Vp Issue 8: "Now It’s Our Party: Profile, Ilene Chaiken"
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the British touring art show “Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection” that sparked months of religious and anti-censorship demonstrations when it opened at the London Royal Academy of the Arts in 1997 and the Brooklyn Museum in 1999. Dirty Pictures scored a Golden Globe in 2001 for Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV. It was on the night of the awards ceremony that Jerry Offsay, then president of Showtime Entertainment - probably bolstered by Chaiken’s acclaim and the recent success of the network’s Queer as Folk - said to her, “I think we’re going to do that lesbian show with you.”Then, shortly after The L Word premiere, the network ordered a second season. It was the fastest renewal of a series in Showtime’s history.
There are many women who complain that there isn’t a fleece-wearing diesel dyke in sight on The L Word. Toward the end of the first season we were introduced to Candice (Ion Overman), a soft but nonetheless butch woman and Ivan (Kelly Lynch), a trans-man who’s got the hots for Bette’s half-sister Kit (Pam Grier). Chaiken is quick to respond to questions about gender diversity: “As we go forward and we continue to tell our stories, more people will see themselves represented,” she says. “There will be a broader spectrum of women represented because our lives invariably touch many lives as our circle broadens… I think that people who maybe felt underrepresented in the first season, some of those people are liable to feel more represented. Not that I am striving to represent anybody - I’m striving to tell stories, and these are characters that simply populate our universe.”Chaiken says that her primary responsibility as a writer is to the story. “Of course I feel a responsibility to lesbians,” she says, “but that’s not my first responsibility. My first responsibility is to the storytelling, to the characters who I am writing about in the story and the stories I’m telling. To be as real and deep and thorough as I can be.” She continues, “There are two simultaneous dominant themes. The first one is the universality of that experience that love is gender-less, and that relationship and emotional experience is gender-less, that we all share so much in common. Having said that, and making that point repeatedly, we then go on to say that there