The L Word No ‘Mother Knows Best’
Originally published 1-15-09
I should be happy that we have not one, not two, but three lesbian moms to represent us on the biggest hit lesbian TV show ever; but if you think The L Word’s Bette and Tina or Helena are realistic depictions of lesbians moms, then you probably are not one.
Remember Season Two when Helena’s two adopted children were everything to her? She interrupted a business meeting with Bette in order to cuddle with her kiddies, and later in the season she fought her ex partner for custody. Then her children conveniently disappeared so that Helena could pursue other interests, like employment, gambling and of course romance. Her babes got in the way of her babes, so the show producers ixned the tykes and Helena’s maternal instinct quicker than you can say character re-write.
Bette and Tina score higher on the mom-o-meter, as they are shown dealing with some of the everyday issues of child rearing, like child care and pre-school issues, but as a busy mom who barely finds time to watch the show on DVD, I wonder every time Bette and Tina are casually hanging out at the Planet, where is little Angelica? Just like the attachment parenting that Bette and Tina practiced in Season Three — to instill trust in their infant daughter by constant human contact, with even Shane taking a turn — poor baby Angelica was dropped as soon as she got in the way.
And before I even get started about family life, I have to call out the preposterous and irresponsible plots related to sperm donation, fertility and pregnancy. For starters, had any of the random men that Bette and Tina propositioned to be donors, or the straight man they attempted to seduce into a threesome, actually impregnated Tina, they would have been entitled to parental rights, including custody, and perhaps even to child support from Bette. Sperm donor contracts should be made by lawyers who know what they are doing. Please, don’t try this at home.
Also, remember how Bette and Tina choose a donor and Tina is inseminated, and poof, she is pregnant; or when 47-year-old Kit, who learns she “has menopause” in an earlier episode, later gets pregnant? Well, not likely. The truth is that getting pregnant is not always quick and simple, and even healthy young women have only a 25 percent chance of conceiving each month; and in reality, the chance of a spontaneous pregnancy over age 45 is less than 1 percent.
I do give credit to the producers for the storyline in the Final Season (minor spoiler warning) in which Bette and Tina set straight a emergency room clerk who insists on naming only one mother on Angelica’s admission form. Here the writers did their homework as Bette informs the clerk of a true but little-known fact that indeed two women can be named on a birth certificate.
Kudos also goes to an earlier episode in which Bette and Tina are subjected to a home inspection in order for Bette to adopt Angelica. Laurie Metcalf’s acerbic wheel-chair bound social worker perfectly epitomizes the jaded and officious LA child protective services. Two of my lesbian mom friends went through the very same process, except the social worker in their case did not bother to come to their home, though she did diligently remind them to send $200 for the inspection that she did not do.
But for the rare moments of verisimilitude, there are entire episodes that resemble nothing like real life for lesbian moms. I hate to be like the lawyer watching Law & Order who annoys everyone with running commentary, “That would never happen in a courtroom … blah, blah, blah,” but every time I see Bette, Tina and Helena out cavorting, childless, I cannot resist asking aloud, “What happened to the kids? Don’t they ever spend any time with them?”
I worry that babies look so fun and easy on The L Word that, like those adorable puppies in 101 Dalmatians, lesbians will run out and get one, thinking they can have their gaybee and go out for drinks too, no problem.
My mother’s generation complained about the unrealistic June Cleaver depictions of mothers on television in their day — those impeccable housewives who kept their men happy and their houses clean, and now we have our own unrealistic, unattainable images of lesbian moms on TV. Now we must not only be homemakers but also successful supermom career women, and we must be beautiful, glamorous and sassy while doing it all. The L Word throws away the ideal opportunity to define ourselves and our role as lesbian moms — two caring, sharing female figures in a household.
We could see Bette and Tina nurturing Angelica together with feminine tenderness and sensitivity that we wouldn’t see with a man in the picture. We could see Helena as a single lesbian mom leaning on her village of lesbian friends to help her raise her children. We could see how children of same-sex parents grow up with fewer prejudices toward others and are free from the trappings of traditional male and female roles. In reality, truth in this case is even better than fiction, and hopefully we soon will see more accurate portrayals of our unique family structures, fulfilling the prophecy Kit made to newborn Angelica at the end of Season Two: “You’re going to have a very interesting life.”