The L Word: Generation Q
The opening scene of The L Word: Generation Q had me checking my nails for dried blood. Nationally, I can’t quite tell where we are on period sex. Sometimes I’ll be at a show and hear a straight comic talk about it like the hosts in Westworld talk about the Valley Beyond, as an aspirational, perhaps mythical door to either salvation or destruction. But in the lesbian/bi/nonbinary/gender-fuckage/trans-inclusive/queer world, period sex is as rote, satisfying, and necessary as replacing that pair of underwear because you bled all over it. And that includes oral sex. So it’s beyond apt that this new, rebooted version of the show that launched 1,000 ’ships (Sharmen forever) starts off by drawing a familiar line in the sand: This is a show for us, by us. May it always be.
And then there’s the boobs. Because this period sex scene also involves nudity that feels pretty unusual for TV, given that the person on the receiving end of the oral sex gets some almost full-body screen time and is Afro-Latina and has breasts that are substantially larger, wigglier, and more like mine than I’m used to seeing on TV, including on the previous iteration of this show. Well, mine but browner, because “Esposito” is Italian and I am a white person.
If I went into this pilot with any questions about whether this show has shifted alongside the queer community, this is creator Marja-Lewis Ryan’s thesis statement that is has. How has our community shifted? Well, it’s in the slashes. We are lesbian/bi/nonbinary/gender-nonconforming/trans/queer. And POC-centering and body positive. At least that’s who we say we are. What’s clear as we move through the rest of the episode is that that’s a lot for any soapy, raunchy, sexy romp to handle. That makes sense: It’s a lot for a community to handle, too.
In “Let’s Do It Again,” we meet a new gang of characters meant to inspire the devotion we felt for Dana (RIP), Jenny (less RIP), and Kit (maybe RIP). There’s the besuited and energetic Bette Porter rival Dani, the facial-expressions-on-par-with-Alice Sophie, Shane-as-a-puppy Finley, and Micah, a sweet little sweetheart and trans guy played by a trans actor THANK GOD, who feels like a living amends to Max. How exactly this group of friends — who don’t live in the same neighborhood, don’t go to the Planet, and don’t seem to be exes or socioeconomically matched — all know each other isn’t fully explored in this episode. Perhaps they all met at Everybody gym.
What we do know is that Sophie wants Dani to propose, and then when she does, takes a really long minute to answer yes, during which I thought perhaps we were getting a whole different show. Also, somehow Finley bags a lot of chicks (that feels like what Finley would say) but is awkward? It’s unclear. We do get a nice armpit-hair shot out of the deal, though. Multiple, actually. Very excited to see if that continues to grow and is longer and longer in each episode, finally brushing the floor and beginning an armpit-hair extension craze not unlike when Tegan and Sara made us all shave one side of our heads. (Thanks a lot, guys.) And we see Micah ask Shirtless Neighbor out on a date, which feels like a really nice homage to the original series. We all know who the original shirtless neighbor is, and that’s Shane in Bette and Tina’s pool, and she doesn’t even live there.
Speaking of Shane, let’s get to the question on every vagina’s lips: Is she looking very Shane today? Yes, in fact, she is, as she enters this episode by descending the steps of a private plane, her signature slightly blown-forward sharp ’n’ shaggy mane intact, and then bringing the flight attendant home with her to “dirty her countertops.” Shane seems to be getting a divorce, and if her stress-boxing and then staring into the middle distance while deciding whether to wear her ring or (I imagine) throw it into the Hollywood hills is any indication, she feels the same way about divorce that I do. Your friends will get you through it, Shane, though mine never had a bed built for me. Fuck you, my friends!
Where are those friends, anyway? Well, Bette is running for mayor of Los Angeles, complete with Shepard Fairey–esque PORTER posters and a salacious slept-with-a-married-employee sex scandal that she eventually addresses on Alice’s, you guessed it, talk show. Additionally, Bette seems to be Angelica-now-Angie’s primary parent, and those two are cute together but I really hope we see some Tina Kennard, or at least get to hear Bette really yell her name into the ether, not simply state it calmly in Bette’s calm voice. I’ve missed Bette’s ether-yelling.
Which brings me back to the balance this show has to — or has chosen to — strike. While our Ilene Chaiken–helmed first six seasons often addressed larger social issues in its background and general environment, it was mainly a show about relationships. When Bette was stern, she was most often stern about Tina or Jodi. (Well, and the need for art like Provocations. Btw, every reference to the original series in this recap was done from memory; that’s how seminal the first series was, younger queers.) In 2019, Bette is stern about opioids, vaping, and the way slut shaming interacts with the Me Too movement.
And really, this is a change a lot of us can relate to. It’s culture-wide. There’s a predator in the White House, capitalism is crushing our health, and social media has us engaged with distant breaking news faster than Sophie will accept a marriage proposal. I’m curious, then, to see how this show will weave laughing, loving, fighting, and fucking into quitting in protest, facing devastation, and reckoning with systemic inequality. This is a wider, sadder, more grounded The L Word. A The L Word that, instead of fucking you with a strap-on beside the pool, sits next to you and has a good think. In 2019, is this the way that we live?
It just might be.
• Alice’s glasses are the Our Chart of this series. How big will they get? How often will they change? Why did they guide her to help her stepson throwup in a CrockPot instead of the fairly nearby toilet?
• There is definitely more melanin in this version of The L Word. Yay for Bette with a darker-skinned black woman. Yay for Pierce. Yay for Angie getting solid screen time.
• Marcus Allenwood. James, Bette’s assistant. Carmen de la Pica Morales. Helena Peabody. Those are all names I said aloud to myself while watching this episode. Thank heavens I watched at home first, because I went to the damn premiere (in a stunning white jumpsuit) and the folks seated next to me seemed very Generation Q themselves and I’m not sure they would have perked up at my mumblings.