L Word Season 3: Year of the Cock

L Word Cast 

Showtime’s The L Word is the perfect example of a good show, or at least, a good idea for a show, gone terribly wrong. The show was never really a deep, thought provoking drama; in its first season, viewers were treated to the type of show that had a talented ensemble cast, a lesbian focus (albeit a narrow one), and a combination of dramatic plotlines and classic comedic moments.  The show was pitched as “groundbreaking television”, the first show on tv that reflected how “real lesbians” live.

Right from the start, there was criticism about the show’s portrayal of Los Angeles lesbians, because of the glaring omission of any butch or non-glamorous characters. Many people complained that an entire segment of the lesbian community was missing. And how can you have a show that realistically portrays lesbians if you no butch characters, or at least, any characters who don’t wear makeup, short skirts, and spiked heels?

Despite these flaws, however, the show was actually watchable, if you were willing to accept the idea that maybe some of the things that were missing were due to compromises with the network (some viewers were even quick to joke that most Los Angeles lesbians are pretty glam; Shane, the lothario of the group, was as close to butch as we were going to get). And of course, it is tv; we can’t always get everything that we want. So, many decided that, for the first major lesbian representation on television, The L Word wasn’t all that bad…

But, that was two seasons ago. The show has been airing for 3 years now, and each season has gotten progressively worse than the last. In Season 1, we were introduced to a group of very likable, human, characters, and even if some of the situations they found themselves in were a bit far fetched (e.g., Bette and Tina’s attempts to get pregnant by asking a random male stranger to have a one-night, condom-free, menage a trois with them, only to have the guy leave, indignant and offended at the fact that these two beautiful women only wanted him for his sperm), the show was still entertaining enough to suspend disbelief for some of those outlandish plot twists.

Season 2 introduced another highly unrealistic scenario, which, unfortunately was a plotline that stretched through half the season, and which left me wondering if the “lesbian” focus of the show was being compromised in order to pander to a wider audience. Of course, any television show seeks to gain as many viewers as possible, but when a show compromises its basic premise, or has its cast members acting completely out of character, I have to wonder what the real “purpose” of the show is. Was it really a show that wanted to pave new ground by showing a realistic representation of lesbians? Or was it just a melodrama that would put take the low road in order to get higher ratings?

The scenario that seemed to “turn the tide” for The L Word was the story arc involving two females, Jenny and Shane, and their male roommate, Mark (an aspiring filmmaker). Mark, unbeknownst to the women, had wired the house with hidden cameras and microphones, and enlisted a friend to help him spy on them 24 hours a day, in order to gather footage for a “documentary” he had been planning. This situation went on for months, until Jenny discovered one of the tapes. Jenny confronted Mark, who reluctantly admitted that he had been filming their every move in the house, including highly personal conversations and sexual activities. Now, you would think that any sane woman, especially a lesbian, would immediately kick Mark out of the house, but Jenny and Shane decided to let him stay and deal with his “guilt”. I had many problems with this storyline, but I was soon to see that it paled in comparison from many of the story arcs in Season 3.

In this current season (Season 3, the finale of which airs next Sunday), The L Word writers have sacrificed the very thing that kept viewers loyal to the show. Even if we had to deal with crazy plot twists, and less than stellar dialogue, at least we could count on the characters remaining true to themselves through all of it. Any show can survive a multitude of issues, as long as the audience can maintain loyalty to the characters that they have grown attached to through the years.

Ilene Chaiken, creator and Executive Producer of the show, has been facing a lot of criticism for this season’s departure from character development. Most of the major characters have received personality replacements. It would be understandable if a character developed over time and slowly began to exhibit different traits, as a result of personal growth through life experiences, but this show has not even tried to use this strategy. Characterization has been sacrificed for the sake of melodrama; we have been subjected to seeing characters act the complete opposite of the way they did in just the previous season. There is no character progression anymore, and there is no continuity in the story arcs or the timelines. Most viewer complaints are not about the wild plotlines, but the fact that the timing of some of the questionable events makes things completely unbelievable.

The other major problem with this season is the fact that it has almost completely lost its lesbian focus. Instead of watching a show were we have a group of lesbians interacting with each other in both positive and negative ways, we are now presented with a show that just happened to have a group of lesbian characters, whose lives revolve around various men. I’m not saying that men have no place on the show; I would actually like to see a more positive portrayal of the men who are on the show. I labeled this season “Year of the Cock” because it is obvious that the message that is being conveyed to the viewers is that even lesbians cannot function without men coming in to take control, and lesbians cannot be happy unless they are emulating men in some way. Also, this season’s lesbian love scenes have taken a back seat in order to focus on male-centered relationships. In one episode in particular, we were treated to more cock than a typical episode of Queer as Folk. And this is on a lesbian show!

