But I really liked what comes before the sex – the seduction.
Seductions were always key to the show. When Jenny moves to L.A., she falls under the sway of Euro-cougar Marina Ferrer. The build-up made their frenzied ladies-room kissing all the hotter. Variations on that theme echo through the show – the first encounter, the eye contact, the delicious uncertainty of what might happen. Characters meet, they drift apart, but the sexual magnetism draws them together. I especially recall the tango of attraction and repulsion between Helena Peabody and Dylan Moreland, a filmmaker who had sued Helena for sexual harassment. Their back-and-forth stretched over several seasons. It turns out Dylan carries a flame for Helena, and Helena, reluctantly, admits her lust for Dylan. Helena tells her friends, “I’m having dinner with Dylan.” Somebody asks, “Are you a masochist?” Helena replies, “I can’t help myself. Dylan colonized my thoughts.”
They finally lay their cards on the table. Dylan says,
“I’m madly in love with you, Helena, and I always have been. Always. I get it, really. You want to see me, you don’t want to see me. I understand, really. I was just hoping...never mind.”
The action moves ahead and I wrote in some notes, “Quiet, crackling tension, reaching out, struggling. Hold hands, long searching gaze, kiss, tenderness, a sigh. Helena unbuttons her blouse, sense of taking the plunge.” Later, in a scene vibrating with menace, Dylan takes a huge kitchen knife and slices Helena’s shirt. I didn’t see THAT coming.
Helena and Dylan triggered memories for me, of hesitant and hopeful moments balanced between friendship and lust. I recall a picnic seduction one summer day by a lake. I had low expectations for the encounter based on a frustrating history with this woman. Then, to my stunned delight, she leaned over and kissed me. I got her drift and we took the plunge – stopping only to shoo away the honking Canadian geese that wandered too close to our afternoon idyll. Later, standing by our cars at sunset, she told me, “I could bolt at any time” – a warning that Shane McCutcheon gave her ever-thwarted lovers many times. And like a character mesmerized by Shane, I ignored her signal, so pregnant with prophecy.
Men are Eeeevviiiilllllll
As a man, I was naturally curious about how The L Word would treat my gender. In a word – poorly. While it’s been said that “lesbians don’t hate men – that’s what straight women do,” The L Word displayed plenty of bile toward its male characters. Almost every male came across as violent, uneducated scum, sneaky players or twisted new-age twerps. Jenny’s fiancé, Eric the college swim coach, is tall and buff, and gets pushy when Jenny realizes she’s gay. Alice Pieszecki, the occasionally bisexual writer, gets involved with a “lesbian-identified” man who calls himself Lisa and spouts off about how sensitive he is; in fact, he’s the most annoying character on the show.