'The L Word: Generation Q': Will the idea of tokenism take precedence over the realities of the gay life in Showtime sequel
The sequel to the original series features an inclusive ensemble cast. How has the show evolved to being socially conscious than it was a decade ago?
The first time around that 'The L Word' came on Showtime, it created waves in the television industry. Never before had a show achieved the same feat as 'The L Word' – at a time when lesbian roles were confined to superficial treatments on screen, the Showtime series was a revolution.
The show, created by Ilene Chaiken, Kathy Greenberg, and Michele Abbot, originally ran from 2004 to 2009 and followed the lives of a group of 30-somethings lesbians and their friends in the trendy Greater Los Angeles, California city.
They were also exploring the complexities of their characters and simply living exciting lives that were rarely governed by an external factor. The girls did what they liked.
Today, the show is set to make a comeback with a sequel on Showtime this Fall. According to the official press release, this time around, the makers have intended to be more inclusive with their cast. Arienne Mandi ('Baja'), Leo Sheng ('Adam'), Jacqueline Toboni ('Easy') and Rosanny Zayas ('Orange is the New Black') are set to star as the new generation of LGBTQIA characters who will join original series stars and executive producers Jennifer Beals, Katherine Moennig and Leisha Hailey.
'The L Word: Generation Q', the sequel to the original, continues to follow the intermingled lives of Bette Porter (Beals), Alice Pieszecki (Hailey) and Shane McCutcheon (Moennig), along with new characters Dani Nùñez (played by Mandi), Micah Lee (played by Sheng), Sarah Finley (played by Toboni) and Sophie Suarez (played by Zayas) as they experience love, heartbreak, sex, setbacks and success in LA.
Dani is a powerful and calculating PR executive whose ambition is only tested by her conscience. Micah is an earnest, soft-spoken adjunct professor who is forced to confront his fear of vulnerability. Sarah “Finley” is a charming but unfocused assistant who struggles to reconcile her sexual orientation with her religious upbringing.
Sophie is a TV producer who guards her heart and is quick to put other people’s needs before her own.
During the run of the OG series on Showtime, Chaiken had said that she intended to move people at a deep level but didn't want to "take on the mantle of social responsibility". "That is not compatible with entertainment. I rail against the idea that pop television is a political medium. I am political in my life. But I am making serialized melodrama. I'm not a cultural missionary," she had said back then.
But considering how we live in a charged atmosphere at all times, it is not done to be politically correct and socially inclusive.
And showrunner Marja-Lewis Ryan agrees.
"I want to find things that are uniquely LA but are super real. We don't all work in the entertainment industry. There's way more Latina representation because we're in L.A. In terms of socioeconomic classes, the original did a pretty good job where like I still have friends that sleep on people's couches, like Shane [Moennig] did," she was reported saying in an interview about the upcoming sequel.
In addition to this, Ryan said that the show will feature "more than one" transgender character as well and that they will be played by trans actors – one of the criticisms that the show received was casting a cisgender actor in a trans role.
"I don't think anyone at the time knew any better than to cast a cis person to play a trans person, and that that wasn't good and didn't send the right message. I felt weird about it but I didn't have any words to describe how I felt, and I didn't have a solution for it, either. It wasn't like I was like, 'Why didn't they just cast a trans person?' We didn't have that word. The idea of being able to have words for things and to be able to represent people in a more realistic way is something I'm excited to do as well," she said.
It is still to see if this representation is mere tokenism or if the new characters in 'The L Word: Generation Q' will have substantial story arcs.
We have to wait until the Fall of 2019.