Lesbians Get Real On TV
June 20, 2010 Leave a comment
Jill is a “nice Jewish girl” who is planning her wedding. Rose is a long-haired Latina who has a problem with commitment, and tattooed Mikey is a domineering fashion show producer with a heart of gold.
They also are lesbians and are among the stars of the first lesbian-themed TV reality show on a mainstream US cable channel. Making its highly-anticipated debut on Sunday, The Real L Word is a spin-off of the groundbreaking 2004-2009 Showtime drama series The L Word that portrayed the love lives of a group of lesbians in an explicit manner never before seen on US television. But that was fiction – albeit rooted in the experiences of L Word creator Ilene Chaikin – and the six Los Angeles women featured in the new show, also on Showtime, are real.
“One of the things I was asked constantly (about The L Word) was ‘is that true? Are there really lesbians like that?’,” Chaikin told Reuters.
“To some extent this show answers that question in the affirmative…Just like all women, lesbians come in many different packages and these women may tell you something that you wouldn’t have thought before about who a lesbian is.”
Promoted as a show sizzling with sex and lovely ladies, The Real L Word arrives at a time when lesbians have been making headlines but are still more under-represented in US pop culture even than gay men. In the past two months, country singer Chely Wright and Christian singer Jennifer Knapp came out after years of hiding their sexuality in careers seen as hostile to gay culture. A US study in June found that being raised by two mothers does not hinder the healthy psychological development of kids.
This July, The Kids Are All Right – a comedy movie starring Julianne Moore and Annette Bening as a lesbian couple – hits theatres as one of the most widely-anticipated US independent films of the summer film season. Yet five years after the love story of gay cowboys won three Oscars for Brokeback Mountain, there were just four lesbian characters on US network TV shows this season, none of which were leads, according to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
“I had hoped and maybe expected that we would be a little bit more present in the pop culture than we are right now. But I am confident that it is changing,” Chaikin said, noting that most minorities are under-represented in Hollywood.
However Chaiken says she has always been more interested in storytelling than using her shows to promote sexual politics.
“I set out to tell stories, not to change stereotypes. But if one effect is to challenge stereotypes, that is a lovely thing,” she said.
As for the sex in The Real L Word – and there is plenty – Chaikin noted that sexual preference is part of what differentiates lesbians. She said producers worked hard to weed out mere attention seekers in the casting process.
“It was truly challenging to find six aspiring women who were comfortable enough in front of the cameras to share their lives with us, but who weren’t simply looking to promote themselves in a vulgar way.”