Ten years ago this Sunday, Showtime premiered the first ever television series focused on lesbian life and relationships. The L Word boasted star power from lead Jennifer Beals, legendary actress Pam Grier and the Murmurs‘ frontwoman Leisha Hailey. Behind-the-scenes were Guinevere Turner and Rose Troche of Go Fish, a popular lesbian film from the ’90s, and on the success of Queer as Folk and Sex and the City, premium cable networks were pushing the boundaries of the kinds of sexuality they would dare to show on their late night programming.
The pilot episode of The L Word introduced us to characters that we had not seen on TV. Up until 2004 queer-identified female characters were part of larger ensembles (ER), featured players in only one or very few episodes (L.A. Law) and frequently the only gay woman on the show, outside of their prospective partner/love interest. The L Word revolved around several queer-identified women (mostly lesbian, one bisexual), and they were each well-defined, three dimensional characters. If you watched the show, you saw them develop further through romances, heartaches, new friendships, protests, and other facets of life that, although often glamorized, showed that we are not all one and the same.
We sorted every (magical) lesbian/bi TV character in the history of the world into Hogwarts houses because we love you.
I said, “Pam, look, I’m straight.” She’s like, “I know.” Only two girls on that show were actually gay. But I said, “I’m coming at you, I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna pursue you and get you to fall in love with me. And you are gonna do it. And I’m not gonna make you. You just watch.” And she was laughing, but sure enough, it was this romantic, great thing. At one point, I’m singing Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man” to her in a parking garage and dancing her around. It was amazing. I had the best time.
Lesbians from WeHo insist that The L Word is like real life, but most of us don’t know any Bette Porters or Shan McCutcheons. But nearly all of us know some Dana Fairbankses. Hell, lots of us are Dana Fairbankses: Clumsy at love, kind of insecure, mostly sweet, still a little bit scared of our parents. And who among us hasn’t shared her heart with a Mr. Piddles? And then the most relatable character on the highest profile lesbian TV show that has ever (and probably will ever) exist got the kind of breast cancer that kills you faster than a snakebite. Dana’s death is the gold standard by which we measure all other shitty TV writing and general agony. WE’LL NEVER FORGET.
Trauma Verdict: The limit does not exist. - Heather Hogan
Tina don’t want to act no mo.