L Word vs. Reality
Originally published 5-4-05
A couple of weeks ago I ran across a posting in the personals of craigslist.org from a woman in a small town that went something like this, “Please help me convince my girlfriend that LA is not like the L Word. She fantasizes that lesbians in West Hollywood are really like the characters on the show, and she’s leaving me for this make-believe world.”
I hate to tell this poor soon-to-be jilted girl, but if her partner likes what she sees on the L Word and comes to LA expecting to meet women like the promiscuous tomboy hairstylist Shane, the loopy writer Alice, the power lesbian Bette, etc., then Girlfriend is not coming back. Indeed, all those women live in WeHo, and then some.
With the phenomenal popularity of the Showtime series, a sort of Desperate Lesbians or Sex in the City of West Hollywood, lesbians have risen to a new level of chic, becoming the talk of the town.
My straight male co-worker gives me a recap of the L Word every Monday. It’s almost worth not getting cable to hear him say, “I hope Bette and Tina get back together, because you can tell they’re still in love.”
The element of the show that has the most resonance with my friends is the incestuous nature of lesbian culture. I must admit that Alice’s famous diagram, a family tree of women who love women who have all loved one another, is too close to home. With a U-Haul parked out front.
You’ll hear groups like GLAAD, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation for those who are not indoctrinated, say there is no such thing as a lesbian or gay “lifestyle,” but how many times have you heard of straight couples breaking up then living together while they date each other’s exes? It happens. In lesbian life anyway.
West Hollywood doesn’t have the fictional Planet café-slash-nightclub and owner Kit, but it does have Here Lounge and Michelle and Linda, two trend-setting promoters who can make or break a lesbian hot spot with a single e-mail blast.
A couple of years ago, lesbians lined the block Tuesday nights to get into the bar Felt on Santa Monica Boulevard. Even Melissa and her then new girlfriend Tammy Lynn could be spotted there on occasion. Then, snap, Michelle and Linda decided to go to Here, that is Here Lounge, on Robertson, on Thursday nights. Soon, Felt was “Melt,” as a vandal scrawled on the boards that covered the windows a few months later. Now the ladies host Sunday L Word nights at the Falcon on Sunset, where it can be hard to tell the difference between the women sitting around being catty and naughty onscreen and those at the booth next to you.
Many lesbians object to the portrayal of our lives in the L Word as it makes us look like vacuous, dysfunctional nymphomaniacs. As the joke goes, “How many feminist lesbians does it take to change a light bulb?” Answer: “That’s not funny.” The truth is, not all lesbians are humorless. In fact, not all lesbians are any one thing. The truth is, there are a lot lesbian types including those beautiful, stylish, sexy, smart, successful girl-loving gals in West Hollywood, and that’s the word.