A life more ordinary

Mar 18, 2009 at 5:00 am

The unfortunate has finally happened: “The L Word,” the lesbian soap opera of Showtime, is no longer with us. Let’s all take a moment.

I’m always curious why certain shows go off the air when they do. I mean, it’s understandable that shows like “E.R.” are popular, but how has it taken this long to end? Delivering a baby in a sinking car is only a nail biter the first couple of times. But why was “The L Word” taken from us so suddenly? Why did it have to end?

It outlasted the death of a major character from breast cancer, and soldiered through a storyline involving the sudden appearance/disappearance of a kid brother.

Shane’s hair never even affected the show negatively, despite her heinous styles. (Shane was the hot “butch” character who could turn all the straight girls gay.)

But it’s dead, and after seconds of serious pondering, I can only conclude that this is due to the fact that the actors wanted out. Its final season must have sucked as much as it did because the writers weren’t told about this fact until two weeks before production was to begin (or whatever). This season was only eight episodes long, with an uninteresting central theme that didn’t really address or give closure to any character’s complexities or idiosyncrasies that the writers have been building over the years. I don’t even think there was one good make-out scene. This season has been like one long dead-fish handshake; thank god it’s over.

There are many aspects I loathe about “The L Word”; my academic self finds most of it, and especially its characters, highly problematic (and cheesy). I mean, to begin with, all the lesbians are lipstick (i.e. they look straight). The characters can easily pass between queer and straight worlds; they can choose their identity based on their surroundings. Even Shane, the “butch” one, was made to look femme enough for a straight audience.

Blah, blah, blah, right? “The L Word” was also the only show on TV about lesbians and transgender people, it was dramatic and fantastical, and I eventually learned to ignore/forgive its indiscretions and found a way to like it. A lot.

I can never identify with any character or situation on most network TV shows. Shows like “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Two and A Half Men” are completely irrelevant to my life. And “7th Heaven” used to seriously depress me. On reality shows, women are only bi for the camera. There was a lesbian on “Grey’s Anatomy” briefly, but because lesbians are gay, there no longer is. And while it is true that I am more than my sexuality, it is also true that my sexuality lacks representation on almost all TV shows.

Now what? Does life have to return to the way it was before? Must we have a lesbian version of “Queer Eye” next, before a lesbian “Will and Grace”? Will straight men be able to tolerate a woman teaching them how to make better use of his tool(s)? What do lesbians and straight men do when they hang out? And will lesbian characters disappear like gay men did after “Will and Grace”?

“The L Word” gave queers in every city, no matter the level of bigotry, a chance to see life as something other than tragic. It allowed us to escape a reality that constantly tests our patience and determination, and lose ourselves in a fiction (at least for the majority of this city) where queer people could be more than their sexuality. And it gave women, in general, a break from watching various realities ruled entirely by men.

Once during a discussion in a class at U of L, a white boy around 20 said he dropped a women’s studies class because he was the only male in the room, and that made him “uncomfortable.” He said he didn’t need to know what it felt like to be the minority in the room because he would “never have to.”

I was speechless. And he was right. I think I stammered something about the process of learning empathy, but empathy means nothing to someone who will never need it. He could choose, easily, a life full of situations where he was never the only one in the room. He could choose to limit his world and not be aware of the consequences.

One of the things “The L Word” did was give queers (and women) a chance to be The Majority. And it gave lesbians a chance to feel stylish, which feels awesome (you know, if you’re into that sort of thing).

Read past columns at leoweekly.com