Serena Freewomyn

Why I Love/Hate "The L Word"

Filed By Serena Freewomyn | February 09, 2008 7:23 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: homophobia in sports, lesbians, outing, The L Word

I hate "The L Word." And yet I watch it every week, ever since I got sucked in during Seasons 1 and 2. Those were the good 'ole days, before they murdered Dana and the fashion, hairstyles, and storylines went to shit.

The L WordTo recap the last four seasons (as well as the first four episodes of Season 5), Jennie is a pyscho, Shane is player, Bette and Tina are on again/off again, Kit's character only exists to make random "black comments," Max gives trans guys a bad name, Alice is still funny, and Dana is still dead. Do I seriously have this on my Tivo list?

Last week's episode, however, included a little twist that was actually worth discussing. Alice outs an NBA basketball player on her website and starts a firestorm of controversy.

So in Episode 4, Alice gets invited to this top secret party for Hollywood homos who are in the closet. She and Tasha see an NBA player making out with a fine young thing on the dance floor and Alice videotapes it on her cell phone, even though she signed a nondisclosure agreement when she was invited to the party. I smell trouble afoot.

In Episode 5, the same NBA player goes on national TV and says a bunch of homophobic nonsense after a retired NBA player comes out of the closet. Alice gets pissed as his hypocrisy, so she posts the video of him at the party on her website. Within hours, the video has 500,000 hits on Youtube and the player is on the news again, this time resigning from his job. Tasha and Alice get in a fight because Tasha says Alice shouldn't have outed the guy, and that he has a right to his privacy. Alice says that "this is America" and she should be able to say whatever she wants. It looks like Alice and Tasha are headed for splitsville in Episode 6 because they're realized that they have irreconcilable political differences.

Right wing nut jobs aside, are celebrity outings justified? I go back and forth on this one. But in the case of professional athletes, I don't think it's right, especially when it's male athletes we're talking about. Only three NFL players have ever come out of the closet, and none of them came out while they were still playing. Former Utah Jazz player John Amaechi is the only NBA player that I know of who is out of the closet, and he also waited until he stopped playing. The world of professional sports is hyper-masculine and gayness is seen as an attack on that masculinity. I take players' comments seriously when they say that they wouldn't play with a gay teammate. And if you're a football player, that could mean some pretty serious body damage.

As far as female athletes go, homophobia is prevalent too, but the reverse assumption happens: You play ball? You must be queer. Female athletes already earn less than male athletes do. Many female athletes have lost endorsements after coming out. So the decision of when and how to come out should be left up to them. It's their career we're talking about.

Back to "The L Word" . . . I was slow to come around on Tasha's character, but I'm going to be sad to see her go. I think she had a point when she told Alice that her outing the basketball player was no different than the military outing Tasha. I haven't always appreciated it when "The L Word" has tried to tackle political issues (does anyone remember Kit and the fake abortion clinic), but I'm glad they've taken on Don't Ask Don't Tell.

The hair and fashion are back, too. And there's plenty of sex this season. So I guess that's why I keep tuning in. But you know what the show REALLY needs? A hot Asian lesbian. Cuz you know I'm a rice queen and that would DEFINITELY have me glued to the set. Yowzas!

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My partner and I discussed the same thing Monday night. She agrees with you that outing is off limits regardless of the situation.

In most cases, I agree. Coming out is a hugely personal decision, and should be one that is left to the timetable of the individual. Someone minding their own business shouldn't be outed.

Having said all that, I believe that right is relinquished as soon as the closeted person starts attacking themselves in a public forum. Just because they don't respect themselves enough to either come out or permit the rumors* doesn't mean we have to give them a pass while they also attack our lives and families.

It is possible that sets them up for retaliation on the field. However, more people watch Sports Center than CSPAN. It is a different sort of damage (they can't make laws that affect us like Larry Craig), but it is still a very big soapbox.

*My theory is that the only reason these type of comments are made is to ward off the "Wow, Tim is always staring at me in the locker and he doesn't have a girlfriend, what does THAT mean?" rumors.

ah, I love/hate the L word, too. Jenny's story line is so annoying we tape the show and fast forward through her. I can't stand it.

and they ruined marina who was hot hot hot hot hot...

can jennifer beals so more than two expressions? I don't think so.

the show, however, is groundbreaking. it does have hot sex, that's real. the women look good and aren't ugly- my biggest complaint about lesbians in film.

no television show is ever going to be great at tackling hard issues but I applaud the writers for the DADT story line. Jenny's sexual abuse history, dana's coming out as an athlete, and shane's I ain't no Uhaul lesbo character- all good.

not to mention cybil shepard as a sex interest- hello! I love older women.

I think the love hate thing comes from wanting so much from a single show because... well, it is the only one. which is why I will continue to watch, tape, buy the season when they come out.

as far as the outing of the player? I would have done the same thing as Alice. it's one thing to be closeted, it's another to say or do (in craig's case) hurtful things to the community.

but alice is gonna get screwed for it! and not in a good way.

