularly intriguing given that by the time it was close to be over, we all wanted to kill Jenny (And I have wanted to kill her since I was barely 18 and legal). The entire sixth season was about providing a launching pad for The Farm — the new series that serves as a spin-off for the L Word, which is based in prison and much darker. The legacy of the L word though, is in the 69 other episodes and the 6 glorious years, which comes as the end of an era for women around the world who were so hooked to this show.
Critics may not be able to comprehend that the ladies on the show are not supposed to be representative of the whole lesbian community — that is actually not possible, but rather, represented a small community of lesbians in West Hollywood who are glamorous, chic, sophisticated and more concerned about their hair and makeup than Prop 8 (the measure actually won in LA County). The show was surprisingly slammed for it’s lack of diversity but what other television program has a bi-racial, 40-something, straight and married woman as the ‘gay for pay’ lead? However, we aren’t trying to build diversity through tokenism. As the show continued, we dropped ‘identity-politics’ in favor of ‘identifying’ with the characters as we discovered that L stands for love no matter who we are. I identified with Bette Porter more than anyone else and we are miles apart in terms of ‘social categories.’
Not anywhere near perfect, the groundbreaking show helped thousands of women all over the world come out of the closet, live strongly and freely and feel like part of a community. It gave our straight friends a ‘reference point’ for what lesbian life and culture is all about. More than anything, it taught us to be utterly unapologetic of our gayness. Jennifer Lewis sums it well in the Examiner:
The L Word will be greatly missed by a lot of people. Never before in television history has a show spoke to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community like this one has. The show will certainly go down in history.
There are themes that could have been better explored and with much more sensitivity. Dropping the ball on Alice’s (Leisha Hailey) bisexuality was one of the more irresponsible things that the show did given that there is a serious need to not stereotype bisexuality as a transition phase. The FTM character played by Daniela Sea, turned out to be more of a ‘token’ inclusion than a real exploration of issues surrounding transgenderism especially with the pregnant man storyline. Shane’s (Kate Moenning) lothario ways should at least have come with a ‘public service announcement’ of safe-sex. In the last season, we get our first Asian-American character (Jamie played by Mei Melancon) with a substantial storyline, who is somehow stripped of her ‘Asian-American’ culture, save for her physical features. While Rose Rollin’s (Tasha) ‘angry black lesbian’ character gives us a lot to talk about in terms of racial issues and DADT in the military, the rich, complex and luminous character–Bette Porter (Jennifer Beals)–could have gifted us a great lee-way into a more political sphere, but we never really get there. Political messages, besides were instead delivered as soundbites and with a subtlety that is telling of our WeHO community: How much do we really care?
But Nicolas Fonseca writing for Atlanta Parent Magazine reminds us:
As the retrospective that aired beforehand reminded us, its impact expands far beyond its barrier-busting stories: TV’s first deaf lesbian, its first regularly occurring transsexual character, bisexuals of both genders, drag kings, the US military’s don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy, biracial identity, gay parenting, sex/drug/alcohol/gambling addiction, sexual abuse, midlife sexual awakenings, breast cancer…this show took on a lot. Judging by the frequent erraticism of its storytelling, it probably took on too much. In the end, I say, thank goodness it had the guts to take them on at all.
The saddest loss is the Chart (what Bette calls ‘lesbian inter-fucking-connetedness’ in 608 and how she is done with it). It was a core element and hidden character of the show, which they tried developing into a physical entity called OurChart online, only to be shutdown by Showtime a few months ago.
But the community stepped in and took the initiative to form its own version of the chart, now called Alice’s Chart. In the finale special, the cast and crew show how anyone can make their own chart. And that is the winning element of the show, the lasting crux: our inter-connectedness that cannot be shutdown or obliterated. The community will live and thrive be it at Tibette.com or L-word.com. As Ilene Chaiken says, this is just a breather:
I don’t consider the show is coming to an end. The L Word will live on in many ways, and some of them not just metaphorical. Exactly how remains to be seen, but people should sit tight and stand by and see what’s happening next. The weekly TV series is coming to an end for the time being, because it’s time to take a breather. On premium cable, most shows that do well decide that it’s time to stop after usually five years.
For all my complaints over the past 6 years (especially as a loyal member of the Tibette Nation that got put through the ultimate tests), I have to give some props to Ilene Chaiken even as she goes out on another “fuck you” to Tibetters:
I will step back now and say thank you Ilene Chaiken and the entire cast + crew for getting the ball-rolling. Through the ups and downs, the applause and hair-tearing moments, from the slapstick comedy to the sarcastic wit, from drama to melodrama to insane-out-of-this-world-[Jenny] moments that are now forgiven–thank you for telling our stories, thank you for giving us such wonderful role models to emulate and thank you for helping us build this amazing, tight-knit community.
It could have been better (much better) but isn’t that the challenge? We need to step up and do it all over again in our own ways, in our own lives, in our own communities.
This isn’t the end. It’s just the beginning.
And the last L word is lasting.
- Sign the L word movie petition
- Check out the L-word fan-fic community
- Jennifer Beals and Laurel Holloman Fanbase (fondly called a ‘movement’ by JB)
- Info. about The Farm – L word spin-off staring Leisha Hailey