Thursday, June 24, 2010

Really, Ilene? Really?

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.


Alan said...

I recently visited your blog. It is a very interesting one. Keep it up.

;) babs said...

welcome back, ms. snarker.
as vicious as ever.
missed you!

;) babs

CAB said...

Welcome Back. I couldn't bring myself to watch the Real L Word and now I'm happy I didn't

Le Fille said...

Your fiery reaction is, in retrospect, something I should have allowed myself to have. This isn't real queer life, not queer life in all of the wonderful ways I think so many of us feel and live it. I just wish the true, broad queer culture could be presented here, instead of, as you put it, a bunch of women I just don't give a fuck about.

Marylou said...

yes, i think ilene chaiken don't like lesbians, thats why she killed jenny, and thats why she made this reality.

cee-cee said...

ahhhhhh, thank the goddess that you're back! As Marga Gomez so aptly noted, this 'real' L Word makes you miss the fake one!
'Didn't watch it and won't, but 'was looking forward to your weekly dissections. Under the circumstances, that would be a supreme waste of good snark--let alone, your time.

The Syncretist said...

Indeed. It is also (still) disappointing that Showtime greenlighted and supports this program. Laudable for pioneering programming for queers, they were credited with understanding that gays and lesbians "were people, too" who would watch, celebrate and generate dollars for the channel if it provided us with entertaining stories about us. Apparently they don't know us. They just know Chaiken, and figure she knows how to attract our eyeballs (and dollars). I have greater hope that our talented and straight allies -- such as Jenji Kohan of Showtime's Weeds - offer a more "realistic" and entertaining (!) counterpoint to Chaiken's really disappointing fiasco.

Anonymous said...

Didn't go there. Wouldn't go there even if everyone said it was great.
How could it be??? I am gay; live as a gay "Reality", don't need to see some other version of my life.

And IFC once again laughs all the way to the bank. Interesting..

Xin said...

yes we all miss you~~

kym said...

I watched the first episode out of I know why it killed the cat.

Blech, horrible. Will not be watching.

Pants? Pumps? Please!

JadedRogue said...

Amen! I watched. I tweeted. I died a lil inside when the words "The Power of the Clam" were uttered.

Terri said...

I just wrote a post about this show over on my own site but I am so happy to see that I'm not the only one who thought it was absolute crap. Thank you for being a resounding voice against the crap-lesbian-propaganda machine that is Ilene Chaiken

T said...

god, I knew I loved you for a reason. Great piece.

Syd said...

The intent was obviously to embarrass lesbians. Job well done.

Canuckgrrl said...

1. Did not really find any of them that "hottie".

2. Tracy's gf was the most "real" person on there.

3. "Pleasure cruising" LMAO

4. I love being called "kitten".

Hannah said...

I watched every episode of the L Word, as it aired, even when it sucked. (Which, let's be honest, was often.) But I have no desire to watch this and feel no pressure to. Because, Ilene, the lives of wealthy women in LA does not reflect the reality of 98% of lesbians lives. Also, I hate reality tv. And I would be shocked to find that anyone that seeks to be on a show like the Real L Word is something other than a narcissistic fame monger.

UrbanSapphic said...

The furst episode of The REAL L Word absolutely reeked and so I am streaming it on my blog because NO ONE should pay for such garbage. I mean if you go to the dump, the trash is free. Isn't it?

I actually prefer Pretty Little Liars. At least it makes no pretense like TRLW does and I don't care about L.A. fashion week anyway. I'm a New Yorker.

beebee said...

Girl, let it fly.

Hello Showtime: there are other lesbian producers with great programming ideas.

Please IFC, take your money and go. You are just self-promoting now. You aren't making good entertainment and you aren't showing "lesbian lives" and you aren't helping.

J9 said...

Ms. Snarker - Welcome Back!
It's shows like this that make me long for a decent documentary, shown on PBS that actually follows around real people without commentary.
I think IC actually is jealous of these lives, and isn't THAT a sad state! She's on the outside of this looking in, has always felt that way, and gee now we can too (because we don't already feel outsidery enough).

