Like any self-respecting (albeit then-closeted) queer lady, I was aware of “The Real L Word,” Ilene Chaiken’s 2010-12 spin-off of the show that defined a generation of us in one way or another. At the time the show aired, I wasn’t interested. It had nothing to do with my denial of my bisexual identity and everything to do with the fact that I was still pissed at Chaiken for doing my girl Jenny Schecter so very, very wrong in the season finale of the original “The L Word.”
Fast forward a decade when the gay stars aligned for me and I found myself bingeing all three seasons in one week. Many factors contributed to this unconscious decision. One: I was in the home stretch of edits for my second queer YA novel out in 2021 and I desperately needed brain candy. Two: Showtime hit up my inbox with a 30-day free trial, ostensibly for the new season of “Billions,” a show I have never watched. Three: Well, I was curious.
Back in the day, I was a loyal fan of “The Hills,” MTV’s utterly ridiculous, utterly addictive reality drama about pretty, hetero 20-somethings living in LA. “The Real L Word” possessed the same sun-drenched, sugary sense of escapism — only way, way, way gayer — plus with more dogs and, starting in season two, a very adorable kitty. Sure, there’s mess: fake drama that’s clearly staged by producers, a lot of very real screaming in very crowded clubs, and well, Romi. That said, “The Real L Word” had a lot of good stuff that kept me watching till the very end of Whitney and Sara’s big gay wedding, immediately Googling what everyone’s up to these days, and following my faves on Insta (hi, Kacy!) — not to mention dorkily dancing around my apartment to that catchy theme song. Here’s what I unexpectedly adored:
Jill and Nikki are adorable as they squabble over a chandelier and planning a wedding that wasn’t legal at the time but was important for them on a personal level. Kacy and Cori hold on to the idea of a baby who may or may not materialize, while never wavering in their love and support for one another. Tracy and Stamie figure out how to balance work, sex, and the care of three lovable kids — one of whom had special needs. I thoroughly loved the storylines of these three couples navigating lesbian life in a straight world together. (And I was firmly Team Jill in Chandelier-Gate. That thing was dangerous!)
At the beginning of season three, I wasn’t sure how I felt about Kiyomi, the Hunter Valentine frontwoman whose way of practicing polyamory wasn’t exactly fair to her partner, Allie. When Kiyomi met enviably pink-haired and pearly white-teethed Angeleno Lauren at Dinah Shore, however, all bets were off. When they kissed on the lawn, it was cute. When they shyly gazed at one another and giggled during confessional interviews, it was cuter. And when Lauren couldn’t stay away from Kiyomi’s home of New York City for one more minute? Cutest.
Moments With Moms
Look, we’re in quarantine and I miss my mommy. This may explain why it rained on my face every time a loving mother figure appeared. Whether it was Jill screaming happily when her mom made a surprise trip to help her choose a wedding dress, Kacy’s mother meeting her daughter for lunch and consoling her about baby Charlie, or Whitney’s grandma witnessing Whitney’s backyard Connecticut Wedding, I was a mess, y’all. Let’s not forget Francine coming out to her ultra-glam mom Yoko, who immediately responded “I love love so much you,” and Sadjah’s mother Sarita praising Sadjah’s Vote for Equality peers for living their truth. “I just think that it’s beautiful for you all to stand up for your rights and fight for what you truly, truly believe in,” she says.
Real, Live Bisexuality!
Do I love the way Chaiken handles bisexual characters and storylines? Not always. But as a bi myself, I am hungry for any and all representation of my people in the media (Spoiler: still not a lot!). Right now, I’ll take what I can get, and I found it heartening to see Romi with boyfriends in the show’s third season, as well as the ensuing discussions of how bi/queer/pansexual women often feel excluded from the gay community as a whole. It’s rare I found Romi relatable, but I relished this particular topic that still isn’t discussed enough.
Claire. Enough said.
Oh, Claire. She left her absolutely gorgeous girlfriend Vivian in New York to “start a lesbian website” in LA — and shack up with ex Francine (guess how well that last one went). She blithely turned down an internship with “But I’m a Cheerleader” director and queer icon Jamie Babbit. And she would drunkenly scream in clubs. Claire was the undisputed queen. This season two main player was as messy as her ‘80s rock star-esque blonde shag, which is exactly what you want in reality TV. Don’t get me wrong, I was a fan of the quieter moments in “The Real L Word,” but Claire brought the sheer dramz, and I was here for it. (Also, I grew up not far from her hometown of St. Louis, so hell yeah for fellow weirdo Midwesterners!)
This Is The Way That We Live
Bringing it back to “The L Word” theme song we all loved: There still aren’t a lot of shows, movies, etc. about queer women existing (talking, laughing, loving, breathing, etc.). Even when I was frustrated with Whitney’s pre-engagement player ways, Sajdah and Chanel getting too serious too fast and hearing the millionth variation of “so what’s up with you and so-and-so,” I relished spending time with queer women in various stages of their lives, just figuring things out. I can’t say I miss the days when unscripted shows dominated the airwaves, but “The Real L Word” was worth watching, not just for the club-screaming, chandelier-squabbling and broken keyboard-pouting (poor Somer), but for the big lady-loving lesbian energy.
Bonus: No one dies in a swimming pool.