For weeks now, practically each queer particular person I know has been tuning in to Showtime each Sunday evening to observe The L Word: Generation Q. Sometimes, they’ll exit to packed bars for viewing events, or they’ll host casual get-togethers from the consolation of their very own houses. Those who aren’t watching alongside nonetheless loosely find out about it, and are available prepared to clarify why they’re not following alongside to what’s mainly Game of Thrones, however for gay people.
When the unique The L Word launched in 2004, there was nothing like Ilene Chaiken’s interlocked romantic drama on TV. Here was a present that was unapologetically gay, that includes an ensemble solid of virtually fully queer characters residing their day-to-day lives in LA — or because the theme tune would put it, preventing, fucking, crying, consuming. The present was so influential that, to at the present time, gay bars nonetheless repeatedly host L Word trivia nights, or have episodes taking part in within the background. It’s such an element of on a regular basis queer cultural consciousness that I ended up watching the present for the primary time final 12 months simply in order that I might cease feeling neglected.
The L Word, which adopted a gaggle of Los Angeles lesbians residing essentially the most dramatic lives attainable, was under no circumstances good. Talking about it in 2020 means acknowledging all types of shortcomings, from dangerous depictions of trans characters to a surprising lack of people of colour, given the setting. And for each nuanced depiction of queer points, just like the difficulties of coping with bigoted members of the family, there are additionally utterly absurd moments, just like the one time a personality sleeps with a vampire. The present was sort of trash generally, nevertheless it was and stays our trash.
Fast-forward 15 years later, and the follow-up, L Word: Generation Q, enters a panorama populated by Orange is the New Black, Vida, and One Day at a Time. Even youngsters’s cartoons, like Steven Universe, depict queer characters in shockingly complicated methods. Ruby Rose is Batwoman now. Are You The One had a completely queer final season.
It would have been simple for Generation Q to really feel like a relic of a special time, or worse, utterly unneeded. But because it nears the primary season finale, the present’s visibility and gloss makes a fierce case for why its voice continues to be very important. A sequence can have a queer character or two, however few of these media properties carry the burden of the L Word model, no less than for queer people. Its mere existence is an occasion, and Showtime is treating it that means, too.
“We just have a lot of money and we have a lot of resources,” Generation Q government producer and showrunner Marja-Lewis Ryan tells Polygon. There was all the time one thing luxurious concerning the L Word’s depiction of LA, however this time round, returning characters who’ve had an opportunity to develop careers and lives are strolling out of issues like personal jets. Ryan likes to name this “muscle,” however the ambition stretches past ensuring all the cash finally ends up on the display screen. Generation Q appears desperate to say one thing past merely introducing straight people to queer tradition. From the onset, Generation Q tackles issues just like the opioid disaster, alcoholism, religion, and race. The new solid of LA queers figuring life out on-screen are youthful and multicultural, with Latinx and Asian characters of all stripes. Spanish and Farsi is spoken on-screen prefer it’s nothing. It can be exceptional, if it weren’t written by people who expertise this sort of on a regular basis life in LA
“I assembled a room full of queer people,” Ryan says. “There’s one straight person [in] our writer’s room,” Ryan continued, jokingly referring to the author as a variety rent. “A lot of us, as professional writers, are used to being called into rooms as the sole lesbian or as the only trans person or the only queer person.”
The real queer perspective permits Generation Q to be about extra than simply commonplace queer points. This is a large departure from the unique L Word, which starred Jenny Schecter (Mia Kirshner), a straight white girl who stumbles upon a world that’s completely alien to her.
“She’s literally peeking between the fence posts to see these queer people,” Ryan laughs, recalling some of the earliest scenes within the authentic present. Seduced by what she sees, Schecter’s gay descent holds the viewers’s hand by means of primary queer ideas. These concessions felt omnipresent all through the primary present, most notably when it got here to the intercourse scenes. Rather than depicting one thing intimate or scorching to queer people, the intercourse scenes felt like they have been there to titillate straight people. The present wanted to do that to get made in any respect, Ryan muses.