Lenore said...

Welcome back! I've missed reading you, although, thanks for the vacation vixens yumminess.

I agree completely with what you wrote today. IC should not be allowed to "represent" our community. Someone pull her funding! STAT!

TheWeyrd1 said...

And she's back with a BANG! Or maybe that was a RANT! Here here! I didn't watch it pretty much for the exact same well worded reasons... Blech. I really feel that Ilene is laughing all the way to the bank as she trades in on the male gaze...

Anonymous said...

I refuse to watch any further product from that maker of video sausage, Ilene Fucking Chaiken. Not only is it not kosher, she packs it with offal and filth. The travesty that she turned The L Word into was reason enough to be suspect, but then I saw how this was being promoted and I knew it would make me sick. I've grown to hate IFC for the way she's used us. She gives her 'socially conscious' spiel and offers less than nothing in return. She truly is a blight on the community and has enriched herself at our expense.

Suzanne said...

This show is an embarrassment to our community and to women in general. It failed us on too many levels to even begin to list.


Well said and so true...I wrote a critique as well...hate to say, but I may give it another shot...

Advizor said...

They fail miserably even on the LUST part. As a straight man who loves watching beautiful lesbians, I find the level of artifice so high as to be a complete mood killer.

Check out for a screen shot from another "reality show" that says it all.

DrWex said...

This pretty much precisely describes my reaction to Sex & The City, at least at first. I'll admit that S&TC eventually discovered some interesting story elements, but that was well into its run.

Anonymous said...

Is The Real L Word humorless? What producer puts on a show without a funny girl (person)? I had not even seen 2 minutes of The L Word until I saw a clip of Leisha Haily as Alice doing the dance off. Then I thought "gotta get the DVD set."

Anonymous said...

Welcome back,

AMEN! This show is shit! It is unfortunate IC has to power in TV-land to actually get something this stupid produced and aired. Just goes to show where the suits at Showtime have their priorities

Anonymous said...

Managed to watch this mess for less than 10 minutes. It was simply a throw-up-in-your-mouth bad experience.

Please SHOWTIME, do your part and pull the plug. Save the world, save us all from this cluster-f*ck of a mess. Bleck.

vrgriffith said...

Thank God you're back. Twitter not nearly enough Dorothy.

I have a blog on Lj called Media Campfire Stories. I wrote a rather snarky review myself.

A straight reader replied: "What's wrong with having beautiful lesbian that appeal to straight people? Aren't they a part of the lesbian community to?"

On Twitter #RealLWord not #RealLWordAE, there were various straight women commenting:"I'm learning so much I didn't know."

Save me Jebus! And Fuck IFC!

RLW not only deeply shallow dangerously mis-educating.

janie said...

yay! totally agree with your post and the gals below. It was awful. I actually found it so boring that I shut it off and watched something else. Then I thought that I ought to at least finish it but nope, it sucked! I don't know how she does it -- IFC-- getting this project going, because I think i would prefer Alice in Prison or whatever lame L-word spin-off that was being mentioned. But, moreover, I want a new Lesbian-tv-producing-go-to-girl to create a show that can be fun and showing a little bit of lesbian life...Dear Dorothy, do you have any stories???

j said...

chaiken has drifted so far away from giving queer people television about our lives. her shows and her characters (in the last seasons of the l word and now with this utter bullsh) are so much tailored to what people THINK lesbians are. and then on top of that, she adds some kind of bizarre fantasy world in which everyone has money, a partner, and looks straight.

i missed the snark. great post.

Anonymous said...

It was the antithesis of real

liz said...

Oh Ms. Snarker, we have missed you! Yes TRLW is awful & the women are total narcissists who are really boring.Reality shows appeal to the lowest common denominator & are cheap to make. Give me great actors and scripted drama. I wish SHOWTIME would tell IC to get lost and let someone like Rose Troche/Angela Robinson write & direct an L Word movie!

