Monday, January 26, 2009

The Madness of Mama C

The ego is an infinitely powerful thing. It can lead us into war. It can cripple us for a lifetime. And, just like love, it can make us do the wacky. Wacky like, say, creating a mystery you have no intention of solving. Yeah, that kind of wacky. While it shouldn't shock us anymore, Mama Chaiken has hit us with one last terrible, horrible, no good, very bad story idea. Considered it her coup de grâce of bad ideas. [Note: Stop reading now to avoid spoilers and/or elevated blood pressure.]

You see, Ilene has no intention of telling us who killed Jenny. In fact, she cheerily told L.A. Times writer Kate Aurthur:
“There are ways I could still answer it if the need were to arise. But I don't actually feel compelled to answer it. The show is about character and relationships, and I used this story to deeply explore those relationships. It's a risk not to solve a mystery, admittedly.”

A risk? A risk, Ilene? No, lady, that is just ridiculous.

So, what possible reason could Ilene have for her non-ending ending? Could it be that she is ready for her close-up, Mr. DeMille?

“I hope we'll do an 'L Word' movie -- there's no plan to do an 'L Word' movie. But I would love to do that. I just believe that in some way, the show will live on....And that if there are questions that need to be answered, they'll get answered.”

Oh, so she is going to end the first major dramatic series about lesbians with a murdered lesbian and then not tell us who murdered her because, um, she wants a big movie deal? And what about that dead lesbian stereotype? Shouldn't she try to avoid instead of embrace that old chestnut?

“I'm mindful of it. But I've always considered my primary responsibility to entertain and tell good stories.”

[p.s. That L.A. Times article may or may not (totally may!) contain a couple quotes from yours snarkily. And Kate, its writer, has seen a rough cut of the finale and may or may not (totally may!) have told me, “Oh, you'll have a field day” with it.]

The great failure of “The L Word” has and continues to be that Ilene's ego is its unseen yet most insistent character. It's always there, poking its head in where it doesn't belong and derailing the other characters for no reason other than its own glorification.

In its best moments, the women of The L were able to breathe – not to mention laugh, love, fight and fuck – as if they were real, autonomous, sentient beings. But at its worst, the women moved like powerless pawns on the great chessboard of Mama Chaiken's ego. We all know those clangingly false moves immediately. The death of Dana. The shameful misuse of Max. The insane clown posse of Jenny. And if you want to be here all week we could get into the overnight personality transplants and gaping plot holes.

Continuity is important for a reason. Simple physics tells us that bodies at rest and motion tend to – in fact must – behave in certain ways. When they don't, well, nature gets cranky so same goes for viewers.

You see, Ilene, telling good stories doesn't mean just telling whatever damn story you damn well please. It means letting your characters come alive. It means letting their actions feel organically theirs, and not like your manipulations. You know a story has you when, instead of getting mad at the author, you get mad at the character if she does something stupid. That is the triumph of storytelling.

And, as always, it is painfully apparent that for all her hoo-ha about telling stories and exploring relationships, Ilene doesn't get it. Instead it comes back to – who else – her.

For as she also told the L.A. Times: “You're absolutely failing if you don't have plenty of people ranting and raving.”

So, then I guess by her standard, she is a raging, rapturous success. And I guess by ranting and raving I'm just feeding her insatiable ego. Yet still I feel deeply cheated. You see, it's not that Ilene owes us, the show's fans, anything really. Art should be able to exist outside of its audience's expectations. But she does owe her characters – her own creations – the simple courtesy of acting like themselves. And they certainly deserve the basic dignity of a reason. She owes it to Jenny to let us know who killed her. Otherwise, really, what is the fucking point?

And, perhaps, that is the point. This is Ilene Chaiken's show and don't you fucking forget it.

49 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't understand how she's thinking. IC has never seemed like a logical thinker to me, but really... She wants a movie deal. But what about the spin off? It's all a mess! And not a hot one.

azbabe said...

I've watched the first two episodes and meh. Clearly disappointment, more than usual and w/only 8 episodes, IMO, there won't be a feeling of completion or satisfaction. And who knows when there will be another show of its kind? IC has lost a huge opportunity and in my mind been irresponsible to the cause. I attended L5 and that will be the lasting memory of TLW for me.

