Lest we become altogether consumed in romantic nostalgia, let’s instead focus on moving forward, on embracing the present rather than reviving the past.
Ladies, you know when you have a friend in an awful relationship with a girl who kept stringing her along and breaking her heart? Like this chick gives her just enough sweetness and orgasms and candlelight dinners that she swoons, and then the next thing you know she’s out drinking with her ex until 2am and forgetting to pay the electric bill? And every time you’re like “Honestly, why do you put up with this, she’s the worst” and your friend is like “I knoooooow but she baked me cupcakes!” And after YEARS of that they finally split up, and your friend said it was totally mutual, but she still compares every other girl she meets to The Ex From Hell. And she’s been doing that less often lately, in fact she even went on a couple of dates, but then she mentions very casually “I saw Kelsey at the farmer’s market and she’s looking really good and I think she’s grown as a person, like she just has this really positive energy these days, and we’re going to get coffee next week” and you’re like GIRL NOOOOOOOO? You know what I’m talking about, right?
Lately, that’s how I’ve been feeling about my friend Every Queer Woman I Know and her nightmare ex Showtime Original Series The L Word.
Like many of us out here in lady-loving-ladyville, I used to be really into The L Word. For queer women of my generation, The L Word is the One That Got Away, the gay TV show by which all other gay TV shows shall be (and have been) judged. If you, too, are of this demographic, the news of a reboot in the works probably felt a lot like getting a Facebook friend request out of the blue from that girl you made out with at a slumber party in eleventh grade and could never quite forget about. But babes, time and distance – and the fact that, back then, we had nothing else to compare her to – have led us to romanticize that encounter way out of proportion to how great it actually was.
Lesbian characters before The L Word were few and far between; there had never been a show that focused on an entire group of queer women, rather than including one token lesbian in an ensemble cast. So the show had novelty on its side, and a kind of representation queer women had never known before. We felt understood by The L Word, maybe for the first time ever. She got us. She made us mix CDs that we still listen to sometimes, and every time we do we’re transported back to a haze of hormones and discovery and Bath & Body Works Juniper Breeze lotion. She helped us figure out who we were, and there’s no way we’ll ever stop loving her for that.
Look back on all that awkward groping toward identity, though – not with the eyes of youth and discovery but with the sober gaze of adult experience – and I think we’ll realize that it was mostly amazing because it was so new. It was bliss to tune in every week knowing, not just hoping, that we’d see a storyline centered on women and the relationships between women. But although the thrill of “OMG GIRLS” kept us coming back to The L Word, we always knew in our hearts that she didn’t treat us the way we deserved to be treated.
Life with her was unpredictable. Sure, she made us laugh. She could be really, really sexy. And sometimes she’d say something so insightful our jaws would drop. But let’s not pretend she was flawless. She was always deeply biphobic. She sensationalized transmasculinity while never even acknowledging the existence of trans women. She was a White Feminist Extraordinaire, oscillating between “I don’t see race” and fetishizing women of color – to the point that the only butch Latina character was literally named “Papi.” She broke Carmen’s heart, she overvalidated Jenny Schechter’s self-indulgent writing, and she fucking killed Dana. We were crazy about her, but a lot of the time we also couldn’t stand her, and to be totally honest, that was part of what made it exciting.
Learning that she’s coming back, that little sliver of our hearts that will always belong to her no matter how many times she fucked us over is awake and singing. “Maybe she’s changed,” it says. “Maybe she’ll finally make it all up to me. Maybe now we’ll be as happy as I always thought we could be.” But ask yourself this: How many love stories do you know (I’m talking about in real life, not on television) where the paramour who couldn’t get her shit together for years and years suddenly does an about-face and makes all her flowery promises come true?
Let’s not kid ourselves. Yes, everyone deserves a chance to learn and grow and redeem themselves from their pasts, but there’s a difference between making space for personal development and betting our whole hearts on someone’s ability to treat us better than they’ve historically been capable of.
Lest we become altogether consumed in romantic nostalgia, let’s instead focus on moving forward, on embracing the present rather than reviving the past. There are other shows out there, and they might not be perfect either, but at least when they let us down we won’t have to admit that we knew exactly how it was going to happen all along. I hear Take My Wife is available. As for The L Word?
Lose her number.
Lindsay King-Miller is a queer femme who does not have an indoor voice. Her writing has appeared in Bitch Magazine, Cosmopolitan.com, Buzzfeed, The Hairpin, and numerous other publications. She lives in Denver with her partner, a really cute baby, and two very spoiled cats. She is the author of Ask A Queer Chick (Plume, 2016).