Wednesday, February 28, 2007

a show by any other name

The L Word is a TV show on the Showtime network about a group of women, mostly lesbians, living in Los Angeles. It's something of a soap opera, with terrible dialogue. It does, however, contain some steamy scenes that make it mildly bearable. But before all you pervs who found this blog through weird searches get all excited, that's not what this post is about.

The show is typical of Showtime's repertoire, which often brings into the spotlight issues that many are not comfortable with. The issue in this case is: lesbians. The show has a number of items on its agenda: Making people talk about lesbians; Asking questions like 'What does it mean to be a lesbian in America in 2007?' And most importantly, pointing out that apart from the way they have sex (which is totally hot), lesbians are just like the rest of us.

All that is fair enough. But I have a problem with the name. I'll explain. The show is about a group of women. The bigger issues are dealt with through the women's stories, but for the most part it's a soap opera about these characters, who are individuals in their own right. Calling it "The L Word" implies that it is a show about lesbians that happen to be these characters, rather than one about these characters who happen to be lesbians. In other words, they are implying that this is a show that represents not these lesbians, but all lesbians. It's like doing a show about a group of black people and calling it "Black People." The "L Word" is, after all, just an 'edgy' way of saying "Lesbians."

I understand that this is the first big show about lesbians, and therefore groundbreaking. But what about the second show about lesbians in, say, 2012? Will it just be called "The L Word 2"? I also understand that many lesbians are proud of the show for bringing their lifestyles into the mainstream. And they should be. But part of bringing something that others consider alternative into the mainstream is to not put a label on it that says "ALTERNATIVE" in big block letters.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The "L" word is also often used to talk about love, often in the context of a man's inability to commit to love.

I would guess that the blatant meaning of the "L" word is lesbian, but maybe there is an underlying mockery of men and the more commonly used meaning of the "L" word, which is 'love.'

Perhaps the idea is to parallel the general public's "discomfort/fear" of Lesbians with men's fear of love.