“It’s The L Word, so even if it’s trash, I don’t care,” one woman tells me when I ask if she’s optimistic about The L Word: Generation Q. We’re at 3 Dollar Bill, a bar in Bushwick, alongside hundreds of other queer folks who have come out on Sunday night to see what the next iteration of the infamous Showtime series will bring. She and her friends are talking about what they think will be different this time around. “Maybe they’ll use dating apps,” her friend Emily says. “On the old show, everyone they met just always happened to be a hot lesbian.” I joke that’s exactly what my life in New York has been like. (It has not.) “Oh … maybe somebody would be fucking me then,” Emily says.
Scanning the crowd, it’s clear the show’s foothold in the queer community spans age brackets. “Before I was out, when I was testing out my queerness, it [the show] was a safe haven,” Allicia, 31, tells me. She first discovered the show when she was 21. “It was really great to see myself represented, even when I wasn’t sure who I was yet.” She’s with Ari, who says she hasn’t ever seen an episode. I suggest if anybody questions her, she should just say she hates Tina. “I concur,” Allicia says. “Wholeheartedly.”
I talk to people who tell me the show helped jump-start their coming-out processes as recently as the past year, and I talk to 40-somethings who remember watching it in real time, back when it premiered in 2004, and how much that representation meant to them. “Growing up in upstate [New York], there was like three lesbians and they all kind of looked like truckers,” a 43-year-old woman tells me. “I’m a little bit more on the femme side and watching The L Word, I was like, ‘Oh my God, there are girls who look like girls who are lesbians.’” When I ask her pronouns, she tells me, “I’m a her … I’m not into the pronoun thing. I’m too old.” (Everyone in this story is addressed with gender-neutral pronouns unless they indicated otherwise.)
Tonight’s watch party is hosted by The Bush Films, a monthly intersectional film series focused on queer women and trans and nonbinary people. They’re showing two short films before the premiere episode. I arrive as the first one, Speak Easy, B, directed by Becca Park, is ending, and see it has moved somebody to tears. People tell me they’re hopeful the new show will treat its trans characters right. (The original series introduced Max as one of TV’s first trans masculine characters, but consistently misgendered him and made him the butt of jokes.) They want the same spirited antics as before — “I’m hoping for some six-way phone calls” — and as many sex scenes as possible. And they really, really, really want Jenny to stay dead.
When Generation Q starts, the crowd cheers so loudly it’s nearly impossible to hear the opening sex scene. We cheer the moment boobs appear onscreen. We cheer louder when Sophie, a new character played by Rosanny Zayas, comes. We cheer loudest when her girlfriend, Dani (Arienne Mandi), pulls out her hand and casually displays two fingers covered in menstrual blood. Generation Q is not The L Word, and it would like you to know it.
“Wait, is that the new Jenny?,” somebody asks, mishearing Dani’s name. (It was difficult to hear in the bar, and there was no closed-captioning.) “No, that’s Dani,” somebody replies. “She knows herself. She already knows she definitely likes fucking women.” Jenny is, of course, the most-loathed member of the original cast, who was in a heterosexual relationship when the series began, before exploring her sexuality, driving us all up a wall for six seasons and then ending up mysteriously dead in a pool. “I hate Jenny,” a person in a lacy white top with a high collar says later in the evening. “But what about season-two Jenny?,” a rare Jennifer Schecter defender weighs in. “Your neckline says you liked season-two Jenny.”
Even more cheers when Bette Porter (Jennifer Beals), who has left the art world to run for mayor of Los Angeles but is still wearing pantsuits that make me want her to hurt me, makes her first appearance onscreen. Someone describes her as a “good ally.” Alice Pieszecki (Leisha Hailey) gets a similarly loud round of whoops in her first scene, as does her new partner, played by Stephanie Allynne. “I think that’s Tig’s [Notaro] wife,” somebody yells. They’re correct.
Unsurprisingly, the crowd’s loudest moment of the night happens when Shane McCutcheon (Kate Moennig) finally appears, strutting straight off a plane into her kitchen where she immediately fucks the flight attendant she’s brought home. Reboot Shane can still get it whenever and wherever she wants. Someone comments they think Moennig’s acting has improved in this department. “Glad somebody finally showed her how to finger,” they say. The conversation around me pivots to discussing queer actresses in general. “I waited so long to hear Kristen Stewart say the word ‘girlfriend,’” somebody says. “Ellen Page — now I know why I liked watching Juno so much.”
A viewer hollers “Daddy!” when Leo Sheng appears onscreen. Sheng, a trans actor, plays Micah, another new addition to the L Word universe. Later in the episode, Micah asks his hot new neighbor out on a date. The neighbor misinterprets Micah’s ask as an invitation for a group hang. (Micah lives with his ex, Dani, and her new girlfriend, Sophie. This is queer culture, people.) Micah clarifies it’s a capital-D Date and the new, extremely hot neighbor is still down. “This never would have happened 16 years ago,” someone in the bar shout-whispers.
In 2019, Alice’s radio show The Chart has evolved a little. She’s now hosting a talk show, simply called Alice. (It’s important to note the “I” in Alice is stylized as a vertical pair of very yonic lips.) One of her staffers pitches Kamala Harris for a potential interview. “She’s a brilliant litigator, but I hate her as a cop and as a transphobe,” a viewer me tells me mid-episode. Harris — who we’ll assume the show’s creators did not anticipate having already dropped out of the race by Sunday’s premiere date — is admittedly a weird choice for a show trying to right the wrongs it previously inflicted on the trans community.
The episode’s big conclusion involves Dani quitting her job working under her homophobic father in Big Pharma to join Bette’s campaign. Bette looks as regal as ever. “Damn it, she’s still straight,” one viewer says, laughing. “Time to find my wife,” the person standing next to me says the moment the credits roll. It’s unclear if they mean a current spouse or a future one. As I wait for a car outside, I hear a group of people arguing about the theme song. Generation Q, at least in tonight’s episode, didn’t have one. “I know people hated it, but I loved the [original] theme song,” one person says. “I mean, look at my shirt.” I look. “Talking, laughing, loving, breathing, fighting, fucking, crying, drinking, riding, winning, losing, cheating, kissing, thinking, dreaming.”