If you have any knowledge at all of The L Word, then you know who Bette Porter is. (Personally, I think she is the ultimate Aries Sun, Capricorn Moon.) She is a woman who knows how to get what she wants. But she’s also extremely adept at being wildly campy and dramatic when that doesn’t happen. Someday, decades from now, young queer kids are going to fish a dusty DVD of The L Word out of some treacherous nuclear fallout, and they’re going to witness our lesbian icon, Bette Porter, in all her neurotic glory.
Bette is a vibrant and captivating firecracker of a character with so much wit and feeling, I could point out a million moments that make her the best L Word character.
Here are some of Bette’s most definitive highlights.
1. “WHAT MAKES YOU THINK I’M NOT ALREADY?!!”
Season 2 was the gift that kept on giving, as far as Bette-isms were concerned. Given that Bette was basically losing control of everything she had built (her marriage, her job, etc.) after her affair with The Carpenter (Candace Bergin), it makes total sense why. Then, episode 3 came along, which gave us one of the most iconic Bette moments of all time. After frantically crashing her blue Saab into an SUV, Bette is verbally accosted by the driver who bangs on the window saying, among other vile things, “You’re going to be one sorry bitch.” To which Bette replies, while grabbing the guy by the shirt with both hands, “What makes you think I’m not already? WHAT MAKES YOU THINK I’M NOT ALREADY?!!!”
2. “Mr. Green, I’m not going to write you a blank check just because you yell like a fucking banshee.”
Apparently, this guy didn’t get the memo that Bette was simply not the one to play with because later that day he calls her during a board meeting at work, and she chews him up and spits him out. AGAIN. After he threatens a lawsuit, she says, “Bring it on, you dwarf.” The sharp tongue she uses to tell that weird guy off in that phone call is pure Bette Davis. Ice cold.
3. That time she threw herself a pity party after crashing Shane’s actual party.
Later on, in that same episode, Bette crashes a hangout at Shane’s house with all The L Word gang (minus Tina and plus Tawnya) saying, “I thought I’d invite myself over since no one seems to bother to anymore.” Yikes. Tawnya decides to occupy space by offering a suggestion, “Wow, this is awkward. When things get this bad, I always like to play a game. (Huh?!) Let’s see… Oh, I know, if you saw yourself in a bar, would you hit on yourself?” The girls go around giving their answers, and Bette silences the room by saying that if she saw herself, she would “go running in the opposite direction.”
4. That time she went depression-swimming in her clothes.
As the final scene in episode 3 of Season 2, Bette leaves Shane’s gathering to take a much-needed swim, face first in the pool in her own backyard. Jennifer Beals honestly deserves like 6 Emmys and a TONY for this. It’s breathtaking and heartbreaking.
5. Bette smoking (OMG!!)
Season 2 was also the season that Bette started smoking again. Cigarettes are bad, this we know… but, but Bette looked amazing holding one, and that is an opinion I won’t back down from.
6. That time she was a badass mama bear protecting her cub.
Oh, and who could forget Bette’s incredible scene calling one of the parents at Angelica’s music class for babies an “asshole” for getting the triangle for their child before Bette could grab it for Angelica. Honestly, I love her more with every breath. Oh yeah, and “DOES ANYBODY HAVE A SIPPY CUP! JESUS!”
7. That time she checked her boss for undermining her authority.
There is no truer boss bitch than Bette Porter. Remember that time she rolled up in the middle of the night to her literal boss Franklin’s house to cuss him out on the doorstep of his mansion about hiring Helena Peabody’s readymade scab, Leo Herrera? Yeah, Franklin! Next time you think about crossing Bette Porter, you better just sit down and remember that you could easily be replaced by AN ANIMATED TURTLE BEARING YOUR SAME NAME!
8. All those times she showcased her Ivy League education, including that time she did it at a congressional hearing and almost bagged a congresswoman.
Oh, don’t get-eth it twisted-eth. Bette Porter graduated from YALE. (OK, she went there for art, but it’s still YALE!) She’s part of the Los Angeles Lesbian Intelligentsia, and don’t you forget it. She uses the word “philistine” casually and regularly. She also uses the term “mea culpa” a lot when she’s nervous and is “f*cking flabbergasted” that you didn’t know that about her already. She can learn sign language in a day, has read every art book in the entire world and has been to Prague multiple times. She has also been to India but does not like Indian food. I’m just telling you about Bette.
If you try to burn art in front of her, she will go off on you. It doesn’t matter if she’s at a restaurant in Canada with her child on the run from the law or if she’s standing in front of the United States Congress. All you’ll be able to do is make up some flimsy excuse to ask her back to your apartment, where she’ll painfully deny you the chance to get with her.
9. When primal screams attack!
Silent retreats are obviously not for the faint of heart. If you ask Tina Kennard, they’re an expensive waste of precious funds. Full stop. But when Bette visited one in Season 3 in an attempt to rid herself of desire during a long and arduous Buddhist phase, she learned the lesson of self-acceptance and the importance of vocal expression in her life. Basically, she learned the opposite lesson that the Buddhist retreat was trying to teach her (lol).
