Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Lesbians on TV: Media Representation in The L Word

Like any good dyke, I have seen every episode of the popular Showtime show, The L Word, at least once and I admit, I like the show. However, liking a show does not mean it is without fault. The L Word follows the lives of a group of lesbians in West Hollywood. There are a lot of problems with the way that issues such as trans* issues, class, bisexuality, drug use, etc. are portrayed in the show. That being said, this will be the first entry in a series of posts about the show.

Let's start with the representation of the lesbian community. In the land of The L Word, lesbians are almost all white, thin, femme, wealthy, and fit within the media's standard of beauty. They all live within this cloistered community where everyone knows everyone's business and they have the money and time to go out every night.

The main characters are archetypes of the way lesbians supposedly are. Here's a list of the character you need to know for the purposes of this blog.
Alice: the gossip. She has a chart of who has slept with who.
Shane: the heartbreaker/slut.
Bette and Tina: the couple that has been together for years.
Dana: the closeted athlete
Jenny: the straight girl who turns gay
Moira/Max: the show's failed attempt at having a trans* character. More on this later.

So, all these characters represent the basic stereotypes that permeate the way the less informed public sees lesbians. Yes, some of it is correct. Many lesbians are heartbreakers, or gossips, or end up in very long term committed relationships. Many lesbians are athletes, many are in the closet, and most lesbians identified as straight once. I even had a chart similar to the one Alice has at one point.

The problem is that not all lesbians fit into these boxes, and, at least in my experience, the LGBTQ community does not function in quite that way. I don't know anyone who hangs out with almost entirely lesbians, nor do I know anyone who lives a life that completely revolves around gossip. Yes, gays gossip, but that's not all we do.

Same goes for sex. Sex is great, it's wonderful, but my life does not revolve around it. If your only experience with lesbians was watching The L Word, you wouldn't know it. Sometimes I feel like the show is soft core porn with a slight storyline. My life is not like that, at all.

To an extent, I get it. Sex sells, and without it the producers lose their straight man audience if they tone down the sex, but for once I would really like to see a show that represents who I am, in a relatable way.


  1. 1) you only did it because Alice did it.
    2) NO ONE wants to watch a show about your life. Not even you.

  2. Dear anon:

    1. She only did what because Alice did it? And by Alice, who do you mean?

    2. Sure, I don't want to watch a show about my life either, but I would like to see my community well represented in the shows I do watch. Is it too much to ask for some decent representation? That is what I feel the author of this post is saying.

  3. Have you ever noticed how even today where there are 'archetypal representation' of gays on tv that there are still less about lesbians. Is the hierarchical bling pyramid all again. Notice all the shows have gay couples but only a few females and more important it is still about the sex just as wit the L word. I just noticed how there is so little true representation of the LGBTQ community in mainstream television and when there is is mainly gay stereotypical white man. Just food for thought.