Revisiting The L Word- Ten Years Later and I’m Still Irritated (But I Love it Anyway)

For whatever reason that I can’t conceptualize, I started watching The L Word again and the same things still irritate me years later especially Tina’s lack of a back story. I hate that Ilene fucking Chaiken made her a cypher to Bette for six years. While most everyone else (that was in the opening credits in the first three seasons) got a back story the only thing we know about Tina is Bette was her first relationship with a woman, she had two abortions and she grew up in the suburbs. I don’t count what was revealed about Tina in the interrogation tapes that were released online following the sixth season because we never met anyone from her past like we did with Alice, Dana, Shane, Jenny, Carmen, Helena, Kit, Marina, Tasha and Max.

Other stories that got on my nerves…

Dana’s cancer although Erin Daniels knocked it out of the park. Really Ilene she was the heart of the show!!!

Jenny’s hideous tights, numerous mental breaks, constant self-absorption and that damn manatee sub-plot. I hated going through her writing process and I’m a writer so WTF?

Bette and Tina’s toxic relationship. Why did they have to cheat on each other??? It’s a wonder that they ultimately ended up with each other.

Mark videotaping everyone in Jenny and Shane’s house (so creepy).

The Lez Girls movie plot.

Dawn Denbo and her lover Cindy and that awful She Bar because no one messes with The Planet.

Kit Porter being relegated to one-liners and her cluelessness about technology.

The entire sixth season (ENOUGH SAID)

Betty and that damn song (once you hear it the song stays in your head for weeks and not in a good way)

Having said all that, The L Word (along with the Otalia story line on Guiding Light) helped me realize that I am a lesbian (I still can’t believe I didn’t see the signs before my 30’s) so I will forever be grateful to Ilene fucking Chaiken and Crystal Chappell/Jessica Leccia aka Otalia for awaking my sexuality. Also, Ilene should be applauded for giving queer women a platform for our stories, however messed up they are.

What I did love was her subtle and overt railings against the Bush administration’s anti-LGBT stand and censorship in the media with Bette’s art gallery story arc. The show tackled a lot of issues that many LGBT people still face today like lack of family acceptance with Dana and Carmen’s stories, subtle discrimination in the workplace, marriage equality since the couples on the show couldn’t legally marry, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell with the Tasha story (which thankfully got repealed though without trans protections), transphobia with the Max story and lack of acceptance for bisexuals among the gay and lesbian community.

Stuff I really liked:

Lara’s sexuality caper with the ladies trying to find out whether Lara is a lesbian so Dana could ask her out on a date

The Dinah trip

The Olivia Cruise trip

Alice’s chart and her ridiculous radio show because it is true that lesbians are incestuous with each other. I’ve seen it among the lesbians in Chicago and we see it all the time among celesbians.

The love they all had for each other no matter how many times they disappointed each other.

Helena’s transformation from an imperious woman who used money to manipulate people into a caring, warm person. Her time in jail and being cut off financially by her mom Peggy only made me love her more.

Alice and Shane’s unwavering friendship.

The fact that every actress actually kept their fingernails short because no lesbian or bisexual woman has long nails. I really appreciated that touch of authenticity even though the show was criticized for casting so many femme actresses.

The overall message that our stories are important.

Watching the show now, with all of the positive changes that we’ve seen since the show ended, was a reminder of how far we’ve come as well as how far we have to go to achieve full equality. Shows like Orange is the New Black, Orphan Black, The Fosters, Pretty Little Liars, Faking It or Modern Family or any number of other queer inclusive shows wouldn’t be on the air without The L Word and for that matter Queer as Folk but there is still a resistance to our community among many Americans. By showcasing our stories Ilene and the other amazing showrunners of queer inclusive shows should be applauded. I thank them from the bottom of my heart for creating these amazing flawed characters that we can cheer on and yell at when they make stupid mistakes.

Long live LGBT representation in the media!!!

Oh and if you haven’t read these recaps done by the talented scribegrrrl already go to this archive link and have fun.¬†http://www.afterellen.com/tag/the_l_word_recaps/.

