It’s been more than a decade since “The L Word” ended, and in that time there have been hundreds of lesbian characters on network TV, cable and streaming services. Other than a few anti-gay advocacy groups, Americans seem to have adjusted to the fact that lesbians exist.
Heck, the title character in The CW’s “Batwoman” is gay, and one notable thing about that show’s premiere was that nothing significant in the way of protests occurred.
So why do we need the sequel “The L World: Generation Q,” which premieres Sunday on Showtime? That, my friends, is fairly offensive question.
“To suggest that there’s plenty of queer narratives on television or film is to suggest that there’s a limit to how many there ought to be,” said showrunner Marja-Lewis Ryan. “I mean, we would never make that suggestion about straight couples.”
She’s right. When was the last time you heard somebody say, “There are just too many straight characters on TV?”
It’s also worth pointing out that while the LGBTQ community has found a certain level of acceptance in the entertainment industry, that doesn’t mean the acceptance is universal. Heck, right here in Utah an 11-year-old boy was recently bullied by a substitute teacher because he’s being adopted by two dads.
“To say that we are not marginalized still is ignorant,” said Ryan.
She pointed out that up to 40% of homeless people are gay, which is “extremely disproportionate” to the estimated 5-7% of the general population who are LGBTQ.
“I live in a real safe bubble, so I might not experience things on a day to day basis,” Ryan said. “But suicide rates are so much higher and bullying is still real.”
(The LGBTQ youth suicide rate is almost five times that of straight youth.)
And that, she said, is why she was so anxious to work on “The L Word: Generation Q,” which she sees as an “aspirational queer narrative” populated by characters who look “amazing,” and have “incredible jobs” and “sophisticated romantic relationships.”
And Ryan speaks from personal experience as an “L Word” viewer. She was just 19 when the original premiered, and “it profoundly influenced both my personal and professional life,” she wrote in the show’s production notes. “For the first time ever, I saw myself reflected both on screen and behind the camera. The power of that really can’t be underplayed. It allowed me to dream up the career that I have now.”
Let’s be clear. “The L Word” (2004-09) was a big soap opera. So is the “Generation Q.” The characters aren’t (for the most part) do-gooders trying to make the world a better place, they’re beautiful people trying to advance their careers and find love. And find sex, love or not.
(“Gen Q” is quite graphic. Which comes as no surprise — it’s on Showtime.)
“The culture is telling you, ‘Oh, no. This is abnormal,’” said Jennifer Beals, who returns as Bette. “And it is not abnormal. Everybody wants to find love. … Love is love and it’s an energy that’s not defined by gender or sexual preference.”
Bette, who’s running for mayor of Los Angeles, is one of three returning characters at the center of “Generation Q.” Shane (Katherine Moennig) shows up chastened, but with a whole lot of money. And Alice (Leisha Hailey) hosts a TV talk show.
They’re surrounded by a new-and-younger cast of characters (Arienne Mandi, Sepideh Moafi, Jacqueline Toboni and Rosanny Zayas) whose lives all somehow intersect.
“Generation Q” corrects some of the mistakes made in the original “L Word” — most notably with the addition of the character of Micah (Leo Sheng), who is a generally happy trans man who is sensitively portrayed. That’s opposed to Max (Daniela See), a trans man who was mocked and miserable in the original.
But, again, this is not a documentary, it’s a soap opera. There’s cheating and backstabbing and surprise twists, just like any other soap opera. Which is sort of the point — lesbians are just like everybody else.