A few days after arrival, she tapped out and primal screamed her head off until she got to a bus stop. There, her intensity and need for release became infectious among the other people waiting for the bus. It’s amazing how magnetic she can be when she’s enthralled in an emotion. She is the concentrated essence of desire personified, and she will not be silenced—least of all when she’s actually paying to be silenced.
10. She is a celluloid goddess for the digital age (well, maybe just the early 2000s).
This may be a super cheesy thing to say, but I’m gonna say it: Bette Porter has Bette Davis eyes. HAVE YOU SEEN BETTE PORTER? SHE IS FRIGGIN’ BEAUTIFUL! It’s actually scary because sometimes it feels like the intensity of her beauty could rip a hole into the space-time continuum. Also, not to be a creep, but… Bette’s sex scenes in The L Word are just on another level. Her facial expressions during sex are like what you imagine you might look like or feel like during sex—but, in Bette’s case, it’s her REALITY. I mean, she’s a fictional character, but she’s real to me.
My point is, she’s a classic beauty like Athena or Helen of Troy. Her beauty feels impossibly perfect somehow, like freshly fallen snow from the Swiss Alps or The Lost City of Atlantis. Bette is gorgeous and truly worthy of, like, an old Hollywood glamour title.
11. She has the skills to pay the bills.
Bette is not only beautiful, but she is also wise. That’s why she played a The Godfather-esque kingpin role in the She Bar/The Planet lesbo-turf negotiations. Be honest, if you were arguing for a pay raise at your job, wouldn’t you want Bette Porter in your corner? If there’s ever an L Word video game, I bet that once you battle all of Ilene Chaiken’s ex-girlfriends, she’s, like, the final boss.
12. She is an alpha lioness.
Being that she is an excellent arguer, it would also make total sense that Bette is a fierce and very intense competitor. I mean, remember when they played that basketball game against Papi’s crew and Bette was, like, taking it sooo seriously?
Also, the whole thing with Helena in the beginning. Like when she came to Tina’s weird job at (I shit you not) “The Headquarters For Social Justice,” and Bette saw Helena and was all, “What are you doing with my girlfriend?” Even though Tina was actually with Joyce Wishnia or Helena or a Hitachi magic wand at the time. (It’s hard to keep track of Tina’s showmances.)
13. She is an adorable neurotic.
Through all of Bette’s intensity and occasional control-freak behavior, it’s still extremely easy to love her and to find her character endearing. It’s not really her fault that she was born without chill. She’s was born with searing focus, which is really sweet when applied to a constructive task like master-minding helping Dana figure out if Laura is gay or not. It’s the cutest thing in the world when she leans into the camera and says, “We’re going to ascertain the disposition and intent of one Miss Laura Perkins.”
14. When she’s smiling the whole world is smiling with her.
Her smile is extraordinary. Need I say more? I hope they make it a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavor. It’s like putting a seashell to your ear and hearing the ocean or inhaling the scent of fresh lilies.
15. She is a verified stone cold ladykiller when she’s drunk.
Bette wouldn’t be the lesbian Bettie Davis if she couldn’t put ’em down like the best of them. She is deeply good at drinking martinis. I could watch her drink martinis alone in a padded cell for five years straight, with or without sound. My favorite memory of Bette drinking martinis is the time she downed martinis all night at a random high-end lounge (I’m too broke to fully understand what a lounge even is). And then eye-fucked a wide-eyed brunette so hard that the girl left her date to slow dance with Bette and then go back with her to her hotel room. It was awesome.
16. Sometimes she is literally something out of A Streetcar Named Desire.
Bette screaming, “TINA!” during her downward spiral in Season 2 is my PhD thesis. It’s the stuff lesbian love addictions are made of. Luckily, she ended up with the girl in the end. But that moment changed me. Possibly forever.
17. She is the gayest and is romantic AF.
Last but not least, Bette’s romantic gesture toward Jodi in Season 4 produced one of TV’s cutest lesbian love moments. After she and Jodi split up, Bette enlists Alice and Shane to help her steal a giant metal sign on top of a warehouse that Jodi once pointed out, reading 17 Reasons Why. She then took a plane to upstate NY (hella expensive with that heavy sign) and drove it to her on a tractor. It’s also completely apropos to a lesbian romance that Bette literally only thought of doing this because her ex, Tina (who was still in love with her and whom she was still in love with) gave her the idea. Oh, what tangled webs we weave.
All in all, Bette Porter is an incredible fictional woman. She has inspired me, as a crazed L Word fan, to get into many Reddit fights and make much much shitty fan art. She has taught me, among many lessons, that it is fully possible to have an orgasm from simply looking at a painting and that, when all else fails, one should never be afraid to have sex on the art. She’s the reason I went to art school, in the first place, and she is the reason I’m going to transfer to a different art school.
I hope you all learned something from this. I’m certain that you did. You’re welcome.