Steph Mineart said...

In telling BAD stories, or telling stories badly, she's also doing a huge disservice to future lesbian storytellers - to those women out there (and there are many!) who can tell stories well.

As you've mentioned quite a bit - we don't get to see ourselves on TV (and thus in our culture) in any real, meaningful way. Our stories are not being told within our culture. That's been true throughout human history, but it seems that now is when we can finally break through, and for her to sabotage that event is frustrating and a betrayal of her fans and her place in society.

imthey said...

I'm so happy that there are people like you, Ms. Snarker to put into such eloquent words what those of us unable to do so are thinking and wish we could have said.
I have hung in there season after season watching this show (because I enjoy the actresses and to support the only show that has lesbian characters on a weekly basis), but I have never thought much of the writing of I.C. who has always come across as a narcissist and egomaniac.
If what I.C. says is how this season truly ends, I will be utterly frustrated and disappointed (albeit not the least bit shocked).
The only thing that I.C. appears to do quite well is consistently rankle the ire of lesbians everywhere.

Nichole said...

You may want to make an edit to the following line, "You know a story has you when, instead of getting made at the author,"

IC...what a disservice she does to the actresses that made the L Word more than it ever would have been. If we had to read the L Word instead of watch, it'd be used to line the bottom of the cat litter box.

chismes said...

Oh what the hell, Ilene. God, someone smack her in the face with a mountain lion already.

jennifer from pittsburgh said...

Yes, art does exist outside of and apart from the audience. The problem is, this aint art. Instead, this is what happens to art when the palette is a mirror and the subject has all the depth of a cold flat surface.

Anonymous said...

Great post...

Chaiken is a big mouth and she is not nice..

The actresses seemed not happy at all ,especially Jennifer Beals & K Moennig with the ending...but she doen't care (even her JB"s crush)..her vanity is unbelievable,...

Agree with L5 great and intense moment...

Chaiken doesn't like love,intimacy,emotions,
good writing, good acting,fans,but her....
she said one thing and the opposite,the day after..
Narcissic, posing with the cast for promos (?)

And this ridiculous murder's story ..;

She got a good cast (minus Max,Nikki and a few others) a very great fan club (especially for Bette & Tina) and she Wasted their confidence ..

pyewacket said...

You know her defense will be that no one can simply please everyone in the gay community. But that is not what this is about.

It is not a gay issue and a not enough representation issue...what is going on with this soap (there I said it, it is a soap opera)...is what has gone on with just about every soap when someone in charge thinks they know better than everyone else...that one person's ego sinks the soap faster then the US Airways plane going down in the Hudson.

I loved how you put it Miss Dorothy...

"The great failure of “The L Word” has and continues to be that Ilene's ego is its unseen yet most insistent character. It's always there, poking its head in where it doesn't belong and derailing the other characters for no reason other than its own glorification."

And it shows the strength of the cast that in spite of the changes to the characters' personalities...there have been moments in scenes between the actors when we can still see glimpses of the original characters we became enamored of...and it is those moments which move us to tune in yet again.

TheWeyrd1 said...

Amen...but I'll still watch just to see women with women and those few golden moments when the interactions feel right... Good thing there are now some other options for see ourselves (or some version)...

Anonymous said...

Ilene has the luck to start a lesbian TV series, and the kind support and love from our community - and she takes it, and destroys every single bit of the goodwill and political capital. I'm quite mad at her for ruining such beautiful actresses and characters, the effort they put into making a believable drama.

invisigoth said...

Oh Miss Snarker, how I love you!

I've been ranting and raving about that woman for about 3-4 years now. Thank you for speaking exactly what's on my mind but what I couldn't say so eloquently myself.

It makes me furious to think about the possibilities that this show had. Man!

Anonymous said...

I feel as though ALL the characters have died already. The people onscreen are all zombies that Ilene Chaiken has resurrected in order to act out her bizarre ego trips. If there is an L Word movie, I hope someone else gets to write the script.

Natazzz said...

Well, we are talking about the woman who made Barbwire (possibly one of the worst movies ever).

Thank you Ilene, you reminded me again why I hate arrogance so much...

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed series 4 and 5. But the stories Ms Chaiken "tells" in series 6 are simply ridiculous and destroy everything a show like The L Word should stand for - the celebration of queer life.

