The L Word Season Four – A Call to Action
I typed “L Word” in the search box on YouTube.com and found that there are many lesbians all over the world with way too much time on their hands. I counted no less than 1258 video tributes in at least seven languages to various characters, Katherine Moenning’s “Shane” topping the list with the most montages.
My favorite one was the puppet show by Hen & Bunny which spoofed the spreading of the ashes scene at the end of Season Three. One of the handsocks angrily declares that killing off Dana was “outta nowhere, of cancer, just cuz the writers thought it would be a good thing to do, it was bullshit. It was bullshit.” Like those puppets, Katherine Moenning, and millions of fans, I too am pissed about Dana’s death.
So now, without benefit of advance copies of the show and relying on Web site gossip, I’ve been assigned a “preview” of Season Four, with the directive to vent about what we love and hate about the series, and to share my insider knowledge, which leads me to my next story.
One Sunday afternoon last spring, I was hanging with friends at a secluded corner patio table at the Abbey in West Hollywood – the time and place to see and be seen – when Erin Daniels, who played Dana, “pssst‘d” me. She was hiding with her posse behind a vine-covered iron gate outside the bar. She saw our empty glasses wanted to know if we would be leaving soon so she could discreetly sneak in and take our table. Had I known she was going to die on the show a few weeks later, I would have been more sympathetic. I told her she’d have to join us and pretend to be in our party, because many eager patrons were eyeing our primo four-top.
So I cajoled “Dana” into a bit of impromptu, which she was a rather good sport about. Like in the show, she was quirky and spunky. Had I known about her finale in Season Three, I would have expected a sulking actress, anxious about her potential career swan song, but she was cheerful and vivacious. My close encounter with the thespian really has little to do with this preview of the new season, but it seemed a good excuse to tell the story about my 15 minutes with Dana.
Back to the point, I had seen Season Two, and I liked Dana’s character, but it was not until I re-watched Seasons One through Three to prepare for 2007’s Season Four (due to air on Showtime January 7), that I realized what a great actress Daniels is, and why the creators picked her to die. Daniels’ performance was terrifically comedic and nuanced. Her “getting down with her bad self” dance aboard the yacht in Season One, the sex shop encounter with Alice in Season Two and her acid trip with Shane from the tribute in the last season stick out as moments when you wonder if everyone else saw that hysterically spot-on delivery, worth the $60 premium cable subscription just to get “L Word.”
As part of an ensemble cast, one character is not necessarily supposed to stand out, and Daniels’ acting was suitably subtle and understated. On the other hand, everyone has their favorites, and saying I hated Jenny in Season One and hoped she’d get one between the eyes at that carnival shooting gallery will probably put me in someone’s crosshairs, but I can also say that I warmed to her in Season Two and was rooting for her by Season Three. And I adored the odd-couple friendship she struck with Shane, whose transformation from tough-girl lothario to flawed but devoted lover won me over to her character too.
Like Shane, I was a slow convert, but in my case it was accepting the truth, or verisimilitude, of the show. I must admit, at first I was embarrassed by “L Word” and its Lesbianism 101 plotlines and sex scenes that seemed choreographed for male viewers, but then the series started to grow on me. It was a guilty pleasure, like when I played with Barbies until sixth grade, a secret indulgence that I could only share with certain other girls – like those who also, despite intelligence and good taste, are captivated by the seductress Marina’s conquest of innocent Jenny or Bette and Tina’s off-and-on tormented relationship, and Bette’s terrific power suits.
Every season holds surprises, and transformation — sometimes literally, as with Moiré, e’hem, I mean Max — is the name of the game with “L Word,” though some of those changes have been a bit hard to swallow. I can buy that Shane shaped up and Jenny quit cutting, and I can even accept Tina’s turn for men and Kit’s affair with a young white hippy guy, but Bette’s melting into a spiritually awakened puddle seems just plain implausible, and Helena’s makeover from wicked villain into Princess Charming is more than dubious.
Each season we meet new characters who at first we resent as interlopers on the lives of our beloved “L Word” clique, but in most cases we eventually embrace, such as Helena or DJ Carmen — the sexiest of them all, or we are glad when their storylines fade out, like that of the annoying video voyeur Scott, or Jenny’s fiancé/husband/ex, whose name escapes me but whose ever-present bulging biceps remain fixated in my mind’s eye. It seems the writers keep trying to interest us in men, but they should know better.
Speaking of great arms, too bad we bid adieu to the scheming Dylan, played by Alexandra Hedison, Ellen DeGeneres’ tall and sultry real-life ex, who all I could think of when I saw her and Helena go at it was “I wonder if that’s how she did it with Ellen?” Then, of course, we all missed Marina, whose mysterious departure after Season One became an inside joke, with the many varied on-screen versions of what happened to her a mirror to the many rumors about how and why the deliciously beautiful actress was cut from the show.
Some fans disliked the more glamorous Seasons Two and Three, but at least we can all agree on one thing — that the grating theme song has got to go. Although I usually count myself a fan of Betty, whose members hail from my hometown of Washington, DC, I had to wonder, who did those girls sleep with anyway to get that gig?
Troubling for me and many fans is how at the end of each season the characters’ relationships and personalities fall apart. Many of us were disheartened when the only stable, functional relationship on the show, that of Bette and Tina, unraveled in the end of Season One; and likewise, at the end of Season Two, we witnessed the uncoupling of darlings Dana and Alice. And then Dana dies in Season Three. It almost makes me want to protest and boycott the show, but I can’t help it, I’m hooked,
Like it or not, “L Word” is now part of the flannel fabric our lives. It is so much so that my girlfriend and I have taken to using the characters as examples, such as when my girlfriend warned me that if I ever had an affair, like Bette did, she would never be able to forgive me, like Tina.
More importantly, the show gives us images, good, bad and indifferent of ourselves and our lives. When you think about it, besides WNBA, we’ve never such a collection of lesbians on television to like, dislike, cheer for and curse. This is why I can hardly wait for Season Four.
The promo promises “new friends, new rivals, new loves and one returning flame.” That’s right, Marina’s back. There’s also tittle-tattle of a new hot Latina, Papi, who replaces Carmen as Shane’s love interest, other entrances by Marlee Matlin as a “fiery artist” who sparks Bette’s attention and Cybil Shepard as a bi-curious married mom who visit’s Alice’s wonderland, and hasbian Tina faces off with Bette in a nasty b-ball game with the girls.
I am still disappointed, and actually grieving, over Dana’s passing, and this is how I know the creators made the right choice when they picked her to get breast cancer. Her character was familiar – like us, like our friends, like our sisters. She was a healthy young woman, who waited too long to check out what ended up being a lethal lump. Of course, Erin Daniels is an actress in a show and Dana isn’t really real, but her story affected me, as I suspect it did millions of other women. I will miss Dana, but I will keep watching, happy that there is a show and a network out there that is not ashamed or afraid to shout out the “L Word.” And did I mention that last week I went for a mammogram?