[Note: This isn't my usual writing prompt. If you want to use it as a writing prompt, take "time to forgive" and run with it.]
I’m asking you, dear lesbian blogging colleagues, isn’t it time to forgive Ilene Chaiken and The L Word for not being perfect? I’m not a lesbian blogger, so I fully I realize the hypocrisy of me chastising you, but let me explain my thinking.
Season 6 promo image from The L Word
I don’t have Showtime, so I didn’t start watching The L Word until it was off the air. I watched DVDs sent to me by Netflix. I was hooked on the large cast filled with women from the first episode. I wanted to be there in The Planet with them, having morning coffee and listing all the euphemisms for vagina I could imagine.
While I was busy relishing the refreshing impact of a drama featuring mostly female characters, I looked around the blogosphere for reviews and comments on this show I thought was so fabulous. That’s when I discovered lesbian blogs and bloggers.
Ilene Chaiken (in white) at BlogHer09 via Flickr
I surfed around among many lesbian writers, sampling what they had to say about The L Word. I was surprised when I discovered a plethora of complaints, vilifications, and shaming. Nobody liked Ilene Chaiken. Nobody was satisfied with the plot. The characters were all too pretty. It wasn’t realistic. Everyone was mad because Dana died. Everyone hated Jenny. And on, an on, and on. Strangely, however, everyone seemed familiar with every episode.
That was a couple of years ago. From the many lesbian blogs I looked at back then, only two have remained on my regular reading list: Dorothy Snarker’s Dorothy Surrenders and the big group blog After Ellen. Why those two? Well, although Dorothy Snarker posts a fair number of eye candy posts, she also writes serious posts. When she does, they are exemplary: thoughtful, well-written and full of emotional impact. I admire good writing, and I agree with her stance on equality for all LGBT people. After Ellen has a variety of posts, but often reviews or talks about movies and TV shows that I watch. The recaps of TV shows that After Ellen publishes are sometimes hilarious and often better than the shows themselves. I support the values and societal changes that After Ellen endorses and promotes. After Ellen gives me insight.
Yet each time something related to Ilene Chaiken or The L Word comes up on After Ellen, there is still that continuing little dig, that continuing little echo of complaint.
Even as that continues, The L Word has become like Shakespeare or the Bible as a point of reference. A quote or a scene from The L Word is as well known to the lesbian community as any quote from Shakespeare or the Bible or any other cultural focal point. That says to me that most lesbians know everything there is to know about The L Word! Because in spite of all the kvetching, they’ve seen every episode more than once. In spite of the complaining, it was important and it mattered to them. It created a common vocabulary, a common means of connecting one cultural event with another, a common history that informs everything that followed.
When Sarah Shahi guest stars on Chicago Fire and says to her hunky fireman, “I’ll dance. You can just watch,” the image of Sarah Shahi dancing for Shane (Kate Moennig) in her undies in The L Word enters the head of everyone who ever watched The L Word. Because it’s a shared reference point. Like Shakespeare, the dots connect and the image applies to multiple situations.
Pick a scene. Any scene. If there is even a remote connection to a scene in The L Word, it will be recognized and commented upon. I think it’s because everyone knows The L Word because it meant something important to them – perfect or not.
When a gorgeous brunette (Anna Silk) throws a gorgeous blonde (Zoie Palmer) down on a bed, rips off her jeans, and then climbs on top of her in Lost Girl, L Word fans remember another brunette and another blonde – Jennifer Beals and Laurel Holloman – doing almost exactly the same moves.
While we’re on the topic of Lost Girl, the show takes a lot of moves from Buffy the Vampire Slayer too, but nobody is complaining about how Joss Whedon portrays lesbians. There are some who name the BtVS character Willow (Alyson Hannigan) as their favorite lesbian ever. Is that because Whedon gets some slack for being a man, but Ilene Chaiken who is both a woman and a lesbian has to be perfect?
For whatever reasons, Ilene Chaiken and The L Word complainers haven’t been ready to give even a tiny bit of slack to a show that brought them from almost no representation on TV to at least some representation on TV. Isn’t it time to ease up, forgive the imperfections, and recognize the importance and achievement of Ilene Chaiken to the lesbian community? If I had a valid vote to cast in that world, I would vote in her favor.
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