The characters have been butchered so drastically, that people are saying that they feel sorry for the actresses. Knowing that contractual obligations are tying them to this show, we feel empathy for them, having to suffer through the humiliation of performing scripts that make no sense and plots that ignore character/series history. Really, this show has only been on for 3 years, and some of the historical inaccuracies are glaring. I’ve seen soap operas (some that have been broadcast for 50+ years) that present historical details with more accuracy. Indeed, many viewers have voiced the hope that it be revealed the next season that Season 3 was all just someone’s extended nightmare, and that we can all wake up to have the “real” L Word back.

Jennifer Beals as Bette Porter

Bette Porter (Jennifer Beals)

Bette has lost her backbone. Former an alpha female, Bette has tried to get into meditation in order to find a center to her life, which has fallen to pieces. She has not only lost her father to cancer, her job as a result of a calculating rival in love, and her life partner to a man, she also risks losing all rights to her child. For an entire season, we have been waiting for Bette to take charge and take control of her life, but we have been subjected to watching her allow people to walk all over her, which is the complete opposite of what her character is all about.

We have watched as Bette allows her former partner, Tina, flirt and canoodle with a man in her house, and this is after Bette had made it clear that Tina was no longer a welcome presence in her home. Most viewers, and surprisingly, even straight female viewers, have been complaining about how Bette’s character is not the same. But even so, comparatively speaking, Bette’s character change could be explained away as development. Anyone could reasonably believe that Bette, faced with the problems that she is going through, would bury her alpha tendencies because she is in a difficult place in her life. The same cannot be said, though, for her partner, Tina.

Laurel Holloman as Tina Kennard

Tina Kennard (Laurel Holloman)

Tina is the character who has gone through the most unbelievable metamorphosis this season. Her actions have been so ridiculously outrageous, that many viewers have taken to explaining the situation by saying that aliens must have abducted the “real” Tina and replaced her with a pod-Tina.

Tina, Bette’s partner of 7 years, has just had a baby through artificial insemination. While many of her motives have been questionable, we have been forced to accept Tina’s actions at face value, because we have never really received any background on her character. We have never seen or heard about Tina’s family, we don’t know much about her history outside of her relationship with Bette, and she doesn’t have much of a personality, but even taking that into consideration, most viewers were open to knowing more about Tina. Now that has all changed.

It is rumored that EP Ilene Chaiken is using the character of Tina to seek revenge against someone in her personal life, a former lover who left her for a man. Supposedly, we are seeing this woman’s actions mirrored in Tina, but even if this is the case, they are not being presented in a believeable way. Tina, in the space of a 6 month period, had suddenly “developed feelings for men”. This is from a woman who has identified as a lesbian for at least 7 years (she had been living as a straight woman before her relationship with Bette), and who has never been shown to even give men a passing thought. In one episode, Tina tells a friend, “Men are boring”. But that was back in Season 1.

Now, in Season 3, after going through a separation with Bette, during which she carried on a steamy affair, while pregnant, with Helena, another alpha female, Tina has started craving penis. Tina starts a cybersex affair with an anonymous man on the Internet, yet she still presents herself as a lesbian, even to him, calling herself a “dyke with baby”. Her screen name even hints that she identifies as lesbian: “Lindsey[76]” is the name of one of the lesbian characters from Queer as Folk, who cheated on her lover with a man.

Tina goes, in 6 months, from having hot sex with both Helena and Bette, to “having feelings for men”, and makes a dismal attempt to seduce a male employee. After this, she eventually meets another man, Henry, a divorcee with a young son, and begins an affair with him.

The major problem with this storyline, as many have said, is not the fact that Tina is interested in men, but the fact that the timelines are ridiculously unbelievable. Tina meets Henry, has sex with him in her house, in the bedroom that she shared with Bette, with her child and Henry’s son in the next room sleeping, after having known the man for a matter of hours. Even heterosexual fans have complained that the timing of these events is unrealistic. What new mother with a young child would bring a strange man to her home to have sex with him, in her lover’s bedroom?