 

 

 

The connection between Orphan Black and the #YesAllWomen hashtag movement

I was reading the #YesAllWomen posts and they got me thinking about the show Orphan Black. For anyone who hasn’t seen the show it’s about women clones (played by the fabulous Tatiana Maslany) and their fight for a voice and ownership over their minds and bodies. I believe that is the crux of the show and the creators, writers and actors have alluded to this in numerous interviews. One of the creators Graeme Manson has said that a story about women clones is far more interesting than a show about male clones.

See these articles about the show for more on the issue of ownership of women’s bodies

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/television/2014/04/season_2_of_orphan_black_starring_tatiana_maslany_reviewed.html

http://www.nerdist.com/2014/05/the-orphan-black-radical-why-every-clone-club-needs-its-helena/

http://www.bbcamerica.com/orphan-black/2014/05/12/hive-recap-governed-chance/3/

http://www.bustle.com/articles/4553-orphan-black-star-tatiana-maslany-relates-clone-body-ownership-to-the-modern-woman

Each clone on Orphan Black has been used by their creator and until recently didn’t have autonomy over their movements and decisions because of who raised them and the monitors that were employed to keep track of them. Now that they know each other and are finding out about their origins they are becoming empowered and fighting back. By banding together to share information and fight for each other they are showing the power that women have when they are in control even when outside forces are still trying to claim ownership over their bodies and minds. That’s why I love the show…because it empowers women to think and act for themselves and not be controlled by the men and sometimes women around them.

How does this connect to the #YesAllWomen hashtag movement?

The #YesAllWomen hashtag movement stemmed from the recent mass shooting at near the University of California Santa Barbara campus because of the vitriolic Youtube rantings that surfaced of the alleged shooter blaming women for all of his problems. This resulted in thousands and thousands of tweets including mine of instances where we’ve been maligned, harassed, censored, scared, and/or assaulted/raped. (One way where I fall into this category is the fact that I still don’t feel comfortable using my real name or image on twitter for fear of retribution due to the things I say and the people I follow)

For women’s entire lives we are taught that we have to take precautions in order to stay safe in and outside our homes/schools/workplaces/transportation as well as how to dress or react to comments made by men and in some cases other women.

Which gets me to the issue of how women are treated in all aspects of society as well as how women see themselves in society.

How many women raised in conservative religious movements have been told that they have to submit to the men in their lives a la Michelle Duggar and their ilk?

How many women have had to face an employer that asks whether they will be starting a family soon?

How many women have lost their lives just for the right to leave the house, go to school, vote, go out unchaperoned, hold political office?

How many women were taught that how they dressed would determine how they are treated by the world?

How many women have been told to wait their turn in school or the work world?

How many women in the media have been dismissed due to their opinions, education, world experience?

This all begs the ultimate question. When will women be treated as equals everywhere? I fear that it will not happen in my lifetime (I’m 43) and that is sad and tragic.

Why I’m grateful for Fred Eyechaner and WCPT

Chicagoans like myself are lucky in so many ways including our access to great cultural institutions, impressive architecture, a thriving print media and a variety of sports teams, however, the thing we have that not many other cities have is a progressive radio station- Chicago’s Progressive Talk WCPT.

As a liberal/progressive, I’m glad I live in a city that has a place for me on the radio dial.

With liberal/progressive radio stations folding and changing formats in cities like New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland and other locations around the country; WCPT stands as a bastion of liberal/progressive talk radio outside of the Sirius/XM Progress channel. The reason why WCPT and its sister stations (that air the same programming) in northern Illinois haven’t gone the way of KTLK in Los Angeles and WWRL in New York City is due to one man- Fred Eyechaner.

Chicago’s Progressive Talk is owned by Eyechaner’s Newsweb Corporation and is one of the last independently owned radio stations in the country. This fact alone keeps the station from having to tow a certain corporate line or have a singular voice.

I’m so glad that WCPT streams worldwide and is available on a variety of phone apps so liberal/progressive people can hear the likes of Bill Press, Stephanie Miller, Ed Schultz, Thom Hartmann, Norman Goldman, Democracy Now, as well as local shows Out Chicago, Hal Sparks, Dick Kay and much more.

Thank you Fred Eyechaner for WCPT and everything else you do to promote liberal/progressive causes.

 

 

 

 

The Importance of Independent Truthful Media Outlets

Democracy Now, Free Speech TV, WCPT, Previously TV, Windy City Times. What do they have in common? They are all independent media outlets that operate outside of corporate influence.