Anonymous said...

Ilene and her ginormous ego leave me speechless. Without such an engaging set of actresses (minus one or two flops) who've done their best with some truly shitty material, and managed to give me some genuinely moving and entertaining moments - I'd have switched the channel on IC's tripe a long time ago.

Anonymous said...

WORD

she has no concept of good stories, good reactions. Characters.

word.

Anonymous said...

WORD

she doesn't know anything about good stories, good reactions. Characters.

word

Anonymous said...

jennifer from pittsburg said: "this is what happens to art when the palette is a mirror and the subject has all the depth of a cold flat surface."

If we look back on this show 20 years from now, I think it will appear incredibly dated: utterly bound up in the moment when its creative voice was flattened by the chill air of homophobia, misogyny, motherlessness, and consumerism. The characters were all flawed by insurmountable, strangely unexamined emotional immaturity, an immaturity that sprang from a lack of emotional and spiritual wholeness at its creative center. Such a lack is nothing new, but the damage sustained by show's creators that reveals itself in this toxic soapy stew I belive to be particular to specific culturual moment, a moment that is passing. Thankfully.

TLWFan said...

word!!!!

tenofive said...

IC reminds me of a lesbian version of George W. Bush on his legacy tour - smug as sh%# and clueless as all get out! Jeez!

P.S. I'm with chismes - smack her in the face with a mountain lion!

Katherine Simon said...

... You've got to be f-ing kidding me. What a waste. For all the 'ground breaking' -ness of it, it sure fails horribly in other arenas. Now this? Jesus. If this weren't the last season, I would most likely be tuning out now. Funny how she worked that out...

Anonymous said...

I must agre with a lot of these comments. I really appreciate the show, and love when I get to see the characters seem real or funny. But where else in TV does the writer/creator upstage the whole process so consistently. Why do we see so much of IC?

The dramatic plot twists are so unbelievable, like Dana dying or the killing of Jenny. the demise of Dana was presented as "brave" by IC, when it was so poorly written and unreal. It's not creative to do these things, but a lack of imagination.

I still love the characters, which to her credit, she helped create, but I'm sorry for the poor plotting and loser drama.

Anonymous said...

You have captured the essence of what we all have been feeling for quite some time.
Clearly, she is a nut case because how in the hell can you explain big gapping holes with most of her stories and even the characters. Case in point, Tina the only character without a family? It supposed to be explained this year? Didn't you have six f***ng years to do it? That ego can take her spin off because after this is over, I'm done.

Anonymous said...

I think 99% of the problem is that the marketing of the show has always been all wrong. This show is a very weird, quirky, eccentric little show and yet Showtime marketed it as the next Sex and the City for lesbians, which drew in the exact kind of audience Ilene didn't want: shallow lesbians who just want to ogle hot women on their tv who occasionally kiss other hot women while wearing schnazzy clothes.

Let's face it: the current audience of the L Word are shamefully shallow and aren't used to using their brains. They support terrible relationships and cheer on one morally bankrupt character but boo another character who's done many of the same things - some characters who've even done things that, in the real world, they absolutely would have gone to jail for. But because JB (or KF or SS or KL, etc. etc.) is hot, the shallow fans are willing to overlook all of that.

Ilene deserved a much better audience than the one she wound up with. The show has always had a more indie film sensibility and it's being marketing like War of the Worlds or something. So it's no surprise that, thanks to that angle of marketing, it drew in the same idiotic, unimaginative sheep that movies like that do.

I don't think Ilene is as much to blame for the show's writing being uneven as it is she's trying to write for a show that has an audience who can't comprehend the most basic of plot points or story arcs without having every single twist and turn fed to them like candy. I don't blame Ilene for the downfall of this show, I blame Showtime and I blame the idiot fans.

Anonymous said...

"Ilene deserved a much better audience than the one she wound up with."

Hey! Commenter above, we don't always watch the show because of sex scenes - we watched, and continue to watch because it's a little piece of lesbian heaven where we see our lives reflected on screen. "Lesbians" are not like generic, you know.

We're a motley crew of very diverse and different people. We're not like "the salacious type" vs "the intellectually stimulated art film loving" goons.

P/s: I don't understand your rationale of blaming the audience. It's like blaming a person's taste buds when the chef has ruined the meal.

