"The Real L Word" -- What Do Real Lesbians Really Do? Oh Really?

BlogHer Original Post

If you are feeling bored by the Real Housewives and other reality shows that throw in one bi-curious cast member to spice up their straight fare, Showtime has an extravaganza for you. How about a whole show about Real Lesbians? No phony RHONYs here. That's right, The Real L Word features real, live L.A. lesbians doing what real lesbians do, like walking, talking, stirring up drama and making out in alleys.

The Real L Word
Image courtesy Showtime

The Real L Word is the newest series from The L Word creator Ilene Chaiken. The L Word, which is now known as The Unreal L Word, ended in 2009 after six seasons of praise for bringing attention to lesbian issues and cultural contributions as well as some criticism that the glamourous West Hollywood characters of Bette, Tina and their pretty troupe of sexy friends weren't representative of the real lives of lesbians, gays, bi-sexual and transgendered people. When The Real L Word was announced, fans wondered if the new show would finally remedy that trade-off of fiction. Would the reality-based show look for a cross-section of women to share a more nuanced and authentic portrait of lesbian life to a curious straight folk and to a gay audience that is hungry for media representation exploring what it is like to be a lesbian today?  How "real" would it be?

It turns out the "real" in The Real L World doesn't mean "authentic." It means "reality show drama!" It means, as a Showtime promo poster proudly proclaims: "Love them, or love to hate them." I guess the same could be said of the show as a whole. One thing is clear: People are talking about lesbian television again.

Writing at AfterEllen, Dara Nai addresses criticism that the real lesbians don't feel any more real that the L Word actresses:

No matter. Living here and knowing one of the cast members, I can tell you unequivocally, these successful, sexy women are, in fact, stereotypical LA lesbians – it's the rest of the country that's not going to see themselves in the show. That said, I can't wait to watch the mating rituals of lesbianus Los Angelinos fabulous in their natural habitat.

So, the Real Lesbians are real only as far as anyone in a reality show in L.A. could be considered "real." Fair enough. Turns out the next page that features six Los Angelites who are there to prove that Real Lesbians can be just as sexy, vacuous, petty, artificially candid with a camera in their faces and as far from the reality as the people in your neighborhood as your average straight reality show cast member is from the lives of straight women.  Here's to equality!

Bloggers report being feeling (at best) uninspired by this latecomer to the overworked reality show gimmick, especially when so few television series and movies feature engaging lesbian themes.

Grace Moon at Velvetpark criticizes the lack of diversity in the cast, asking:

With this revelation of the Real L Word cast I ask: where have all the brown people gone? Where is the gender variance? Is there really not one butch “palatable” enough for television? Is the mainstream still so afraid of us we have to fit into a size 2 miniskirt in white face and make a six figure salary? In order for lesbianism to be interesting, do we have to be “Real Housewives” who just happen to muff dive

Zena Anna Rosen riffs of the diversity theme with a funny vlog posted at Velvetpark that asks:

where are all the Jewish-Afro-Quaker-indie-lesbians? Where are all our sisters suffering from lesbian bed-death and anal warts? What about the perimenopausal and lactose intolerant lesbians? Why are they not represented in the Real L Word? Are they not real? Two words, vagina dentata. Thank you.

Danielle at Cherry Grrl said the real lesbians are vapid, and that the show is not targeted to the lesbian audience:

Even though series creator Ilene Chaiken has publicly claimed she’s committed to telling stories that reflect the “community,” this show is not for lesbians in the same way that a documentary about gorillas is not for primates. It serves to explain the confusing habits of the lesbionus superficialae to the rest of the world. And in the pilot we learned three important lessons.

In the great tradition of turning bad reality shows into great Twitter and blog fodder, Riese at Autostraddle channels her fury into biting recaps:

Just so the men for whom this show was created don’t lose interest, we learn that Natalie’s last relationship was with a man but they didn’t have the “chemistry” she has with Rose.

If someone says the word “chemistry” one more time on this show they are going to have to rename it Bill Nye the Science Lesbian.

Soooo Natalie and Rose go out to celebrate their monthly anniversaries. Every month. Hallmark must love these kids.

Dorothy Snarker of Dorothy Surrenders posted her favorite clips from the original show, writing that the inanity of The Real L Word makes her miss the fictional The L Word:

OK, not all of “The L Word” – definitely not the Death of Dana and the No Lifeguard on Duty parts. But the fun days. You know, back when they were all friends. And did silly things. And talked to one another like friends who did silly things.

I dig the smarm of reality shows and I really dig lesbians in any natural habitat, even L.A., so it's all fine with me. Plus, real lesbians, like the ones you read via real blogs, are just like real straight people: you either hate crap TV or you love bad television because it gives us something to analyze and criticize and dissect and dismiss. The fact that the Prada-accessorized drama will center around foxy chick-bedhopping women instead of the unsexy RHONY's is just metaphorical icing on the fictional cake.

Contributing Deb Rox is so real you can hardly believe it. She blogs like a freaking butterfly, stings like a Tweet and tries really hard not to be a spoiler for her friends on the West Coast. In fact, she doesn't understand why she has yet to receive an award for her "no spoilers" efforts. Hmm.

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