Can I embarrass myself just one more time?


Today is the anniversary of the very first time I watched The L Word. Yes, I remember the exact date—June 19, 2006. No, I don’t know why I remember it, except that it was the day my sister left to go to Palestine, which was an unrelated event but did end up meaning that she was gone during my initial giddiness and by the time she returned from her two-week trip, I had watched all three seasons. The show changed me in a profound, if small, way, and that visit to the Middle East changed Bethany. We are not the same people we were on June 18, 2006.

Whoa. I’m not really comparing The L Word to the Middle East. I’m just trying to explain what it meant to me.

Back to June 19, 2006. Andy and I were at Blockbuster for an entirely non-lesbian reason (I really did used to have non-lesbian reasons) when I ran across The L Word DVDs. I had heard of the show because of my habit of reading TV Guide online every single day like it’s the news. This was before I had Showtime, remember. I had suspected that premium cable shows were better than the network sludge I was watching. I’d seen reruns of Soul Food on BET, and sure made them seem interesting. So I was kind of excited to see The L Word at Blockbuster.

We rented the first disc, and when I was through those first three episodes, I was completely infatuated. And not just with Jennifer Beals. I cringe now to think of how naive I was—how big my eyes got when Marina grabbed Jenny and shoved her against the bathroom wall, how surprised I was that Bette and Tina’s kissing was so hot, how quickly I fell in love with the whole idea of The L Word.


I was a huge Buffy fan, watched ER, and championed for Bianca on All My Children. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t seen lesbians on TV before. I even knew some in my actual life. But The L Word was different. And Jennifer Beals was there.

I’m trying to be serious, but it is after all just a TV show. Saying that it changed my life makes me sound like a fool whose life is devoid of meaningful experiences. This is not the case, but I nevertheless become a cliche when I talk about The L Word. If it were a person, I would say silly things to it like, “I’ve never met anyone like you” and “Where have you been all my life?”

But it isn’t a person. It’s a TV show. I have been with it long enough now to see its flaws, and I shake my head and cringe when I read my very first blog post about it. However, I’m still in love with the idea of The L Word. I like that it exists outside heterosexuality, that this group of people is treated as the norm, and that Jennifer Beals is there. I’m sure that I connected to the show so easily because I am a soap fan at heart. Lately, whenever I’m trying to describe The L Word, I think of the exchange between Alice and Jenny in episode 406 when Jenny wants Alice come to The Planet for coffee and Alice says, “I can’t. There’s too much drama.” There is a lot of drama on The L Word. Sometimes, it’s good drama. Sometimes it’s too much drama. And sometimes it’s stupid drama (see season 3).

A couple weeks ago, I stumbled upon an article by Ariel Levy in Slate. It’s called “Lipstick Lesbians: Why The L Word Isn’t Just Eye Candy,” and it’s basically a well-written, insightful version of this blog post, minus the meandering story about renting the DVDs at Blockbuster and minus the random moments of Jennifer Beals adoration. When reading the article, it’s important to remember that Levy wrote it before season 2 had ever even aired. Even though season 3 was disappointing to say the least (save for the glory that is Alex Hedison) and even though we will never get over TPTB (I’m not shakin’ my finger at anyone in particular) killing Dana for no good reason, the show changed the way I look at television, which is really to say that there are no longer enough lesbians for me anywhere.

More often than not, the show seems to get in its own way. My mom used to tell me all the time that I wasn’t “living up to my potential,” and when I think of The L Word, I become my mother. They have amazing talents like Jennifer Beals (have I mentioned that I like her?) and Leisha Hailey and then they throw in these people like Alex Hedison and Rose Rollins who just blow me away, but somehow, they manage to drop the ball every now and then, like a really gifted child who doesn’t always want to do her homework. I have standards and I can be pretty picky, but as long as there are lesbians on The L Word, I will keep watching it.