Anonymous said...

"Let's face it: the current audience of the L Word are shamefully shallow and aren't used to using their brains."

I'm sure the movie will be marketed to a much brighter audience. :)

Anonymous said...

Snarker...I hope you read these comments...it's not clear if you do or not but ass-u-me you do. So...if you do I would like to say that your ruminations on the L Word are bloody brilliant. I never realized just how lame and egotistical this show is until you pointed it out. And how wonderful it is that so many of your readers agree and can totally relate, we truly are similar in so many ways. I said last night that this show has become a Soap Opera and unfortunately that's the truth. Enough said. On another and much more important note, I want to thank you for introducing me to Sarah Haskins. She is hysterical...dare I say....even funnier than your current wife! Hey...with this legal marriage thing, there's always room for D-I-V-O-R-C-E!!
LOVE YOU

Sarah said...

https://twitter.com/ask_ilene

LOLOLOLOLOL

ouibet said...

For real. I do appreciate, however, the occasional return of what I like to call "the mysterious original creator of Alice," i.e. the writer who gives Leisha Hailey fun scenes! That she can play with! And act quirky! Which I think kinda happened in this last episode, because Alice got the sweet revenge of saying, regarding Helena, "And don't get me started on the kids, because who knows where they went." I'm hoping that IC didn't write that line and thought she was being witty by being self-referential (reverential), and that it really was one of the writers letting us know that they, too, think this is some f-ed up shennanegans.

Elizabeth said...

You are spot on. IC's ego is the worst character. She is messing with us because she can. She took this great thing, this ground-breaking show... and instead smashed it into the ground. And we have all suffered along with it because we have no other lesbian-centric shows to watch. It's a shame. I hope IC reads some of these and sees what an ass she has been.

dc said...

You know, for someone who is supposed to have "pioneered"
a never-before-seen Lesbian TV show, Chaiken has a shocking lack of original ideas. As in NONE.

This is sooooo transparent in her pending follow up show with Alice.

Prison?!@##$$%^WTF! Hasn't lesbians in prisons been done to death? Remember Prisoner: Cell Block H? Came out in the 1970's.

And of course more recently, the truly impeccable Bad Girls for a couple of seasons.

So you can see what a sad case Chaiken is. Time for her to retire. Permanently.

I'm embarrassed. Chaiken is a monumental fake. Just.Go.Away.

dc said...

Oh, I forgot....

Incisive piece of analysis, Ms. Snarker. Thank you.

I wonder if the suits will listen to you and take Chaiken's toy away from her.

I'm looking forward to a new lesbian producer who can deliver a genuinely brilliant show. Soon!

B said...

"You're absolutely failing if you don't have plenty of people ranting and raving," [Chaiken said].

This explains just about everything.

geniera said...

WTF!

Ilene is absolutely crazy! If I don't "hate" her so much, I'd have to love her.

Anonymous said...

I am so sick of this woman. She should be so thankful to the actors, especially Tibette for giving her such great success, because we all know the writing is NOT what keeps us coming back. It seems to me that she is super egotistic and could care lass about the fans, who aren't really HER fans anyways. She should be thanking her lucky stars she got blessed with such AWESOME actors. I will no longer support this woman after The L Word is over. Not that I did in the first place. Thanks to the actors who went above and beyond.

Willi said...

i saw the 602 episode and thought what a boring show the l word has turn into,i gaped the hole time and thought again, is this really the best what the scripwriter has in their mind? come on!!! jenny and shane??? come on!!!i'm so tired to see an other best friend couple, first alice and dana and now after 3 other season's jenny and shane??? does IC really thinks we all have TV-Alzheimer's? come on IC!!! the best in Episode 602 was Alice and Tasha unrealistic back to lovers realationsship storyline and helena and dylan's meet again storyline! i hope for leisha hailey, that the TLW spin- off has a mutch better script;-)

Grey Day Soul said...

God, you nail the nail right on the head. Ilene is a lunatic.

I've been watching the new Diablo Cody show on showtime. It really makes the L Word look like crap.

aj said...

Here's some rants for ya:

--Why would Bette & Tina look into having another baby, when they don't even seem to parent the one they have? I mean, seriously, these women do not act like moms. Where is Angelica half the time?

