Lascivious Lesbians? Lovely!
To tell the truth? It's a soap opera.
There is little to distinguish this show from any soap opera except that all of the protagonists are female, and most of them are gay. Otherwise, the main ingredients are there: a constantly shifting cast, overlapping sexual liasions, nudity, LOTS of hurt feelings and betrayal. There's even a murder later on in the show (don't ask me, I didn't watch that far).
The real question concerning this show is how progressive can it be when it follows the same basic formula of every daytime television drama ever made? Let's dive into the lucsciously laconic lives of the ladies on "The L Word".
"The D Word": The Rules
1. Drink for Title Drops. That's every time the full title, "The L Word", is said.
2. Drink when they drink.
3. Drink for Daddy Issues. There are a few, even though the cast is mostly female.
4. Drink for same-sex kissing.
5. Drink when Alice's Chart or her talk show of the same name is mentioned.
6. Drink when a discussion about someone's orientation takes place. Sexuality is fluid. The show repeatedly likes to remind us of that.
All the above rules apply. Also...
1. Title Drops: drink whenever someone says the word "Lesbian".
2. Drink when two people make out.
3. Drink for non-sexual nudity. I encourage you to include works of art in this definition.
4. Drink when someone is writing or telling a story.
5. Drink when a party is thrown. They love parties. People from Los Angeles, I mean.
All the above rules apply. Also...
1. Drink for homophobic remarks or situations.
2. Drink for celebrity cameos. Mostly musicians or bands.
3. Drink for sex. You can all decide amongst yourselves what you call "sex".
4. Drink for the beginning or end of a relationship.
5. Just for funsies, drink when a scene FAILS the Bechdel test. We'll get into that later.
Krissy Pappau: Likable (Easy)
Bride of Buggerlas: Lovely (Easy)
Some Guy: Ludicrous (Medium)
Big Moose: Loquacious (Hard)
Champjagne Austgin: Luscious (Hard)
Pooh Daddy: Laughing, laughing, laughing (Hard)
Hopefully when you play this game, you'll be less blue than the Lesbians you're drinking OR the lesbians you're watching. It's "The L Word" drinking game!
The Bechdel Test
1. More than one named female character...
2. ...in conversation with each other...
3. ...discussing something other than a man.
The test is not used to determine the quality of any given film, but rather as a tool to point out a larger issue within the film and television industries: the objectification or oversimplification of female characters, or lack of them altogether. The sheer number of films that do not contain a single scene that fulfills all three of these requirements is noteworthy (in fact, there's a site that documents recent releases and how they fare on the test which you can find here).
Whether or not The L Word passes or fails the test is a moot point. The show was CREATED to star strong, well-developed lesbian characters. I put in this rule for fun to see how often it would be used on a scene-by-scene level. In doing so, we learned a little bit about the show, and the test itself.
Firstly, the test does not work very well for television. As a long-form medium, TV has more time to develop any character and strengthen their bond to the central plot, regardless of how stereotypical or bland they may seem when they are first introduced. So for every scene that fails the test, there are two more that pass it.
Now in terms of passing the test, scenes involving Max still do so with flying colors, but in terms of our game, since so much of Max's dialogue is about his transition, do we still count this as a discussion about a man? Where do transgender characters, female drag kings or male lesbians fall on the scale using these guidelines, and is it even fair to use the same guidelines? Even the characters on the show have a hard time with this. So many of them are feminine women who strictly love other feminine women, that whenever someone shows up who doesn't fit that mold, they find it jarring, in turn jarring the audience. Which actually makes for very exciting TV, because people don't often talk about prejudices that exist within marginalized communities.
In any case, for all the above reasons, this rule doesn't REALLY work, but can be a fun addition to a drinking game and lead to many arguments. Try using it with more heteronormative soap operas and compare!