Anonymous said...

you came back when I leave?

yeah, I don't care about that, too.
somehow, take whatever easy,
I thought you're busy so if I take vacation
you will feel more relax. not work every day, something like this?

of course not only that thing, honestly.
I felt kind of disappointment,
like there is certain button If I push, you feel
unhappy. I have of course that kind of button
and you didn't mean it I guess, but I felt out
of tolerance. that's all.
another story,

to me,
very horrible unbelievable thing happened,
so I was enormously mad about.
anyway, I did following the solving
process to get back what I lost.
I'll tell you later if I have a chance.
unbelievable like that thing is okay.

Norma Desmond said...

I hated all the promotions around LA for it so much that what little of me was even vaguely tempted to watch was turned off. Will not watch a single minute of it. EVER.

Anonymous said...

as a lesbian this is disturbing. as an l.a. lesbian this is even more disturbing. le sigh.

Anonymous said...

I am so happy that you are back!! I didnt watch it and Im SO GLAD that I didnt. Dump this so called reality crap and get to the L Word movie IC!!!!

Anonymous said...

What makes you think IC wouldn't turn an L Word movie into anything but a steaming pile of crap? She did it to the series.

montjuic said...

damn right you are Dorothy! can´t the show get anything worse right now? Maybe if there´s a season 2, we get to see IC instead doing it and the camera is following her 24/7... Now that would be a good watch!.... or NOT!

fablu1 said...

This is the best blog post by you that I've read. You've hit on all of the points that needed to be addressed and you are speaking for lots of us.

BTW, I don't know if you saw the rating yet for this crap. Total viewers for the 10 and 11 o'clock showing was 489,000. That means there was an average of 245,000. Let's hope these numbers trend even lower.

Chaiken is sensationalistic with a big streak of arrogance, con artist and lives in delusion land as she thinks all of us will accept with gratitude any old slop re/lesbians she's offering. Well, we ain't.

I especially loved the last five paragraphs.

A heartfelt thank you for this post.


betsey said...

Hello, hope you had a great vacation:) You have been missed-Welcome back!

AH LOL! My verification word is:....demon!......IFC!

Anonymous said...

to :

if you are interested, the first airing at 10 pm averaged 300,000.

Therefore of course, since the cumulative is 489,000, the second airing got 187,000/189,000 viewers (since I've approximated the 300,000, in reality it was 303,000).

You can bet the numbers will trend lower, geneally the pilot gets higher ratings. ;-)

Big Shamu said...

You know I'm curious. With the very real disdain for Ilene and her latest, do you wish she had never produced the L Word series to begin with? I mean at some point, there was a rather large lesbian audience. Does the woman not get props for bringing those characters to our world? Or does the downward spiral the series took and the resulting fake reality show negate all that?

Anonymous said...

The show, designed to make us envious, in fact had the opposite effect on me. I feel so much more superior than I ever have! I am superior in so many ways to these women: as a lesbian, as a woman, as a partner and not least of all because I am not vapid enough to want to be on a "reality" television show.

Having said that, I know I will watch each and every episode. As I die a little on the inside each time, ending up like the proverbial cat, I will secretly, really enjoy it.

Anonymous said...

lmfao..hilarious! 110% agree with you but i'm still watching the show for the sake of entertainment..

dc said...

I would like a moratoriam on articles/comments/blogs/pics about this TV crapshow. OK?

I don't want to hear about it, I don't want to read critiques of it, I don't want to know it exists.

Because,it really is shameful that some people with money thought it would be a good idea to waste anybody's time and energy on it.

It deserves oblivion. So lets give it to them.

Emma said...

Out of 47 posts only one is in true disagreement with the original article. Did absolutely no one find the "I'll be Jillian Micheals and you be Jackie Warner"... then with a finger gun to the head "Tell me your target weight-loss goal," funny?

Does not one person know an annoying, self-centered, player like Whitney? I unfortunately have had the pleasure.

But I think the most important thing to get straight is that this is a reality show. Sure Italian Americans did not appreciate their portrayal on the New Jersey Shore, nor did those idiots further the cause of immigrant communities, but people watched it because it was entertaining. This show isn't any different - you simply like reality television or you don't.

