The L Phrase: Technology Q Is a Valiant Effort. However the Present Is a Time Capsule That Ought to Have Stayed Buried


To know the extent to which mainstream media depictions of the LGBTQ group have developed over the previous 15 years, you want solely examine Showtime’s The L Phrase with early episodes of its upcoming sequel, The L Phrase: Technology Q. When it premiered in 2004, the present broke floor by advantage of its premise alone: queer ladies in Los Angeles stay and love in excessive cleaning soap opera vogue. The solid was uniformly skinny, long-haired, female and conventionally engaging. Apart from Jennifer Beals as Bette Porter and Pam Grier on the fringes of the plot as Bette’s straight half-sister Package, it was additionally all white. Early storylines discovered Bette and her accomplice Tina navigating synthetic insemination, a tennis star popping out of the closet and a wide-eyed L.A. newcomer dishonest on her live-in boyfriend with a complicated feminine cafe proprietor.

All of it appears very Lesbian 101—to not point out very tailor-made to the heterosexual male gaze—in distinction to what goes down inside the first jiffy of Technology Q, which premieres Dec. 8. Whereas the present does start with a type of gratuitously lengthy intercourse scenes for which The L Phrase was well-known, this time the couple between the sheets is Latinx millennials Dani (Arienne Mandi) and Sophie (Rosanny Zayas). And it seems Sophie is on her interval. Their mononymous butch pal Finley (Jacqueline Toboni) bikes throughout city in a sports activities bra, baring bushy armpits and screaming “Time’s Up, jackass!” at a catcaller. We meet Dani and Sophie’s roommate Micah (Leo Sheng), a candy educational who occurs to be a trans man.

By some unbelievable however easy-to-overlook coincidence, most of those new faces rapidly discover themselves within the orbit of The L Phrase’s three returning Gen X characters. As soon as an art-world enfant horrible, Bette—who’s now divorced from Tina and elevating their loving however rebellious teenage daughter, Angie (Jordan Hull)—is channeling her ambitions right into a run for mayor, regardless of the numerous skeletons the unique present stacked up in her closet. Alice (Leisha Hailey), who was launched as a bubbly bisexual journalist, is juggling her personal speak present and a fiancée (Stephanie Allynne’s Nat) who has two younger youngsters plus a creepily clingy ex-wife (Sepideh Moafi). The emotionally unavailable James Dean of the circle, Shane (Katherine Moennig) has simply returned to LA and moved right into a palatial dwelling financed by her salon empire however can’t cease interested by her estranged spouse.

New showrunner Marja-Lewis Ryan (The 4-Confronted Liar) struggles to stability such a giant solid; Micah and Sophie don’t fairly come into focus within the three episodes despatched for evaluation. What’s extra worrisome in the long term is that, regardless of their proximity, these two cohorts can really feel like they’re in parallel exhibits. With their glamorous jobs and rich-people issues, Bette, Alice and Shane live the identical sparkly postfeminist fantasies that hooked viewers within the aughts. That leaves the extra various “Generation Q” characters to characterize the politically engaged, sexually fluid and trans-inclusive current. Whereas Shane buys a bar on a whim and Alice flirts with talk-show visitor Megan Rapinoe, Dani and Sophie wrestle with the category variations that divide them and freeloading goofball Finley (an early contender for the Jenny Schecter Award for Most Irritating Character) is pressured to confront her Catholic upbringing. The result’s a extra critical drama shoehorned into an aspirational cleaning soap.

Jacqueline Toboni and Leo Sheng in 'The L Word: Generation Q.'
Jacqueline Toboni and Leo Sheng in ‘The L Phrase: Technology Q.’
Photograph Credit score: Jennifer Clasen/SHOWTIME

Ryan doesn’t deserve all of the blame for this disconnect. She inherited a present that had been extensively criticized throughout its preliminary run for its homogeneous depiction of queer womanhood, that had gone irreparably off the rails in later seasons and that has aged terribly because it went off the air. And within the sense that the characters she’s added bear a more in-depth resemblance to the actual queer group you may discover in a serious American metropolis in 2019, she has succeeded. If you recall, for instance, how clumsily The L Phrase creator Ilene Chaiken depicted recurring characters with non-normative gender identities—Alice dated a self-identified “male lesbian” who glided by Lisa, whereas Package frolicked with a drag king who began residing as a person to be able to court docket a straight girl—the truth that Ryan’s replace isn’t casually offensive appears worthy of reward.

The reality is {that a} new L Phrase was at all times doomed to fail as a artistic challenge, no matter the way it performs within the scores, as a result of it isn’t simply the unique collection’ solid of characters that’s outdated—it’s your entire premise. In 2019, the idea that it’s doable to seize what it means to be a queer girl or a trans man in a mere handful of characters appears absurd. Whereas there has by no means been such a factor as a monolithic lesbian or bisexual or trans expertise, comparatively optimistic depictions of those characters had been so scarce till just lately that communities starved for mainstream illustration 15 years in the past needed to take (if additionally complain about) what they might get.

However previously a number of years, as a spike in assist for LGBTQ rights has coincided with an explosion in scripted tv, queer ladies of all identities and personalities have began anchoring exhibits which aren’t, not like The L Phrase, solely about their identities as queer ladies. These exhibits are as totally different as Orange Is the New Black, Vida, Batwoman, One Mississippi, The Fosters, Gentleman Jack and now Showtime’s personal Work in Progress, a darkish comedy a few self-identified fats, 45-year-old “queer dyke” with suicidal ideation that can air alongside The L Phrase. The Bisexual, from creator-star Desiree Akhavan, does one thing it might be attention-grabbing to see Ryan try in earnest, meditating on the gaps in expertise that separate queer-identified college-aged, millennial and 40-something ladies. Trans characters have come to the fore in Pose, Euphoria, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and the ill-fated Transparent. From Billions to One Day at a Time, non-binary individuals can lastly see themselves on TV.

This shift isn’t nearly a handful of extremely seen cable and streaming exhibits, both. GLAAD reported in November that LGBTQ illustration had hit a document excessive, with 10.2% of broadcast primetime characters figuring out as one thing apart from straight and cisgender. Inside this subset, racial variety can also be on the rise. Most surprisingly, in a panorama the place homosexual males have traditionally stood in for the bigger group, for the primary time a majority of LGBTQ characters were women.

It was unusual, then, to see Chaiken lamenting the shortage of successors to her present in a latest interview. “I anticipated that when The L Phrase went off the air, that the torch could be handed,” she informed The New York Occasions. “I was surprised and dismayed not to see it happen.” Perhaps it’s telling that she doesn’t detect the present’s affect in collection that, for probably the most half, heart ladies with extra melanin or much less money. A extra charitable interpretation, and one I might get on board with, could be that the unique L Phrase stays distinctive as a result of, as a product of an period when depictions of identification weren’t so intently scrutinized, it had the posh of being unapologetically sudsy. That was what made it so concurrently addictive and offensive—an especially flawed however very fun-to-watch relic of a transitional second. There’s no hurt in escaping into its outdated lesbian idyll for an hour at a time. However, as Technology Q demonstrates, you’ll be able to’t go dwelling to a spot that not exists.

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