You All Suck
I don't blame the actors at all. There are some terrific actresses on this show. No, I blame the writing. It's often clunky, sometimes preachy, and often goes in strange directions. Without giving away who does what, this show involves people being left at the alter, several illicit relationships, child kidnapping, a couple pregnancies, both planned and unplanned, puppy murder, and human murder (which, by the way, never gets resolved). The drama is exhausting, and nobody is immune.
In Season 3, a major character dies due to complications with breast cancer. The illness takes almost an entire season to be discovered, get worse, and eventually kill a character that the audience should have been very attached to. They have two funerals for her (the second a reaction to her family's denial of her sexuality), and then the character is never mentioned again.
The more cynical side of me not only views Dana's death as drama for drama's sake, but as an excuse to discuss issues unique to the gay community. Dana was in the hospital just long enough for us to see her partner Lara get denied information on her well being because she was not, and could never be, a member of Dana's family. Her funeral happened swiftly enough so that we could connect that event to her orthodox ceremony and subsequent shunning of her friends during the memorial service.
It's not that I look down on the show for doing this. The gay marriage debate is largely defined by the unequal legal treatment of homosexual unions as opposed to heterosexual ones, and it would be a huge oversight on the writers' part to avoid bringing up these issues. But because this arc was so short, it feels as though Dana was killed off purely so that these issues could be discussed. One of the most sympathetic characters in the show should have been given a little more time and care when her story came to an end. As a viewer, I didn't have time to worry for her beyond the initial shock of the diagnosis, and that bothered me.
Plus, with Dana gone, who are we supposed to like? Jenny? Just look at her. She doesn't deserve any kind of sympathy.
Nobody's Allowed to be Happy
"Just let it go. It almost never turns out like you want it to."
Alice and Dana spend a good portion of season 2 getting together and staying together, but it all falls apart when Alice becomes possessive and weird. We have no real indication that she's been like this in any previous relationship. We have no real catalyst for these feelings, or any reason for Alice to feel insecure in her relationship. She just suddenly is. Similarly, our token straight couple of season 3, Kit and Angus, seem madly in love until Angus suffers a career setback. Then, instead of talking to his girlfriend, he drowns his sorrows in Tina's babysitter.
Even then, as Bride of Buggerlass shouted in frustration at the screen as yet another couple self-destructed, "Monogomy is not the only option!" There are a couple characters who are clearly not meant to be part of a monogomous relationship. Shane claims to have slept with over 900 women and has only ever been in love twice. Bette has cheated on every girl she's ever been with, but seethes with jealousy whenever she catches her girlfriend making eyes at someone else. If these characters owned up to the fact that they actually can't be exclusive with the people they love, maybe things would start working out for them. Instead they attempt to change their own natures, and things end up terrible. Nobody is happy. These are strong, confident, ADULT women who have everything else figured out except for dealing with the emotions of other people. It doesn't make sense that there's not one among them who knows what she wants out of a relationship and how to get it.
Please, if you are at all interested in the premise, watch this show, by all means. There has never been another show like it. But don't expect gold. The flaws you see from the beginning never get smoothed out, and the ludicrous levels of drama in each episode only mounts as the narrative continues. And don't get attached to anyone for very long. You never know whether they'll die, get driven out of town, or go through a complete personality change.
Remember: Nobody is allowed to be happy. Ever.
Drink whenever a character avoids expressing their feelings.
Not to be crude, but you'd think a show starring a bunch of women would involve the characters having super emotional discussions with each other. Not so much, it turns out.
Drink for infidelity
To be clear, this is an extra drink for sex scenes if at least one of the people having sex is in a relationship with someone else.
Drink for allusion to genitals.
Most of the characters are pretty comfortable talking about sex on this show, and some of the funniest moments arise from their frank discussions on lady parts. And if you get a scene like this, chug.
For Your Inebriation is written by Krissy Pappau (Hollis Beck). Video footage is taken by Pooh Daddy (Vincent Graham) and edited by Seb (Amy Yourd). All "The L Word" related footage is owned by Showtime.