When I learned The L Word was set for a reboot, unlike many queer folks, I felt nothing. Hear me out: the first season is not well developed–even the biggest of The L Word stans couldn’t and still can’t make it through season one. There were not enough storylines engaging Black queer experiences, and in my teen years I happened to find queer community on Tumblr and representation on YouTube shows like Studville that provided me more onscreen examples of same-gender loving folks. Call me an uneducated queer if you must, but The L Word was never a necessary viewing for me. It wasn’t, that is, until this year, when my friends would not stop talking about the reboot.
In The L Word: Generation Q, best friends Bette, Alice, and the infamously romantically unavailable Shane return with a set of younger LGBTQIA+ people in California. Bette is running for Mayor, Alice is the host of a talk show, and Shane is readjusting to California after selling her hair salons abroad and in New York City. Most of the newer cast are twenty-something roommates who are connected to the elder generation through their careers and side gigs. The plot leaves plenty of room for the usual messiness of relationships, in and out of the workplace, plus the messiness the newcomers experience right at home.
Episode one opens with an intimate love scene between new characters Sophie, a producer on Alice’s show, and Dani, director of communications at a well-financed and influential LA company. Unlike many moments in the original series, the sex scene seemed more passionate than simply intense and of the moment (though there should always be room for both). Even with more queer characters on screen, intimacy between women remains fetishized on TV. This scene provided a sense of relief from that trope, while remaining a fun sexual exploration and instant reminder of the original show’s grappling and frequent love-making moments.
As the episode progresses, lovers become engaged and scandals in Bette’s mayoral campaign are revealed, showing Generation Q will remain heavy on the drama, even under its new showrunner. But a looming question for this reboot is if it will truly expand the types of queer relationships displayed in the show like the “Gen Q” title suggests. The younger characters living together hint at a departure from the mostly well-to-do cast of the original series, which is a step in a more realistic direction, especially in Los Angeles. Finley meets Shane after putting her furniture together in her new home and Nunez meets Bette as she attempts to place her father’s company as a backer of Better’s campaign. Micah Lee, another housemate, who is trans, is an adjunct professor, showing a range of jobs across income levels. The inclusion of queer folks from different racial backgrounds take the progress even further, yet it still seems that like many mainstream TV shows, The L Word is afraid to show two Black women shamelessly loving one another.
As more shows center stories on women-loving-women characters, from Netflix’s Easy to ABC’s How To Get Away With Murder, there seems to be no progress in that realm. More often than not, the couples are two white-identified people or an interracial couple, like Generation Q’s Sophie and Danie. And while those reflect some experiences, I can’t help but notice the many other intraracial relationships between folks of color that don’t get screen time.
Instead of range, it feels like a safe move for viewers who may not be ready to see two Black women in love with each other on TV. Similar can be said for Latinx characters—Vida and One Step At a Time are two of only a handful of current examples with large audiences.
While Silver Lake, Los Angeles is reasonable distance from East LA and Inglewood, Black people are everywhere, including Black queer women and femmes. Even with the original show’s mostly white and upper class cast, Black femmes still swoon over The L Word. It’s 2019 and there are more QPOC on cable than ever. The chances of someone dating within and outside of their race feels equally probable, so it should be equally probable to see that reflected on a show with a reach and legacy like this Showtime series.
The L Word is a welcomed reboot amongst a sea of unwanted ones. My friends, a majority of whom are Black femmes, were so excited for the show that I hosted a screening in my living for the premiere. We laughed, screamed, and reminded everyone whether we were a Bette, Alice, or Shane, because despite the original’s downfalls, The L Word still holds a firm place in the heart of queer people of all backgrounds and ages. This new season looks promising and vibrant (quite literally, the viewing quality is far better than the original series). The first episode of the series opens with Lizzo singing, “Love looks better in color!” I hope as this season progresses to see queer love in many forms and in all colors, including unapologetic Black love. v