Best. Lesbian. Week. Ever. (February 29, 2008)


Benjamin Svetky’s recent Entertainment Weekly review of The L Word was, in a word, horrible. No, not because he panned the show, but because of this paragraph:

It combines earnest social commentary on contemporary gender-identification issues — this season there’s a plotline about a lesbian war hero getting booted out of the Army for sexual misconduct — with lots of hot chicks making out. Sure, it’s soft-core porn, but coated with a PC patina that makes it slightly less embarrassing when you get caught looking. It’s not often you run across erotica that works this hard to raise your, um, consciousness. It’s Red Shoe Diaries with a women’s-studies degree from Smith College.

Where shall I begin? What would Dawn Denbo do?

First, Mr. Svetky doesn’t seem to understand what "gender-identification issues" are. The L Word‘s plotline about "Don’t ask, don’t tell" isn’t about gender identity, Benjamin — it’s about discrimination in the military.

Svetky further proves that he doesn’t understand the first thing about gender identity by writing: "[W]affling transsexual Max (Daniela Sea) really should make up his/her mind about what gender he/she would like to be. (In one recent episode, there was talk that the character was actually a gay man trapped in a pre-op body.)"

Sure, there are a lot of problems with The L Word‘s transgender story line, but calling Max a "waffling transsexual" and then disparaging his attempts to understand his changing sexuality is transphobic and ignorant. I’m actually shocked that Entertainment Weekly‘s editors — who normally publish a fun and open-minded magazine — allowed Svetky to write that sentence.

And then there’s the characterization of The L Word as "soft-core porn" and "erotica." Yes, there’s sex on The L Word, and some of it is certainly erotic, but by labeling it "soft-core porn," Svetky is essentially dismissing the show — and its actors. Something tells me that Jennifer Beals doesn’t think her time spent on The L Word is about soft-core porn.

Other dramas with equal or more amounts of sex have not been treated this way by EW. The the quite explicit HBO drama Tell Me You Love Me was described as "a slow, thoughtful, sometimes uncomfortable, often sad, rarely erotic experience." A review of Queer as Folk when it premiered in 2000 concluded: "Bravo to everyone involved for the refreshing eroticism of the sex in this production."

Isn’t it funny how explicit heterosexual sex or sex between gay men is "thoughtful" and "refreshing," while sex between women is "soft-core porn"? It just goes to show that as much as The L Word has done to inform viewers about lesbians and bisexual women, there are still plenty of men who can’t look past the titillation factor.

What’s even sadder is that Svetky approaches this "erotica" with such a sense of guilt, referring to embarrassment about being caught watching it. Dear Mr. Svetky: There’s nothing wrong with finding sex to be sexy. I’m pretty sure that most lesbians do.

In an appearance on Larry King Live (warning: clicking on that link takes you to a video in which you have to endure the smarminess of Larry King, alive) to promote her new autobiography,

Losing It: And Gaining My Life Back One Pound at a Time, actor-turned-Jenny Craig spokesperson Valerie Bertinelli admitted to kissing a woman when she was 21 years old. "She was a great kisser!" she said when asked why she did it.

She continued: "It was an interesting experiment, but again, I felt guilt the next morning from that because I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’ve just cheated on my husband.’"

Lesbian movie trivia lovers will be interested to know that Bertinelli once played a lesbian mom in Two Mothers for Zachary (lesbian custody battle alert!), a 1996 TV movie about a homophobic woman (played by Vanessa Redgrave, no less) who sues her lesbian daughter (that’s Bertinelli) for custody of her grandson because she is living with another woman (Colleen Flynn). The movie was based on a real-life story in which the homophobic grandmother actually won.

I still remember Valerie from One Day at a Time (oops! dating myself!), and it’s good to know that she, at least, understands that kissing a woman counts just as much as kissing a man. It’s the small things in life, really.

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