Friday, November 18, 2016

Flashback Friday: The Bush Years and The L Word

The L Word (2004-2009) was popular, at least among many bi/lesbian women, smack in the middle of the Bush years.

Queer women's culture, at least some iterations of it, has struck me as ....disappearing. Have we seen a complacency, perhaps? A taking for granted that progress will always be linear? Our bars and independent, feminist, queer-friendly bookstores are going away. Blogs and websites I used to read on the regular no longer exist, or are unrecognizable. Bi/lesbian characters on TV still, too often, end up buried.

It makes me sad, sometimes, when younger queers ironically (and god, I'm getting old) ungratefully mock The L Word.  Critique is appropriate, but I don't know, is it only acceptable to mock things if you lived through them within the oppressive historical context in which they were rendered?

Back then, I had never seen anything like The L Word. Many of us were desperate for representation; and many still are. It was pre-marriage-equality. DADT was in effect. NOM and its ilk were obsessive in their quest to keep equality out of our reach. State after state were passing amendments or laws against equality. George W. Bush and his administration were explicitly hostile to our community.

But then, we got a whole show in all its imperfect glory about at least a part of the community. It tackled (sometimes too earnestly?) political issues. It was about women, lots of women, who talked to each other about pretty much everything but men. It showed female friendships and rivalries. It showed women fucking. It was sometimes feminist. And, unpopular opinion alert, but I don't actually think Jenny Schecter was The Worst. (Except, that stuff with Sounder was fucked up).

During The L Word years, I remember the weekly huddling into people's living rooms on Sundays to watch (those who had Showtime were high status friends). Bars would have viewings and, if you can believe it, the rooms would be completely silent because if you dared to even whisper, a hundred angry lesbians and bisexuals would glare, shush, and make you leave and then everyone would demand that the bartender rewind it and so the actual viewing would take like two hours instead of just one.

It was pop culture as solace, however imperfectly (too white, too cis, weird on bisexuality) and corporate (women fucking, but not for the male gaze, but also looking very Traditional Standards of Femininity). But, it was ours. And when it was good, it was fucking good.

Friday fan video, below (NSFW).

[content note: loss of pregnancy, anti-gay bigotry]

The video is set to Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." You might remember this song being played in the Season 1 episode, "Liberally." In it, Bette agrees to a televised debate with anti-gay bigot Fae Buckley, a Phyllis Schlafly type of woman. During the debate, Buckley says that god condemns homosexuality, which is why god made Bette's "lesbian lover" have a miscarriage. And god, it's so unbelievably cruel and I remember it so capturing the zeitgeist of what living with a bigot President, one who enabled hate groups, was like.

Sorry to end on a negative note. I feel tired, ya'll. I'm down for the resistance. But goddamn. To go through this shit again. And, by the fucking way, I will never get over Dana Fairbanks. So could whoever makes the Trump-years L Word reboot please not kill the new version of her, thanks.

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