And after the first night, Tina and Henry are inseparable. Tina even announces that she wants to “make a family” with Henry, which excludes Bette and the possibility that she will be allowed to see their child. Again, the timing of all of this is completely unbelievable, because Tina has met, mated, and now wants to mesh with Henry, all in less than 10 days. And the strange thing about this storyline is the fact that the writers have presented it in way that makes the timing element very obvious to the viewers. All of this happens while Bette is away on a meditation retreat (a trip that was supposed to last 10 days, but Bette actually leaves the retreat early). Many viewers have expressed extreme displeasure about this storyline, and many people, who were either supportive of Tina, or even noncommital, can’t stand to watch scenes that include her character. Tina, who was once the “goody-two-shoes” character, has now become the villain of the show, all in a few episodes.

Mia Kirshner as Jenny Schechter

Jenny Schechter (Mia Kirshner)

Jenny is a bisexual writer, who was once the most villified character on the show. Jenny has been described as the character who is closest to being an onscreen representation of creator Ilene Chaiken; the actress who plays Jenny even looks like Ilene. Jenny was the series’ most disliked character because she was selfish and manipulating, but she always got her way, because she exuded an air of innocence.

Jenny is a character who tends to have good intentions, but she goes about things the wrong way. Her life revolves around her writing, and she will use friends in order to gain fodder for her work, even without their permission. Jenny is currently in a relationship with a FTM (Female to Male transgendered person). And, typical for Jenny’s character, it appears that she is pursuing the relationship mainly to further her writing career. Indeed, Jenny is one of the few people on the show who has remained true to her character.

Rachel Shelley as Helena Peabody

Helena Peabody (Rachel Shelley)

Helena is the other alpha female character. Helena, a calculating, vindictive, selfish, and greedy English lesbian heiress introduced in Season 2, is now a lovelorn, shy, timid, wallflower with low self-esteem. There was never any explanation as to how Helena suddenly became a completely different person. In Season two, she was breaking hearts and seducing women with just a look; in Season 3, she has to seek the advice of a fortune teller to help her decide the course of her week. The old Helena never answered to anyone, not even her equally alpha mother, who holds the purse strings to Helena’s trustfund.

The new, self-doubting, shrinking violet Helena has been suffering through an extortion scheme plotted by a woman who she fell in love with. How Helena, supposedly a savvy and calculating woman herself, could fall for such an obvious ploy is really difficult to believe, but as this show has proven, the writers will script anything that that they can get away with.

Leisha Hailey as Alice Pieszecki

Alice Pieszecki (Leisha Hailey)

Alice, one of the show’s most popular characters, is played by the show’s only (openly) lesbian actress. Alice is a free lance pop culture writer, perky, but in a snarky way, always handy with clever one-liners, who usually provides comic relief. One notable subplot from Season 1 was the bisexual Alice’s relationship with a “lesbian-identified” male named Lisa, who felt like “a lesbian trapped in a man’s body”, and who refused to use his penis in any sexual encounters with her. It has been mentioned that despite Alice’s bisexual status, she has never been shown to be in a serious relationship with a man. Her most significant relationship on the show has been with another regular character, her best friend Dana.

This season, Alice suffered through the breakup of her relationship with Dana. Alice’s behavior after the breakup was over the top, but once again, if we suspended disbelief, we could chalk perky Alice’s psychotic behavior toward Dana, a woman she professed to still be in love with (extreme jealousy, slashing Dana’s tires, building a shrine to Dana in her living room) to comic relief.

Kate Moennig as Shane McCutcheon

Shane McCutcheon (Kate Moennig)

Shane is the show’s resident lothario, or as many like to describe her, The L Word’s answer to Brian Kinney from QAF, or this show’s version of Samantha Jones from Sex and the City. Shane has a huge following, as most heartbreaking heart throbs do. Shane lived her life from day to day, never turning down the chance for a hookup; if it was anonymous, that made it even better.

The writers have tried to make Shane settle down in a monogamous relationship this season with Carmen, but when Shane dallies with a former lover, we are supposed to believe that this is the tragedy of the century. The whole Carmen/Shane relationship has been really forced, and the characters seem to be as bored with the story as the viewers have become. While I commend the writers for apparently attempting to give Shane’s character more depth, her interactions with Carmen for the most part have come across as laughable teenybopper melodrama. 

Erin Daniels as Dana Fairbanks

Dana Fairbanks (Erin Daniels)

Dana’s character has received the worst treatment of all. Dana, a lesbian tennis star, and probably the most popular character of all, was killed off the show this season. The rumors preceding the character’s demise suggested that the actress was having a salary dispute with producers, and this would have been an understandable situation, but alas, it was not the case. Ilene Chaiken has said that she wanted to invoke awareness about the prevalence of breast cancer, so the only way that she could do this was to have Dana be stricken with the disease, and to have her character die. Countless viewers have criticized this tactic as being a poor way to “educate the audience” about breast cancer, and have complained that it would have been much more meaningful to have Dana as a cancer survivor and not a victim.