The "double standard" of having to entertain and educate is a false one. Any show that structures itself around the lesbian lifestyle or any lifestyle for that matter will have to deal in stereotypes.

Its hyperbolic, its superficial, and I founds it more appealing than the drama of Jackie Warner's show. I will cross my fingers that one day we will have a writer like Winnie Holzman take up our cause, but until then I think I am going to continue watching The Real L Word.

braz said...

Soooo well said, dear...Soo well... THANKS!!!

Anonymous said...

so true minus "the hottie?? no pretty girl in this pathetic show ?? thing??but a lot of idiots....
poor ratings,great news,seriously showtime,stop this

Anonymous said...

well girl keep doing what you are doing
I Luv ya

Rocket said...

Maybe I don't live in reality... but I feel sorry for everyone involved in that fiasco (TRLW) and majorly for the women who will look back and think, shit, what have I done? I'm sure a lot of things are cut and misrepresented to look like something it isn't but they come off as immature and clueless. Hopefully so much negative/hate won't decimate but reflect some REAL reality and introspection into their lives. Anyone can be redeemed.

Look at Dani Campbell - she's found her feet.

(side thought) Reality teevee rehab THAT should be a show...

There is no redemption for Ilene.

Rocket said...

...course, most people liked Dani Campbell.

Mojopo said...

People say, "Who's going to pay money to see a bunch of overweight butches? Without hotties, no one will watch," in defense of Ilene's latest trainwreck. To which I say, "Yes I would watch overweight butches, IF IT WAS GOOD." I would for the same reason people flock to see Helen Mirren, a senior citizen, because she is talented and interesting at any age.

If Ilene Chaiken was remotely interested in making something watchable, instead of vomiting the contents of her ego into my TV, I would have an entirely different opinion.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you...surely Ilene Chaiken must be a straight man with bad makeup.

Anonymous said...

I watched the Real L Word with the same mindset as I went with my aunt to SATC 2---no expectations of depth.

And hey, I enjoyed both!

Ilene Chaiken is certainly not the best writer and TRLW women are not portrayed in the best light, but if you watch their interviews, at least Jill and Nikki (latter of whom appears obnoxiously materialistic) seem to hope that the main outcome is that lesbian visibility is enhanced---whatever that may be.

I speak from FIRSTHAND experience when I say watching The L Word changed my life. Laurel Holloman basically made me gay. 2 years later, I have come out to my parents (with a fantastic reception) and have a girlfriend.

As much as you snarky lesbians criticize, I appreciate. And I take the substance for what it is--lesbian visibility--with whatever superficiality hitches in the backseat.

Anonymous said...

train wreck. must watch. it's horrid. can't get enuf. so NOT glamorous, with their not matching sheets and 'quilts' and so NOT gas and brown stoves. EWWWWW.

Anonymous said...

glad you're back ms. snarker! wow. this show is horrible. i agree with most of what you said. but i don't agree that these women are attractive. the only attractive one is tracy, and she seems to have some character. the rest, are, um, not so much. i wouldn't look twice, and i am damn picky. and i dress better. i wonder how some get much ass? i mean, really? the only part attractive are their tattoos. i can't remember the names of the characters, but i like full arms. other than that, not finding this 'real' at all. the og real world seemed more real than this. i miss it, and now realize i took it for granted.

Kimo said...

I have to agree with Emma on this one. While many may not like this representation of lesbians it certainly isn’t a completely made up one. I know many lesbians in real life much like the ones on the show. I’m sure everyone who posted here does to some extent. Do you really think the characters from the "L Word" truly depicted real lesbians? And how are they really any different from the ladies of this new show? Its only 2episodes in so you can’t say the friendship aspect wont develop and be showcased.
Maybe the real issue here is that this show is highlighting some of the community that isn’t all nice and pretty; the drama and games, the club scene, the promiscuity, the endless hook-ups and break-ups. There are many facets to lesbians and the lesbian/gay community so to be so highly judgmental of one seems to be somewhat hypocritical to me.