I’m sure there are more like this across the country, however, it’s telling that these are the only ones that I could think of without doing any additional research. As more and more media outlets get swallowed up by corporations such as when CNN/Turner Broadcasting was first sold to Time Warner and later AOL its is so important for independent media outlets to have a voice in our national discourse.

The amount of misinformation that the media spews daily is mind-boggling and when people can’t trust what they are hearing, seeing or reading how will we be able to make informed decisions. The bifurcation of media is also a problem and today is a great example of that. On the Huffington Post (liberal leaning) main page they highlighted the fact that 7 million people signed up for Obamacare while over at the Drudge Report (conservative leaning) they showed the Obamacare website as inaccessible. If people only read the homepage of either website they will either believe that Obamacare has 7 million signups or that Obamacare is a failure due to system overload at the Obamacare website. The lack of nuanced reporting and the gotcha article title descriptions has clouded real reporting.

I worry that future generations will not be able to sift through the noise and find out the truth of any story as more and more corporations swallow up independent media outlets around the country.

 

Oscars 2014- when Hollywood finally found diversity (just a little)

It’s been 86 years since Hollywood first gave out awards to honor their own and until last night there hasn’t been near enough diversity among nominees and winners. Hollywood still has a lot of work to do not only in movies but also in television, however, last night was a good start. See this article for more information http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/03/oscars-diversity_n_4889293.html?utm_hp_ref=entertainment. (Full disclosure I am a white lesbian so I to these issues from two marginalized groups while also being a part of a majority group)
I blame the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the lack of diversity since 94 percent of the members are white while 6 percent are members of other racial groups and 77 percent of members are male while only 23 percent are female. Also, they are overwhelmingly older which translates into a lack of understanding of the multicultural world that we live in today. As for television the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences that votes for the Emmy’s has the same problem. If membership in these two organizations keeps skewing white and male and execs at movie studios and television networks keep putting media out that doesn’t represent the world around us they will lose out to the web. Look at how the Veronica Mars movie got made. Producers, writers and directors are increasingly bringing content directly to the web so their stories can get told without studio and network influence. The ability to get financing via Kickstarter and other means has also freed up creators in ways that society is only beginning to grasp.
Last night the Academy showcased a group of young filmmakers (3 women and 3 men) from colleges around the country and what struck me was their diversity. This is what the country looks like and what the Academy needs to work towards. See this article for more about them http://www.arabnews.com/news/532306. I hope the new Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the first African-American president, stays strong and commits to diversity among the membership of the Academy.
Also, a study was recently done that showed among the Oscar nominated films male leads averaged 85 minutes of screen time, while female leads averaged only 57 minutes. One only has to look at television credits to see how many males are on shows VS females. One network that reverses these numbers is ABC Family with their female fronted shows Switched at Birth, The Fosters and Pretty Little Liars.
While I take issue with a Woody Allen movie being recognized by the Academy (due to Dylan Farrow’s molestation accusations- which I believe BTW), I did appreciate Cate Blanchett calling out Hollywood to make more female fronted films. They should take note of the fact that The Hunger Games-Catching Fire (with Jennifer Lawrence in the lead role) was the highest grossing film of last year. The movie also passed the Bechdel test which should be an important part of how films are constructed.
They say that culture moves society faster than legislation and the courts and if that’s the case we still have a long ways to go regarding representation in movies and TV. I hope that the next ten years sees a sea change in representation similar to the advancements that the LGBT community has made since former President Bush waged a war on my community with his call for a ban on same-sex marriage across the country in 2004.

The Fosters on ABC Family, marriage equality and visibility

On the second episode of The Fosters a conversation took place between Lena (one of the mom’s on the show) and one of the new foster kids that Lena and Stef (Lena’s partner) took in. Jude (the foster kid who is 12) asked Lena if she was married to Stef. Lena explained that they weren’t legally married, however, they were married in their own hearts. Jude commented that being married in their hearts is the same thing. Now I don’t expect a 12 year old boy to be able to grasp all of the ways that his statement was false on a legal front. I am glad that the show addressed the fact that since they live in San Diego and same-sex marriage isn’t legal in California because of Prop 8 that their relationship will never be treated the same way as an opposite sex couple’s marriage is treated.