Killing the character off the show (for such a flimsy excuse, it seems like an attempt to try distract from poor writing) was only half the insult. After the episode (in which Dana dies), Chaiken, and the other producers and the director come onscreen to “explain the rationale” behind Dana’s demise, and they enlist some of the other cast members to give their thoughts on the topic, including Erin Daniels, the actress who played Dana. The shocking thing about it all is that the cast (including Erin) obviously had no idea that Dana would be killed off; it was presented to them as some random decision. They were totally unprepared for it. Kate Moennig (Shane) actually openly stated her displeasure in the decision, while Ilene Chaiken only remarked, “sometimes the stories write themselves”.

Sarah Shahi as Carmen Morales

Carmen de la Pica Morales (Sarah Shahi)

Carmen is Shane’s current girlfriend, who is the cast’s resident “Latina”. Oddly enough, Shahi is of Persian descent. I’m not discounting the actress’s skills, but I find it strange that the producers could not find one qualified latina actress (even if she wasn’t Mexican-American). The problem lies in the fact that they often have Carmen speaking in Spanish, and it is obvious that Sarah Shahi doesn’t speak the language. Also, in scenes where she is with other family members, Shahi looks noticeably different from the latino actors who play her relatives. The difference is glaring.

Daniela Sea as Moira/Max

Moira/Max (Daniela Sea)

Moira/Max is the newest character, who started out as a butch lesbian from the Midwest (who moved to LA with Jenny), but is now a female-to-male transgender person. Viewer empathy for this character has been dismal, mostly because of the questionable acting abilities of Daniela Sea, but also because of more unbelievable plotlines.

Moira appears to only suddenly want to become a man after hearing it suggested to her by a gay male character, Billie Blaikie (Alan Cumming). After facing some discrimination because of her butchness, Moira decides that changing her gender will lead to an easier life for her. She begins to take illegal hormones, (with Jenny’s help) and tries binding her breasts and wearing a dildo to make herself feel “more like a man”. Once Moira declares that she is now “Max”, he is determined to live as a man, and consults a doctor about getting surgery to remove his breasts. The most offensive part of this storyline, besides the show seems to be conveying a message that butch lesbians want to be men, is the fact that Max seems to have a warped view of what “being a man” actually entails.

As Moira, the character is annoying, and confused to the point of being imbecilic, but as Max, the character is gradually becoming more lucid and more confident. In a scene where the cast goes to a wooded area to memorialize Dana by spreading her ashes, we see Max take the lead, analyzing the map for the women, and helping all of the women through the uneven terrain. These scenes are hard to believe, because most of the women do not like Max (this originally started as a class issue, something else that the writers chose to abandon), and they are all able-bodied and confident enough to make their own way through the woods. In the memorial scenes, it appears that the women are almost deferring to Max, because he is the “male”.

The other senseless plot device related to Max’s character involves a love scene in which he has sex with the gay male character Billie Blaikie. Max, when he is caught in the act by girlfriend, Jenny, says, “Having sex with Billie makes me feel ‘like a man’.” Many viewers were left wondering how a person who had only been shown to be attracted to females could suddenly have sex with a man and say that it made him feel “more manly”. It seemed as if the writers had begun to research the topic of trangender personalities, but stopped before they were able to write anything about it in the show’s script that would make any sense.

Many viewers are hoping that Season 4 will be better, but with the creator saying things like, “all kinds of things can happen”, who knows how many of them will be watching to see exactly what will take place?

Original Blogger Post

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7 Responses to L Word Season 3: Year of the Cock

  1. gabi says:

    todas estas bien me gusta el estili shane y carmen son super especial

  2. Redundancy says:

    LOOL!!Brilliant

  3. sharmika says:

    i just to say i really liked reading this because i missed all of season 3 an i brought the dvd just the other day. me myself i was wondering what happened and why did they take away dana fairbanks. thanks for filling in the blanks and i agree completely with everything you have put into prospective for me. thank you.

  4. EX WILDFIRE OF THE L WORD says:

    OMG………… I AM WAITING FOR ANOTHER POST FOR SEASON 4THS’ FINALE!!!!!!!!

  5. Cassandra says:

    Great post! Very insightful and dead-on. Many of the things that I had a nagging feeling about while watching the season were put perfectly succintly. Can someone translate the Spanish for me? High school Spanish class was a long time ago! 🙂

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  7. Emmaline says:

    Bonjour! The babes are here! This is my favorite site to visit. I make sure I am alone in case I get too hot. Post your favorite link here.

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