Monday, November 29, 2010

“The L Word” (Season 1, episode 2: “Let’s Do It,” Showtime)

            Love, lust, life, and, above all else, lesbianism. These are the foundational themes that “The L Word” prides itself on. It’s the lesbian version of “Queer As Folk” (another Showtime drama about gay men) following the lives of a lesbian group of friends with a specific focus on romance and sexuality, filled with pseudo soap-opera complications and a wide variety of personalities. Although this is big step for the lesbian community as a whole, the show is incredibly disappointing.
            The second episode (which might as well be considered the first episode since pilots never seem to accurately represent any show’s potential) contains few intriguing plot elements, and fails to go about the ones that are in an intriguing way. Bette and Tina, a longtime couple trying to have a baby together, employ do-it-yourself at home artificial insemination. Although the sex scene is tasteful, it’s unnecessarily long and feels more like a cheap trick to get more viewers than an expression of the emotional intensity of the act. Alice, a single woman, gets begins the get tangled up with her possibly abusive ex-girlfriend while her friends attempt to talk her out of it with their unconvincing and half-hearted acting skills.
            Beyond the boredom factor, the show successfully exploits lesbian stereotyping. While there are some occasional attempts to reconcile these in the dialogue, they only serve to provide the show with hypocritical undertones. For example, Dana, a professional tennis player, is pining over beautiful Lara, the sous-chef at the club Dana trains at, but doesn’t want to approach Lara until she figures out whether or not Lara is a lesbian. First off, bisexuality isn’t even acknowledged as a possibility. This is not only insulting (especially after they make a point to say that sexuality is fluid), but it also perpetuates the already overbearing sexual dichotomy of gay and straight. Secondly, Dana proceeds to turn to her friends for “gaydar” opinions. High heels are obviously straight while wielding a chopping knife is inherently lesbian? Thanks for the suffocating little boxes, Showtime.
            Fortunately, episode 2 isn’t nearly as socially damaging as the pilot, which leaves hope for the rest of the show. However, women regardless of whether they’re gay, straight, or somewhere in-between should be offended. Lesbians, for one, aren’t novelty items and shouldn’t be objectified or exploited. Women—in fact, people in general—shouldn’t be crammed into looking a certain way or arranging their personalities to fit any societal expectations. Feminine doesn’t equate to straight in the same way that masculine doesn’t equate to gay. Haven’t these false assumptions done enough damage already?
            Either “The L Word” needs to shape up or we need a better show.

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