I don’t know what it is about “The L Word,”but for whatever reason, I weep through the whole thing. Maybe it’s because when the first rendition of “The L Word” came out, I was a closeted high school student and the show was the only thing in the world that fed my repressed sapphic longings.
Maybe it’s because “The L Word” represents such safety for me that I feel actually free enough to release the slew of caged feelings brewing within me.
Maybe it’s because, darkly, I’ve devoured the show so many times I’ve convinced myself I’m friends with the characters and miss them when they’re not around? (Yeah, I know).
All I know for sure is that when those opening credits flash against the static screen, I’m a mess.
“Zara, bloody hell!” My exasperated English mother said to me last night. She was sitting next to me on the sofa, popping chocolate covered raisins as we watched the premiere of “The L Word: Generation Q” season 2 together. “The bloody show hasn’t even bloody started yet. Are you taking your Prozac?”
“This cuts through the Prozac!” I grabbed a box of tissues from the coffee table and placed them in my lap. “I can’t help it,” I muttered, willing the tears back into my eyeballs. My visceral reaction to “The L Word” is embarrassing. Hence why I watch it with my mom, not with a cool crowd of dykes at a cool dyke party.
The Season 2 premiere of “Gen Q” was chock full of emotionally loaded moments. Angie tells her moms she wants to get to know her donor. Gigi hops into the car as Nat and Alice are about to get down and dirty whilst stuck in traffic. Shane colonizes a space designed for queer women of color and gets called the fuck out by Eddie, played faultlessly by the ever-iconic Lena Waithe. Bette finds herself tokenized — yet again — in the art world. And lest we not forget; darling Finley in her scruffy little shorts waltzes into Sophie and Dani’s hyper-posh wedding ceremony and right as the nuptials begin, declaring her love for Sophie (why, Finley, why?!).
And while all the explosive drama most definitely rendered me teary-eyed and sent my cortisol levels flying through the roof, they didn’t trigger the same raw emotion as the smaller, more subtle moments.
There were three moments in episode one that were so quick you could miss them if you dared to blink, yet were so nuanced and vulnerable, they’d crack you wide open if you were to pay close attention.
Moment 1: “Carrie is kind of the best”
First of all, every scene with Angie tends to knock the wind out of me — and I’m going to credit that not just to brilliant writing — but to the brilliant acting chops possessed by actor Jordan Hull (who plays Angie).
Jordan Hull’s scenes are so rich with subtext and such intimacy. She’s got a rare transparency about her that reveals her complicated interior life through her glittery eyes.
But Angie’s scene that moved me the most in episode one was when Angie opens up to Jordi about wanting to meet her donor. Angie tells Jordi that Carrie (Angie’s soon-to-be stepmom played by the legendary Rosie O’Donnell) told her about a genetic test she took that connected her to family members she didn’t know in Florida. After Angie tells Jordi this, a sweet, excited smile dances upon Jordi’s face. Jordi proceeds to tell Angie that “Carrie’s kind of the best.” Angie lets Jordi’s observation sit for a second. Just a second. And then we have the privilege of watching Angie’s face light up like one thousand Christmas lights. She chirps, “Yeah, she kind of is” through the most genuine smile I’ve ever seen.
What made this tiny exchange between two teenage girls so utterly powerful was watching Angie come to the realization that her mother Tina is with someone amazing. Someone amazing that isn’t Bette. That’s a huge epiphany for a teenager whose instinct is, naturally, to resist seeing Tina with anyone other than Bette. It depicted an immense moment of maturity in Angie and isn’t watching a character grow up and come to her own adult conclusions — ones that stretch outside the realm of her powerful mom — both intense and beautiful?
Moment 2: “I think you’re beautiful.”
Carrie and Tina are going for dinner at a chic LA eatery and who do they run into? Bette and Gigi on a date. I don’t care how many years it’s been — seeing the woman with whom you share a child — on a date with someone else is jarring, to say the least.
For Bette, it’s clearly heart-shattering but Tina simply seems caught off guard.
Also, lest us not forget that they’re in Hollywood, baby. The land of uncomfortably narrow beauty standards, a tiny repressive mold that Bette and Gigi happen to fit seamlessly into. Not only are both Bette and Gigi West Hollywood smoke shows, they’re cool. They have an acceptable lesbian style that is cosmopolitan enough to be hip and feminine enough to not freak men out. The two women are a drastic juxtaposition when splashed up against Carrie — who is attractive, but not in your typical LA way.
