Any queer woman over the age of 25 will most likely know how one would usually refer to the original L Word series: ‘the lesbian rite of passage’. In 2020, one can clearly see there are a few problems with it re its representation of trans characters and people of colour, but as I’ve heard it described before, The L Word is to queer women what Friends is to many straight people – a show that unites many as something we’ve all watched at one time or another. This, of course, shares the problems Friends had with comments re transphobia and sexism within its storylines.
For me, at least, the L Word reminds me of some of the first solid, main character representation I saw on screen for myself; I hadn’t even come out yet; I was still ashamed and in the closet, trying to push down feelings I didn’t know were perfectly natural. Finding out this unashamed and barely bashful series existed – where lesbians and bisexual women were represented with almost reckless abandon and in abundance – led me to sit and binge the entire 6 series in less than a month.
It didn’t help me come out officially, and it was a little negative – cheating storylines and shock death twists and the like – but all in all, it felt more tangible and real than most things I’d watched on TV with LGBT representation. Which wasn’t a lot, now one mentions it.
Obviously, Gen Q is of a different time, and more importantly a different breed. Still, with plenty of dramatic twists and turns, some unhealthy choices and a whole barrel of fun, it has the signature L Word quality while making its own way in the world; somewhat like that wild teenager you worry about but know can look after themselves. Its commitment to representation is a stellar improvement on the first time round, with a trans man as a main character (Leo Sheng shines as Micah), a trans woman playing a cisgender lesbian (the ever fabulous Jamie Clayton as Tess) and a wealth of people of colour included both in the main and supporting cast.
It is admittedly obvious they are trying to make up for past misdeeds, and understandably so. On the prospect of the character Carmen de la Pica Morales returning, show runner Marja Lewis-Ryan told Autostraddle that the writers room (including multiple Latinx writers) had agreed the idea of a Persian woman (Sarah Shahi) playing a Latina would not be the right move in 2019, which shows that not only the cast has improved, but the writers room has made progress too.
In any case, the sequel still keeps its original jewels on display. Shane, Bette and Alice were coincidentally my favourites from the original series, and seeing them explored in detail on the new gig was wonderful to watch. The character development in one season seemed better than that of six seasons for some of them. Personally, I connected more with Shane’s story more in the new show than I did in the original – the complexities were, while trying not to sound too oxymoronic, easier to follow and more captivating.
When it comes down to it, one must remember they are two very different shows from very different times, where views and opinions of the day sport a drastic contrast. While Gen Q is more acceptable in terms of representation, the original series is somewhat a relic, that shouldn’t be forgotten as an important handle for young queer women to grab onto like I did, showing us we aren’t strange, or wrong. The beauty of Gen Q is that it can do the same thing for even more young queer people, not just lesbians and bisexual women. The show runners clearly learned from previous mistakes, but both shows have their own distinct charm and importance. Both shows work in their own, brilliant ways.
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Sophie deals in big news and honest reviews. Also a photographer and videographer, she cannot possibly just do one thing at once. To boot, she’s a massive superhero nerd.