This brings me to the current debacle going on in Illinois regarding marriage equality. The IL House, specifically Rep. Greg Harris (who is openly gay and the bill’s sponsor) didn’t call the vote for marriage equality on May 31st as promised. In numerous conversations with LGBT leaders since the IL Senate voted to approve marriage equality I have gotten nothing but encouraging news that the bill had enough votes and that it would pass. I am so disappointed with LGBT leaders in IL since I did my part to reach out to my state representative Alan Turner who eventually came out and said he would vote yes on the bill. Recently, I read a great editorial here¬†http://www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/EDITORIAL-Marriage-and-Equality-A-Way-Forward/43240.html and I agree wholeheartedly with what Tracy Baim had to say.

In her editorial Tracy explains that the only way forward is through grassroots activism. Another example of grassroots movement that worked was when American women got the right to vote.

Without the likes of Alice Paul, Lucy Burns and other members of the National Women’s Party protesting outside of the White House (during World War I when Wilson was president) demanding the right to vote with signs that said “We women of America tell you that America is not a democracy. Twenty million women are denied the right to vote. President Wilson is the chief opponent of their national enfranchisement” we wouldn’t have gotten the right to vote in 1920. They got arrested and were sent to Occoquan workhouse. Alice went on a hunger strike and the prison officials force fed raw eggs to her so she would stay alive. That action along with continued protests and media coverage shamed the Wilson administration to act. If it were left up to the likes of Carrie Chapman Catt (who spent time currying favor with Wilson and who disagreed with Paul and Burns tactics) we would’ve waited even longer for the right to vote.

We need the same kind of commitment now to achieve full LGBT equality nationwide.

My thoughts on the FX show “The Americans”

I was a weird kid. Weird in a way that I was acutely aware of the world around me at an early age. I became obsessed with the presidency and politics in general as early as January of 1980 when we were vacationing in Florida at Disney World. (I was almost 9 years old at the time.) We were in our hotel room and President Carter’s State of the Union address was on TV. Instead of playing with my younger siblings I sat there mesmerized by the TV and what Carter was saying. Fast forward to early 1981 where I distinctly remember watching President Reagan being sworn into office and minutes later the hostages getting released from Iran. I was also aware that the show Nightline was created just to update Americans about the hostage crisis. (This was before the advent of CNN BTW!) I really don’t know where this interest began, however, I do remember my parents having the news on everyday and newspapers and magazines in the house.

Which brings me to the show “The Americans”. I personally love it. I’ve never really seen Keri Russell in anything else before so she is a revelation to me as Elizabeth Jennings. Matthew Rhys, on the other hand did a fantastic job playing openly-gay Kevin on “Brothers and Sisters” and does a marvelous job here as Phillip Jennings. Others have written great reviews about the actors and overall storytelling but what gets me excited is the portrayal of historical events within the context of the show. Last night’s episode (which centered around Reagan’s assassination attempt) brought me back to my childhood. Again, I remember Reagan’s assassination attempt as if it happened last month.

I really can’t wait to see this show delve into other historical events in the 1980’s. Since Phillip and Elizabeth (Keri’s character) have a 13-year old daughter Paige and a 10-year old son Henry it will be interesting to see which pop culture events and fads the show chooses to portray. I did notice that Paige was reading a teen magazine in the scene with Phillip in the diner. Nice touch showrunners! I also appreciate the period details. I know that some viewers and critics have noted that some of the fashion and hairstyles are not as period as they could be but that is not as important to me as them getting the vehicles, decor and technology (or lack of it) correct.

The flashbacks to Phillip and Elizabeth’s younger years are fascinating. The show does a great job showing the stark environment that was the post WWII Soviet Union era. I wonder how much we are going to see of their past as the show goes along?

It’s weird to think that this show is set a little over 30 years ago especially since one of my friends is only 28 years old.

Some other musings…

Do the Jenning’s have a VCR? We were the second family on the block to buy one in 1978.

Will Paige beg her parents for a Walkman?

Will Henry convince his parents to get him an Atari game system?

How will Elizabeth cope as she witnesses the Soviet Empire crumble?

Will their kids ever find out who they really are and if so what will their response be?

Will they eventually defect or will they be jailed?