In the comments of Wednesday's post, Anita pointed out that Queer As Folk is not the only Showtime program that struggles in its depiction of bisexuality. When discussing depictions of biphobia in the gay community, one can't avoid The L Word. The difference between the shows as I see it, however, is that if Queer As Folk suffers from bi invisibility, The L Word suffers from straight-up bi loathing. Rather than giving you a play-by-play of every epic bi fail (if you're interested in that, After Ellen has a comprehensive list), I want to focus on one particular episode—one that deals with bisexuality and straight privilege.
(Note: This post contains spoilers about Queer As Folk.)
It was the Spring of 2003. My three best friends and I were taking a break from studying for our math final exam and wandering around our local video store, searching for a DVD to watch at my house that night. Midway through the New Releases aisle, we paused. There it was: Season Two of the American Queer As Folk. None of us had ever watched it, but we knew it by reputation from friends who were fans. As active members of our school's Gay-Straight Alliance and avid consumers of queer media, we knew that Queer As Folk was the most overtly gay television show out there, and we couldn't wait to give it a try. We rented the first disc, and all plans of further studying that night were put on hold. Never mind, of course, that we'd never watched Season One—we'd catch up to it later. All we knew was that we had to start watching it immediately.
Nearly a decade later, Queer As Folk has remained one of my all-time favorite television shows; other than Seinfeld, it is the only show of which I've seen every episode more than once. It's flawed in its depictions of diversity, and it's sometimes a bit too goofy for its own good, but the storylines are compelling, the characters are well-developed, and the issues addressed—covering everything from bullying to parenting to addiction to serodiscordant relationships—are handled sensitively and realistically. All of them, that is, except for sexual fluidity.
Today, I thought I'd turn our attention to Showtime's The L Word. I'll admit that the Los Angeles-based ensemble dramedy created by Ilene Chaiken was marred by over-the-top situations, uneven character development, hackneyed writing, a bevy of skinny femmes, and racially problematic casting decisions. It also featured one of the worst theme songs ever, which was written and performed by BETTY.
However, until the final season I was hooked. I started watching with my girlfriends in college toward the end of Sex and the City's run on HBO (L Word fans may recall that the show's original tag line was "Same Sex, Different City"). I was invested in many of the L Word's characters and their long, interconnected histories with one another. I appreciated the incorporation of lesbian icons through dialogue or cameos, and the attention drawn to lesser-known cultural practices like Dinah Shore Weekend or the prevalence of lesbian nuns. I liked the sex, even though it was often of the lipstick variety. Most of all, I enjoyed the role music played in the women's lives.