Everyone may think it's weird, but I'm completely addicted to the show. I even manage to make it through all the girl-on-girl action. :)

I agree that some of it is love-hate. Hate Jenny (ugh...). Love Alice. Think Bette is a total control-freak, but secretly want to be her. The usual stuff.

As for the outing, I do think that people have the right to come out on their own terms. I can understand people staying closeted in the Military.

The right to privacy is given up, however, when someone uses their position or fame to harm the LGBT community. At that point, showing the person's hypocrisy is the only tool we have as a community to fight back.

Oh, and I think the interpreter guy is completely cute. Sigh…

I also have a love/hate relationship with the show. Sara makes a very good point about the difficulty of a single show meeting everyone's expectations.

I applaud the show for tackling some tough issues but I wish they would be more accurate about it. I don't think they did a very good job with breast cancer or the coming out of an athlete but their portrayal of trans issues and DADT is the worst. I work for the military and they really need to do some more research (or, perhaps they should hire me! I'm a freak for details).

But I think the conflict on outing an extremely hypocritical public figure is well represented. We've discussed the issue in our house this week. Privacy vs. hypocrisy. Right to privacy vs. potentially inciting harm to another person. It's a tough call and I don't think there's one right answer. I'm interested to see what happens.

And therefore, I'll keep watching...and yelling at the screen when they do something incorrect/outrageous/inaccurate/etc.

*My theory is that the only reason these type of comments are made is to ward off the "Wow, Tim is always staring at me in the locker and he doesn't have a girlfriend, what does THAT mean?" rumors.

Paula, I totally agree with you. Which is why I disagree with those who have said that it's justified to out players who say homophobic things in order to continue the ruse that they're straight.

For example, Snape in the Harry Potter series could never have shown any amount of tenderness for Harry, even though he eventually saves Harry's life and secretly helps him on his mission. As a double agent, Snape would have to keep up a well-crafted persona of hating Harry, hating Dumbeldore, and loving Voldemort. If he hadn't been so hateful towards Harry, any one of the Slytherins would have sniffed him out and Snape wouldn't have been able to fulfill his important role in the storyline.

I don't use the Harry Potter example to minimize the effects of public figures making homophobic comments. I just think you have to take each person's situation into account. Sports starts should be able to determine when/if/how they come out because there is physically a lot at stake for them.

Politicians and religious leaders, on the other hand, deserve to be outed in my opinion. Politicians actually make laws that deny us equality and the full protection of the law. Religious leaders make us think God hates us. So eff those people.

Jessica, I'm with you about the breast cancer storyline. My chosen mom was diagnosed with breast cancer right about the time that Dana was. I was really upset with the show becase they killed Dana off so quickly. Dana was an athlete. She was all about her health and taking care of her body. And yet she was diagnosed and dead within the span of just a few weeks. Now what kind of message does that send to the average woman, who doesn't have the luxuries of a personal trainer and a personal chef? It tells you that you're fucked.

The fact is, diagnosing and treating breast cancer has improved so much over the past decade. My chosen mom's cancer was caught very early and even though it's a particularly rare and lethal type of breast cancer, they were able to get all of it and she has a very good long term prognosis.

If the producers of The L Word really wanted to to our community a public service, they should have examined the reasons why lesbians have higher instances of breast cancer. They shouldn't have just flashed the Komen Foundation's number on the screen for 5 seconds. They should have encouraged viewers to get checked regularly instead of avoiding the doctor like so many of us do.

Sara's right, though. Maybe I shouldn't expect so much from one show.

"Perhaps the worst danger to our liberation is that our fear, anger, and defensiveness lead us to take on the tactics of the enemy [...] as they invade our right to privacy, we respond by outing our own people"

-Suzanne Pharr

Outing's one thing, but then again, this athlete was apparently swappin' spit with a boi in front of others. If he really wanted to keep it secret, he should have worked a little harder.

You can't have it both ways, making out with boys at parties and being in the closet. Life's hard that way.

I don't watch the series so i can't relate to how it has anything relevant to do with everyday life. If there was a Trans series i wouldn't bother with it ether. Television has little or nothing to do with day to day life.
Is there anybody who can tell me what makes this series any different from the others that pretend to portray every day life.

Is this really any different from 92010?
which was a total fantasy.
Take care

Sorry, I've never read the Potter series, nor seen any of the movies. I'm not certain who Snape is or why his role was important. I'm inferring from your example that Snape knew all along which side he was on.

I don't believe the closeted male athlete who spouts off "I hate gays - I don't want them on my team" are secretly helping us on our mission, knowingly or not. It seems more like they are having their cake and eating it too.

What I meant by "allowing the rumors" applies to someone like Jeff Garcia. Terrell Owens practically called him out on it when both played for the 49ers. I have no idea if Jeff is gay, but he didn't start bashing gays to quiet the rumors.

I guess all I'm saying is if they don't have anything nice to say, they should just shut up and talk about the game.

If the athlete had taken performance enhancing drugs and then angrily denounced anyone who had, we would have no problem reporting it if evidence is found that he has been juiced since his rookie year.