“I don’t think it’s because of straight audiences,’ Ryan says. “I think it’s because of straight buyers or like, or like heterosexually minded buyers.”
Generation Q, in the meantime, appears unafraid to make straight people no less than barely uncomfortable. The opening scene has Dani Nunez (Arienne Mandi) and Sophie Suarez (Rosanny Zayas), two of the brand new solid members, screwing by means of a interval, fortunately exhibiting their bloody fingers to the digicam. Where there was as soon as a relentless shadow of disgrace relating to the L Word’s particulars, Generation Q seems to be people straight within the eye and owns the sequence’ many shortcomings, generally even breaking the fourth wall to take action. Alice Pieszecki (Leisha Hailey), one of the older returning characters, has a storyline all about making an attempt to have a significant TV discuss present for queer people whereas one way or the other additionally satiating the boys in fits, who consider “incremental change” is one of the best anybody can hope for. Alice brazenly wonders how she will maintain her viewers from the primary season of her present regardless of the boundaries she faces and concessions that she has to make.
Ryan says that she tried to “create a writers room that had people that were directly affected by the sins of the original,” which can clarify how the present now confidently wrestles with, say, the complexities of relationship and hooking up whereas trans. More than that, the present feels surprisingly fashionable, as characters wrestle with the shittiness of the gig financial system, holding progressive values in a capitalist hellscape and the dread of swiping endlessly on relationship apps. And after shedding a era to the AIDS disaster, it’s additionally affirming to see the returning solid going about their lives. Even if many of these characters haven’t figured it out but, the mere act of getting older in entrance of a queer viewers who can study from the errors and insights of their elders feels radical in a media panorama nonetheless obsessive about popping out tales.
The present isn’t written to be common, however the specificity of the drama cuts deep. At one level, for instance, engaged lovebirds Dani and Sophie have a quarrel as a result of reserving a high-end resort for their marriage ceremony would imply making some gregarious members of the family really feel unwelcome. The query of class, and the place a POC household suits right into a world of affluence, felt acquainted to me as a Latinx girl with upward mobility. But the second that actually received me was when the couple made up and bachata fortunately performed within the background. It’s a small element that almost all people wouldn’t discover, however one which felt true to all of the easygoing yard events my household has thrown over time.
Despite the clear-eyed aspirations underpinning the present, Generation Q faces its personal bevy of criticisms that I’ve heard in conversations with associates and acquaintances, and have been talked about in passing by critics appraising the present. There aren’t a variety of physique sorts depicted on-screen. The solid is essentially composed of stunning femmes. Much of the drama nonetheless revolves round infidelity. The checklist goes on.
Expectations are excessive, partially out of love, but additionally as a result of it’s The L Word. The present carries the burden of your complete queer neighborhood on its shoulders. Anything that the drama depicts dangers changing into an emblem for the queer populace as a complete, which makes speaking concerning the present borderline exhausting. There’s this ongoing worry that any flawed characters or “problematic” storyline outcomes will come to outline the general public picture of the factor in query.
“The representation on the show is authentic to the city of Los Angeles, which was basically my original pitch,” Ryan says. “Like there’s no way that I can represent all human people. I think if I set out to do that I would just fail miserably,” she provides.
“I love that people don’t like [the show.] And I love that people love it,” Ryan says.
Ryan appears to be taking criticisms in stride, telling Polygon that the present has accomplished higher than what got here earlier than it, and can attempt to do even higher going ahead. Showtime has already renewed Generation Q for a second season.
“We are part of [a] swell of queer content and I’m really happy to be like a worker among workers. I know it sounds sort of funny, but like I don’t really mind if [the show] doesn’t stand out. There’s still not enough of us that are as funded so I’m happy to make like a glossy, fancy show that reminds all of us to have big dreams and hold onto them.”