--Like Alice said, "And don't even get me started on the kids, because where did they go?" Helena had kids, and now she doesn't. I have a feeling IC will play this off somehow with another character line, like, "Oh, they were never my kids in the first place, so they're with their dad now."

--In episode 601 Shane admits "It's not even like me," while crashing on Kit's couch. Hmm, ya think? IC has to throw in character lines like this and Alice's just to make her plot SORT of make a little more sense. So lame.

Thanks for ranting for us all. God only knows where this will end.

Anonymous said...

"Ilene deserved a much better audience than the one she wound up with. The show has always had a more indie film sensibility and it's being marketing like War of the Worlds or something. So it's no surprise that, thanks to that angle of marketing, it drew in the same idiotic, unimaginative sheep that movies like that do."

I can't disagree with this more strongly. It's so not worth taking on the shallow elitism inherent in your argument, so I'll just argue on your terms. Its "indie film" sensibility suffers from the worst failings (and very few of the strengths) of the genre: pointless narcissism, self-referentially and terminal immaturity that reveal little else about a character or story. I think you're letting the production values, fashion and style, and art-speak pretentions blind you, just as does much of the "indie film" audience.

Annie said...

Wow, not much to add but that I agree with many of the comments. A bad combination of horrible writing/arrogance like IC's is instantly a turn off for me with a show, no matter how valliantly it tries to be saved. Ms. Snarker, you are a poetic, hilarious genius with your arguments, as you usually are. Too bad you didn't end up writing for TLW! :)

Jul said...

Dorothy -

You called it right when you said, "The great failure of “The L Word” has and continues to be that Ilene's ego is its unseen yet most insistent character."

Hoorah! At least someone around here is telling the truth.

Anonymous said...

HAHAHAHA I cannot believe someone blamed the viewers, IC put out the product and we watched! It's called cause and effect. She wrote it.

I wonder if that is IC in disguise.

Anonymous said...

Hate is not the opposite of love, indifference is. And it has been a long time since I cared what happened on The L Word.

I have compared it to being a battered wife - the first year was so good, you can't help but think those brighter times can be recaptured.

In the second year, the first cracks show up in the facade. The pressure is too much. You make excuses for poor behaviour.

The third year can be devastating. You're really being abused now, but you've invested so much, it's hard to let go. But let go, you must. Say good bye, and watch the good clips on youtube, or pull out vacation pictures from the honeymoon.

It will never be as good as it was once the ego has landed.

swimmie

not only but also said...

Of course, Ms Snarker, the real question to be answered is not who killed Jenny but who killed the L-Word. We don't need to look far. There she is, in the library with the lead pipe, IN THE MIDDLE OF HER OWN GODDAMNED PUBLICITY SHOT. I've given up marvelling at Mama C's ego. The reality is that she didn't make this show; the likes of Rose Troche and the other talented writers and directors who guided it expertly through its early seasons breathed life and love into it, and the fans have kept it staggering along over the last couple of seasons. (Hey, 45 comments and counting on this blog alone...Chaiken's doing something right...)
But I will fall to my knees and give a prayer of thanks for the crazy bitch every time I read one of your posts (or one of Scribegrrl's) because the L-Word brought me to you (and may no one put us asunder).

Now someone freshen my gin - that was a lot of typing.

slacker said...

Smack on target, Ms. Snarker.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this!

God I hate her and her ego so much! She's such a fucking loser bad writer. The truth is the L Word has little to no competition in scripted televsion in the USA. Thus a lot of women LIKE MYSELF find myself watching her show from time to time because there are so few alternatives for lesbian women. I WOULDN'T GIVE THIS AWFUL SHOW (other than the fun season 1)THE TIME OF DAY NORMALLY. And people rant about it because it both sucks and is an embarrassment of storytelling.

This lack of competition is the same reason the only other TV shows I watch are Spanish ones on Youtube (like Hospital Central). I really hope no one ever gives her another show, much less a movie.

I am so sad Showtime didn't pick an actually talented writer to do this show. What a squandered opportunity by a hack.

Parker said...

Snarker, this is the most on-point analysis of that huge ball of crazy, Mama C! You rock.

Anonymous said...

notonlybutalso - that was worth all the typing. Thank you. I hope your gin got freshened.