The Real L Word: An Unwatchable Mess?

After much debate, confusion and Googling the Editors of Velvetpark have decided NOT to review The Real L Word any longer. Why?

After much debate, confusion and Googling the Editors of Velvetpark have decided NOT to review The Real L Word any longer. Why? Grace Moon and Julia Watson deconstruct this hot lesbian mess. — Editors

Moon: OMG watching TRLW is like reading one long drunk text! From an ex you left for good reason!

Julia: Hahahahaha. Friends don’t let friends watch TRLW, Moon.

Moon: I only watched the first ep yesterday and this morning, because you know it is impossible to watch a full episode in one sitting.

Julia: And now you understand why you’ve been getting weekly emails from me threatening to harm myself and/or others if you keep making me watch this show for the good of Vp?

Moon: Yes, I do now! So I’m officially letting you off the hook.


Moon: I think this show is going nowhere fast. And it isn’t the big cultural phenom that the original TLW was.

Julia: Oh, God, no. Not even close.

Moon: …and I’m trying to figure out why?

Julia: Excellent. Let’s talk about our thoughts and feelings. I think this show is failing because even the most annoying person on TLW (Jenny) was FUN to hate. We loved to hate her. Most of these folks are being edited in a way that makes them completely unrelatable and/or unlikeable and even worse? Boring.

Moon: And something about TLW being fiction helped us to accept Jenny as a character, and NOT someone in real life…

Julia: Right. It’s awkward to want to dislike these people because they are real people. So then I feel like a judgmental douche for thinking, “OMG, what a DOUCHE!”

Moon: OK, that was my other point. I was thinking that the editing is done in such a way as to get a very emotional response of wanting to hate these people.

Julia: I think so, too. I don’t usually watch this kind of reality TV, the Real Housewives type stuff. Because it’s too fucking depressing. As is this show.

Moon: I think I have a moral response to creating a show that makes lesbians hateable. It seems they are going for a Real Housewives vibe and in the end we are portrayed as totally unlikable. I really have a problem with this. We look greedy, stupid, immature, materialist, alcoholic, needy, bratty… am I missing anything else?

Julia: I have less of a problem with that, because 1) it’s reality TV and everyone tends to look like that and 2) I think that almost normalizes us in the larger context of reality TV.

Moon: Really? It offends me.

Julia: It offends me a little, but at the same time, I have to put it in that context…

Moon: Well, not on the competition shows.

Julia: Right, those are a diff kettle of (far tastier) fish.

Moon: At least the saving grace is those people have some talent and the jerks are often ostracized.

Julia: I had some hopes, maybe not high ones, because of Magical Elves being involved here. Because their competish shows are so, so good. And I thought maybe Ilene might at least bring to the table her ability to make shocking drama that is entertaining in a possibly-unintentionally-campy sorta way. But none of that is transferring to this show. I wasn’t expecting it to move us forward as a culture, but I was hoping it would at least be entertaining and have something interesting to say. Alas, not so much. It’s not even watchable.

Moon: I bumped into a friend of mine who said she hated the show because there was not one of these people she even wanted to be friends with, look up to, or even envy.

Julia: Right. That makes it really hard to watch.

Moon: Like, if these characters are unlikable to your base audience something is terribly wrong! I don’t get that there is even a buzz going on in gay or straight circles about this show.

Julia: Then again, I don’t think lesbians are the target or base audience.

Moon: I beg to differ. I do think we are the base audience.

Julia: Because of the carry over of enthusiasm from TLW?

Moon: Lesbians were still the base audience. It wasn’t straight men or women. They watched, but we were the base.

I’m scouring the news for anything about TRLW and I don’t see very much in the MSM at all. So again I don’t think its some big cross-over hit

Julia: Yeah, I have a Google alert for TRLW, and almost all the articles and blogs I see (which aren’t numerous to begin with) are in the queer press. But I feel like they picked people they thought would appeal to straight men and straight women either as objects of lust or relatable “lipstick lez” characters.

Moon: I think the lipstick lez shtick is 1) so 1994 and 2) a by-product of LA.

Julia: Right, but I think that was totally intentional in why they picked LA. Even going back to TLW.

Moon: I agree there. Which leads me to my third point: there is a fetishization of LA culture, which is incredibly boring! LA culture at least as it is portrayed here lacks any substance.

Julia: Right, it’s portrayed as being all about getting drunk, partying, and “doucheing girls around.”

Moon: You took the words right out of my mouth.

Julia: Which is ideal for a reality show IF YOUR CAST IS IN THEIR EARLY 20s. Ha.

Moon: I don’t even agree with that! I mean drinking and fucking is like interesting for one episode. The reason TLW worked was there were storylines that people related to — with fucking and some drinking for added drama.

Julia: Right. As crazy and hair-brained as many of them were, there were storylines and even the occasional character arc. I’m sorry, arguing about your wedding budget for four episodes is not a storyline.

Moon: Ugh, that is my 5th most irritating thing: this notion of “We’re just like everyone else.” The whole wedding thing was so hetero-normative: “We get married and have big expensive weddings like everyone else”. “We are just two women together” who “happen” to love each other. WTF!

Julia: Yeah, that’s the part I have a harder time with…

Moon: “I could be with a man, but I’m in love with a woman.”

