Kittens, I’m back! Did you miss me? I sure missed you. But while I was gone something terrible happened. Something really, really terrible.
Did you catch “The Real L Word” on Showtime last Sunday?
Perhaps the greatest oxymoron of our time is the term “reality television.” It exists almost exclusively in a realm devoid of reality. It trades in artifice. It rejoices in the shameless. It is, of course, anything but real. So into that conceit comes “The Real L Word.” We should be trained by now to know that any show with “Real” in the title is no such thing. Be it Housewives or World, it’s an utter sham.
So then the only question left to answer is intent. Is the intent of a show to present as real a portrait of a slice of our complex humanity as possible within the false constraints of television, or is the intent to merely titillate? If you listen to Ilene Chaiken and company, the goal of TRLW is to show real lesbians. But not just any lesbians, The L Word “brand” of lesbians. A lesbian which Mama Chaiken says is defined by “aspiration and culture and popular culture and ambition and affluence in varying degrees.”
What does that mean for those of us playing at home? Well, if you watched (and I rather hope you didn’t, unlike me), you know for sure what this show is not about. This show is not about relating or reflecting. This show has no desire to enlighten or elucidate. This show only hopes to instill two of our deadliest sins in its viewers: lust and envy. Lust because, ZOMG look at these hotties having hot sex. And envy because, ZOMG don’t you wish your lives were like these hotties having the hot sex. Also, did we mention they’re more rich/attractive/successful/fashionable and all-together fuckable than you are? No? Because they totally are.
Who are these women who signed up willingly to find out what happens when lesbians stop being polite and start getting real? I have no idea. What I see is just privilege, posturing, pompousness and pleasure cruising. And then there’s Tracy, who seems oddly nice. What’s that all about? That being said, they could all have untold layers – contemplative inner lives, restless social consciousnesses. But that’s not what the lens shows us, or even wants us to see.
Now, clearly, to have expected deep social commentary from this show is to be a fool. So all we have left is the fantasy. But the show doesn’t even deliver on that. Watching vapid lives play out vapidly is just boring. Off-camera moans and on-camera strap-ons is not pleasure, the guilty kind or otherwise. Porn is at least honest in its purpose.
It is probably unfair – albeit understandable – to expect a higher social conscience from those purporting to portray queer life for the masses. The burden is indeed heavy, but the obstacles we face are still real, still painful, still very much there. Until they aren’t there the double standard will exist: Straight entertainment needs only to entertain; queer entertainment should entertain and educate.
“The Real L Word” manages to fail at both. This isn’t real. This isn’t fun. It’s just deeply shallow. It presents lesbian life as a never-ending night at the club. It asks no larger question than Gucci or Dolce & Gabbana. It thinks we’ll be awed by the “Power of the Clam.” And this, this is what Ilene Chaiken thinks we should all aspire to. These are the kinds of lesbian, the kinds of “stories” she thinks are worth telling in our community.
She is wrong. She could not be more wrong.
In the end, I just don’t care. I don’t care about these women. I don’t care about their lives. I don’t care who they sleep with. I don’t care who they don’t sleep with. I don’t care how much they spend on their wedding. I don’t care if their models aren’t hot enough. I don’t care if they shoot sunshine out of their crotches. I just don’t give a fuck, flying or otherwise.
Though I guess things could be worse. I could be forced to watch the entire series. Now that would be truly terrible.