TV Critic Ella McFarlane argues that this reboot fails to present a varied portrayal of the LGBTQ+ community
The original The L Word: Generation Q ended after its sixth season over ten years ago now and a lot has changed in terms of queer culture and LGBTQ+ rights in the USA.
The revival of a show which originally centred around the lives of queer women in L.A. in the 2000s provides a fascinating look at how attitudes to the queer community have advanced over the last 15 years. The revamped series focuses on the lives of a group of glamorous, L.A.-based queer individuals (predominantly queer women), featuring various far-fetched and soap opera-esque storylines.
However, where the original series often seemed to be presented through an overly sexualized lens from the perspective of the male gaze, the reboot takes a decidedly different view. Not only does the show open with a queer sex scene between new characters, Dani (Arienne Mandi) and Sophie (Rosanny Zayays), the latter of whom is on her period, but the women in the show all have various amounts of body hair making a refreshing change from how women are usually depicted in the media.
The return of original characters Alice Pieszecki (Leisha Hailey), Better Porter (Jennifer Beals) and Shane McCutcheon (Kate Moennig) shows us that in the ten years that have passed since the end of the show they’ve all successfully climbed the career ladder. However, we also learn that Bette is now divorced from Tina (Laurel Holloman) and Shane is in the process of getting a divorce, whereas Alice is in a long-term relationship and living with her girlfriend and her girlfriends’ two children.
The lives of the three original characters are then intertwined with the new cast.
There’s the previously mentioned couple Sophie and Dani, both are Latino women, the first of whom works as a show-runner on Alice’s talk show, with the latter being a PR executive who leaves her father’s firm in order to work on Bette’s mayoral campaign. Sophie and Dani live with Micah (Leo Sheng); an Asian trans man with a crush on his new neighbour. Finally, there’s Finley (Jacqueline Toboni) who is a friend and co-worker of Sophie, a loveable but somewhat dopey lesbian, who seems to be the only character facing financial difficulty.
Which brings me to one of the key issues with the series; how detached it seems to be from reality. Other than Finley, the whole cast of characters seem to be living somewhat luxurious lives in LA with very few concerns for external factors beyond their love lives. Where the original show navigated issues of same-sex marriage or adoption or being forced to be closeted in the public eye, the reboot seems to be glossing over any such issues and whilst this is likely because of the progress made over the last ten years, it also comes across as a naïve oversight.
Yes, there have been massive amounts of progress for LGBTQ+ rights and yes, the queer community is coming to be more widely accepted, particularly in LA, but the show manages to trivialise experiences of prejudice and discrimination in a way which ends up feeling patronising. There are multiple instances of individuals experiencing prejudice from family members or references to past trauma, but they are never explored on a deeper level. This means that the mentions of such experiences feel like a token acknowledgement that homophobia is still an issue in the USA but that the message of the show is still; ‘look at how much progress we’ve made.’
Despite this problematic approach to queer rights in the USA, The L Word: Generation Q is still worth a watch if you’re looking for a soapy drama that’s a little less straight.
Rating = 3/5
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