When you’re a therapist, sitting back, relaxing, and simply enjoying “The L Word: Generation Q” Season 2 can be a challenge.
“When I’m watching television, especially something that’s very queer-centered, I try to turn that part of my brain off,” Sunflower, a therapist and the woman behind GO Magazine’s live “L Word” recaps on Instagram, tells me. “But — spoiler alert — you can’t. It’s always there.”
View this post on Instagram
It’s impossible to not analyze a character’s every decision, to not see patterns developing with recurrent destructive behavior. It becomes impossible to not offer suggestions for how said character might break those bad habits. This inability to turn off her therapist’s brain makes “The L Word: Generation Q” viewing tricky not just for Sunflower, but also for her wife, who watches the show with her. “She’ll be like, ‘Shhh! Stop saying that!’”
Although her wife might not always be receptive to her running commentary, Sunflower has found a voice on Instagram, and an audience with whom to share her thoughts on all things “L Word.” A self-described lover of TV pop culture, she first turned to the social media platform to launch “Sunflower Selects,” a 60-second recap of some of her favorite TV shows. Her easy-going conversational style and breathless recall of plot points caught the attention of GO publisher Amy Lesser, who’d asked if she’d come on board for “Gen Q” recaps.
That she is a pop culture aficionado — and someone I’d like to poach for my bar trivia team — is apparent from the get-go. She comes to our Zoom meeting dressed in a T shirt that reimagines a Dr. Who dalek with a Hello Kitty face, and effortlessly references 80s and 90s sitcoms throughout our conversation. Finley’s crashing of Sophie and Dani’s wedding? Not nearly as classy as Dwayne Wayne declaring his undying love for Whitley Gilbert at her nuptials on “A Different World.” “It was like this scene,” she tells me. “I feel like Finley could have had a little more thought behind it, instead of going in and being like, ‘Oh, I didn’t know it was happening.’”
Her endless supply of pop culture trivia, along with a wardrobe of TV-inspired shirts, come in handy in her day job, too. A shared love of a certain TV show or movie can help her bridge the gap between herself and a client, allowing them to contextualize their own problems and dilemmas in terms of a beloved character’s journey.
View this post on Instagram
Not surprisingly, TV also shaped her own career path. Sunflower had first been drawn to the role of therapist as a kid watching the 80s family sitcom “Growing Pains.” Alan Thicke, who played the Seaver family patriarch, worked as a psychiatrist out of his garage so he could be a stay-at-home dad. You never really saw him do his job, Sunflower recalls, but she was hooked on the idea of becoming a therapist.
And not just any therapist; she’s a therapist who specializes in sex and sexuality, which makes staying silent during “The L Word” even more tricky. I have to ask: Are there any “L Word” characters in particular she’d offer her services to? “I probably would like to sit down with Alice a little bit more,” she says. “She doesn’t talk about her feelings. At all.” Although Alice finally opened up to Tom about the loss of Dana, Sunflower fears her attraction to him might get in the way of her fully processing her feelings. “I can’t even have a conversation without thinking about that!”
View this post on Instagram
She’d also like to sit down with Angie, although for the opposite reason. Of all the characters, Angie is perhaps the most willing to talk about, and process, what she’s feeling with regards to finding her donor father — and possibly donating him a kidney. “When she asked, ‘Can I speak to a therapist?’ my heart melted,” she tells me. “She is asking for what she needs, advocating for herself, knowing this is going to be heavy. So I would be like, ‘I’ll do it!’”
As couples go, she thinks Nat and Gigi could have made it, if they’d talked more openly about their polyamory. She predicts that Alice will get together with Tom (check — for now) and Maribel with Micah (check — also for now). She’d like to see Tess resist Shane although — spoiler alert — that didn’t happen (she’s since been won over by how cute they are together). She’d also like to see Pippa turn a cold shoulder to Bette, and for Bette to realize that for all her progressive ideas, she ultimately wants a romantic partner willing to play a supporting role.
She’s also a firm no on a Bette/Tina reunion. A tease might be good to muddy the plot waters, but ultimately “I feel like Tina found her beau, Carrie, and they’re going to get married,” she says. “Let them have their own life.” (Amen!)
Like Bette and Tina, all of our lives have changed radically since “The L Word” originally aired in 2004. So for Sunflower, how does watching “Gen Q” compare to watching the original “L Word” back in the day? She’s no longer thinking about dating, for starters. And like many of “Gen Q”’s characters, she and her wife are navigating parenthood now as the mothers of a young son. The plotline involving Angie’s quest to learn about her donor in particular touches home, since she and her wife also used a donor for their pregnancy. “I remember when Angie was like, ‘Oh, I want to find my donor,’ and my wife and I looked at each other and we were like, ‘We probably should have that conversation,’” she recalls. “This is a new world for them. And it’s a new world for us, too.”
She can also appreciate the complexity of the donor plotline. On one hand, as a parent, she understands why Bette and Tina are reluctant to let Angie meet her donor — let alone donate a kidney to him. But as a therapist, “I thought about Angie and was like, if that was one of my clients, I would be like, ‘You need to advocate for yourself.’ So I understand both sides.”
As a fan of Angie, she’d like to see more of Bette and Tina’s daughter as she navigates the complexities of meeting her donor, and her blossoming relationship with Jordan — a positive example of a relationship for young, queer viewers. She does not want to see any combination of Finley, Sophie, and Dani (“I think the three of them need to go back to being friends at some point”), and would also like to see fan-favorite, Dana, return as a possible spiritual guide for Alice.
She’d also like to see the show continues to depict and develop authentic, real characters of color. “Gen Q” is far more diverse than the original, “[b]ut I think there’s still more to go,” she says. Developing Angie is a step in this direction. She’d also like to see more of Lena Waithe’s Eddie, as perhaps a counterpart to Shane, and for Bette to fully explore her work with Black artists and persons of color. There’s a conversation there, she says. “They’re dipping the smallest pinky toe in the conversation. Get a little bit deeper.”
But if anything, “Gen Q” is showing how it is growing beyond the original “L Word.” It’s already reflecting the changing complexities of the lives of queer women and individuals and, like so many of us, Sunflower, is eager to see where these changes take us in future episodes.
”I think they’re on the right track,” she tells me as our interview comes to an end. “I want to see how it continues.”
We have just one episode left to see where the writers take us this season. Stay tuned for Sunflower’s recap following the season finale on Monday!