Not only that, but Carrie has a down-to-earth Irish New York accent matched with a specifically tri-state neurosis. (Which I happen to know from personal experience, doesn’t always land in Shangri LA.) The difference between Bette’s world and Carrie’s world becomes increasingly glaring after Gigi makes a jab at Carrie’s inability to eat scallops. “Save those for the grown-ups” she bitchily croons, her shimmery lids hissing like a snake. Carrie and Tina are both taken aback and awkwardly excuse themselves to their table.
When Tina and Carrie are sitting across from each other, their faces glowing in the chic, dim lighting, Carrie starts doing what all tightly-wound New Yorkers do when anxious: she starts babbling. She begins to go on about her reflux and then starts waxing poetic about how she knows she is resistant “to try new things” and “if you really want the scallops, I’ll order the scallops.”
Tina gazes at her with so much love teeming in her eyes, it’s obvious that she’s falling harder for her with every passing second. “I think you’re beautiful,” Tina says simply.
Carrie’s eyes glisten with subtle tears “Yeah?” she asks Tina. Tina confirms. “Well, that’s a really nice thing to say,” Carrie responds. Everything about her body language is so open and vulnerable you can tell that Tina’s kind words have penetrated into her soul.
While the dialogue in this scene is so simple, there is so much lingering beneath the surface, I can hardly stand it. (This is also a huge testament to the actors, Laurel Holloman and Rosie O’Donnell). We get to witness Tina finding herself charmed by Carrie’s quirks, which so many others probably have deemed aggravating or “too much.” And isn’t that what we all want at the end of the day? Someone to look at us with warm eyes when we’re being our real, weird selves? Someone seeing the beauty in all that we’ve been shamed for our entire lives?
Not only that, but when Tina tells Carrie she’s beautiful, she’s really saying: I see you. I see all of you, and I want all of you. It’s almost as if the universe has conspired to confront her with two extremes in a small space; Bette and Carrie. And seeing them in the same room fully confirms to Tina, that no — she doesn’t want to be drinking bougie wine at the bar with Bette — she wants to sit at a cozy table with Carrie (the table vs. bar is also a BIG metaphor).
And on Carrie’s end, we’re able to see her truly digest Tina’s compliment regarding her beauty. And because Carrie doesn’t look like the rest of the women in society’s (dated) beauty manual, she’s probably not used to hearing herself described that way. But the truth is she is beautiful. And to have someone recognize your unique beauty is gorgeously validating.
Even my tough English mom wailed in this scene.
Moment 3: “I’m not sure I want to do both”
Clearly, Sophie is wracked with guilt about her illicit romp with ole’ Finley. She doesn’t know what the hell to do about her secret, fleeting bout of cheating. But regardless of her internal struggle, it’s clear that despite her fuck up, she absolutely loves Dani. What can I say? Love is a dangerous sport that more often than not renders its players wounded.
However, there’s a brief moment when Sophie and Dani are finally alone and Sophie opens up to Dani about the fact that Alice has offered her a promotion at work. Dani is so authentically proud of Sophie, but Sophie confesses that she wants to have a child soon. She pauses for a slender moment, her face turning soft. “I don’t know if I want to do both” she admits (meaning both be a mom and take on a huge role at work).
If you toss the baggage between Dani and Sophie aside for a second and just isolate them inside this brief exchange, you’ll likely see that this is a very pure moment between the couple. Dani (who has no clue about Sophie and Finley) encourages Sophie to do whatever her heart desires. She doesn’t try and convince her to be a workaholic like she is. And again, isn’t that what we all want? Someone who not only trusts our instincts but uplifts and empowers our choices?
But what I really found to be so gut-punching about this scene was this: When do we ever see lesbians in the media admitting that they’d rather channel their energy into their family lives over their careers? As queer women, we’re always depicted as ambitious, ball-busting, “girl bosses” who will smash the patriarchy by running the show at work. But isn’t doing whatever feels right for you the most powerful way to smash the patriarchy? What smashes the glass ceiling faster than refusing to let “the man” dictate your life path?
However, truly listening to your honest needs, takes guts. Especially when you’re a lesbian wearing the traditionally “masculine” suit in the wedding. Society tells us women who wear suits aren’t allowed to possess the “feminine” instinct to prioritize childcare over career advancement.
This episode of “The L Word makes us question whether we actually want the roles we’ve been cast in. For me, “The L Word” always has. It was while watching “The L Word” fifteen years ago that I decided I didn’t want to play the part of the straight pretty girl. I wanted to not just audition, but claim the role of the proud dyke.
And embracing my proud dyke-ness is the best thing that ever happened to me.
Maybe that’s why I cry from beginning to end of “The L Word.” Those small moments are where my own path to liberation began.