Thursday, April 08, 2010

Pouring Some Out For The L-Word


Alice Pieszecki style

For most, The L-Word ended last year, but for me--basic cable subscriber that I am--it ended earlier this week when I finished my rented DVDs of the disappointingly truncated sixth and final season. Like most premium cable shows of any repute, it ended with a surprise death and a parade of extant past characters, presumably trotted out to remind viewers saddened by the show's end (and perhaps the season's horrifying writing) of its many dramatic zeniths. Though I won't necessarily miss the show (which had become a bit tiresome thanks primarily to the aforementioned writing and the wooden performances of Daniela Sea and Pam Grier), I will miss the refreshingly cool looks the show's stylists crafted for lez girls--most especially quirky girl Alice, power bitch Bette and dramatic femme Jenny (c. seasons 2 & 3).

Jenny Schecter Fashion

Though I'm well aware of the criticism leveled at the show's producers for their narrow focus on white yuppies with the type of disposable income necessary to craft these covetable looks (as quirky and 'thrift' as Alice often looks, for example, she's clearly wearing a lot of Marc Jacob$ and Kate $pade), I'm also aware of the unenviable position the producers of this high-end lesbian soap were in; in order to capture an audience share big enough to sustain the show, they had to at once appeal to a lesbian-identified audience eager to see itself finally represented on the small screen and a straight-identified female audience unsure of its connection to the (often explicit) dyke drama. As Candace Moore notes in her formal and textual analysis of the show, the premiere episode works overtime in this respect by ensuring that the steamy lesbian pool scene (ostensibly meant for a queer audience but also very much enjoyed by straight male viewers, as it turned out) is seen through the eyes of the show's cute, cornfed straight girl, who peeks safely at the scene from behind a slatted fence. Jenny, the straight protagonist, usefully conveys to straight female viewers that they too can watch the lesbian drama unfold from a safe distance without fear of being 'turned out' (or on). By the time Jenny drops her guy for a gal at the end of season 1, straight viewers are presumably too invested to care that they no longer have a heterosexual proxy with which to explore the secret world of lesbianism.

In addition to this 'straight ally' strategy and a few clever straight-gay sex scene echos designed to de-marginalize lesbian sex, high fashion is very obviously drafted by the show's producers to help ingratiate the characters with straight female viewers, many of whom, producers rightly wagered, were Sex and the City castoffs looking for something to fill the void left by the show (hence the "Same Sex, Different City" L-Word marketing campaign). Indeed, as with SatC, all of the women of the L Word are insanely fashionable and unnervingly fit. What's more, like the insufferable women of SatC and every gay man ever depicted on American TV, they are excellent consumers of high-end goods, be it cars, coffee, cocktails, gym memberships, clothes, computers, housewares or mobile devices. These are women, the show practically yells at its straight female viewers, who you may not want to be with, but who you most certainly want to be. And they're right, really. In the end, we're all a little bit queer for the good life.

L Word Fashion and Style

Pictured Above: A "Greatest Hits" fashion montage (and, yes, I know this is embarrassingly 'fan girlish' of me. So What. Who Cares.)

3 comments:

Diane said...

Ugh, I kinda hate this show. I watched the first season of it because my friend really wanted me to get into it (I borrowed her DVD set). I don't typically like television dramas so this was just way too much for me. BUT I will say that I fell hard for Shane. She gives me butterflies.

HUzzah! Vintage said...

yeah, it's a straight-up soap opera, so the melodrama can be thick and uneven (which, come to think of it, sounds kinda gross. sorry). but SHANE. totally understand. I really wonder what she's like in that new, low-rent grey's anatomy show....

Desiree said...

Sorry ladies, but Papi was my main crush with Shane a distant second. I wish they'd found a way to keep Janine Gavankar (sp?) on the show. I think the show started out well because it was infused with comedy; you got the sense they didn't always take themselves so seriously (like when they ran the covert operation to find out if the woman Dana had a crush on was gay, or when Dana and Alice got caught at the security checkpoint with their strap-on and nipple clamps). Then it devolved into sloppy melodrama. Oy.