Julia: Not investing any energy into having a queer identity when you’re in a committed queer relationship… There’s something about that that feels so dismissive to me.

Moon: YES.

Julia: And so distancing.

Moon: Exactly what I wanted to say!

Julia: “Oh, I’m not like THOSE people…”

Moon: There is NO recognition of QUEER! Or our history! Or our culture! Long live the Lesbian Avengers!

Julia: Right.

Moon: It’s like LA is anti-queer!

Julia: I think it takes a person who lives with a certain amount of hetero and socio-economic privilege to even be able to begin from that place.

Moon: RIGHT! If you have money and privilege, you pass. Or you can buffer yourself from the real world.

Julia: And I have to wonder if these women have any idea what it’s like for your average Jill American lez, trying to get by in a sexist, heterosexist culture and even in for realiest sexist mainstream gay culture.

Moon: No! They don’t!

Julia: Maybe it’s just the way they’re edited, but Jill and Nikki in particular seem so cavalier about their wedding and getting gay married. There’s barely any recognition shown there on their part that they are in the midst of the biggest civil rights struggle of our time.

Moon: No one working on that show or in that show has any concept of it! TRLW is backwards!

Julia: It’s so disappointing.

Moon: I think TLW wove our politics, issues, queer identities into the storylines.

Julia: Or at least, it always tried to do that.

Moon: Because there were actually writers there who were queer.

Julia: Right.

Moon: This batch of broads are totally clueless and therefore do NOT advance queer culture. I do not believe any of these TRLW women are helping anyone’s identity. They are selfish, mean and bitchy!

Julia: They’re portrayed that way pretty one-dimensionally, yeah. I haven’t heard anyone talk about loving this show. I know there is always an element in the lesbian nation of people who are so hungry for lesbian images to identity with and to see themselves reflected onscreen that they embrace pretty much anything out there. But I haven’t seen that kind of a response to this show… I’m wondering if it exists.

Moon: I don’t think so.

Julia: If anyone reading this blog likes this show and finds something redeeming about it, I genuinely would like to know what and why! Because I’m baffled. And appalled. And, ultimately, bored.

Moon: The only rah rah I’ve seen is that girl who does the videocasts for Showtime and Autostraddle…

Julia: That’s like being gay for pay! Hahaha. Or at least, excited about drek for pay.

Moon: Other than that I think the lesbian nation 1) isn’t watching, 2) hates it, and/or 3) is just indifferent. I think TRLW is EXACTLY what the producers hoped for. They just underestimated what we really want! They thought by giving us rich, femme “passing” lesbians in Hollywood, we’d love it. Throw in some sex? Winner. Not. We want more! WeHo culture is NOT aspirational!

Julia: I’m just not sure they even think about what lesbian viewers want to see, honestly. I think we’re an afterthought, if a thought at all. I think they want the show to be mainstream, and that that informs all the decisions.

Moon: It is really too hard to relate to. I think they think like straight men. They think they can buy our affections with “pretty” (in the straightest sense of the word) girls, sex and drama… yeah, I agree they didn’t think of us, they thought of the brand.

Julia: Exactly! It’s all about TLW brand, and the difference between what that brand means to the lesbian community and what it means to Ilene Chaiken and the executives at Showtime. Hasn’t that always been the problem, though? The disconnect there? The gap is just widening now…

Sigh. (p. to the s. this photo was shot by Angela Jimenez for Velveptark Magazine in 2004)

Moon: And that’s it, the show is a flop as far as the community is concerned. I wouldn’t want to BE any of those girls, I don’t want to DO any of those girls… and if that’s how other lesbians feel…  then that ain’t good.

Julia: For realiest. Oh, Ilene Chaiken. What are we going to do with you?

Moon: So are we offically saying no more Twitcaps?

Julia: Yeah, no more Twitcaps. I think we’re done. The show isn’t entertaining enough to Twitcap. Even the Twitcaps are depressing/irritating.

Moon: … it’s just become painful. Done.  It’s one thing to portray dyke drama, and another to make sloppy dyke drama. The collective butch IQ drops when one of these broads walks into a room.

Julia: LoL IQ or BQ?

Moon: Wait, and what about them not being able to define lesbian sex!

Julia: Oh, for fuck’s sake. When Tracy said “lesbian sex is when two vaginas rub together and they don’t catch fire,” that was the one time I had to stop and wonder if she’s actually into chicks. That is the most heterosexual, clueless description of lesbian fucking I HAVE EVER HEARD IN MY LIFE. On so many levels. Incidentally, I would love to hear the Prof unpack that quote. It’d be like a clown car of layers of meaning.

Moon: Julia… this is what I mean. This show is bringing our culture down. It’s moving us backwards.

Julia: It’s moving us off into outer space.

Moon: It’s fucking appalling.

Julia: It’s very, very confusing. (We’re getting into a cadence here. I feel like we ought to break into song any moment now…)

Moon: It’s like there were no checks and balances when they decided to edit this. It was either done by all straight clueless people or totally clueless lesbians who have no idea of their own culture. And I have a proclamation: if you are a clueless lesbian in Hollywood making stories, fucking educate yourself! It is really a responsibility.

Julia: Word.

Moon: End of story.

Julia: And fucking cast lesbians who at least appear to know something about lesbian fucking, for fuck’s sake.