Best. Lesbian. Week. Ever. (September 4, 2009)

AE READERS KEEP IT REAL
Journalists have been known to complain about comments on their articles, especially anonymous ones. It’s certainly true that people will say things online they wouldn’t say in real life (in both good and bad ways), and I’ve mentioned on the site in the past the ways in which this can be harmful to building and sustaining a community online.

But this week I want to point out one of the ways in which comments can be a good thing for journalism, and our community.

Early this week, I wrote up the news about The Real L Word: Los Angeles. It was a short newsy piece, not an opinion piece (I left that for Snarker to tackle the next day — you can read on the next page), so it just laid out the facts. I included information that wasn’t in the announcement of the reality series, like the fact that Ilene is working on a movie version of the series, and that there were many negative reactions to how the series had ended.

But the 100+ comments left on the article by AfterEllen.com readers over the next two days did a better job communicating the full story — the context in which news of this series will be received — than I ever could.

Many of the comments are very funny, but they’re also very insightful. They offer a window into the current attitude of lesbian/bi women towards entertainment — a litmus test of sorts, about where we’re at as a community.

And judging by these comments, where we’re at is jaded weariness, with a faint glimmer of optimism.

Individually, of course, we’re all over the map, but negative or conflicted reactions to the news outnumbered positive reactions about 7 to 1 (this is not a scientific analysis, just my guesstimation). Many of the negative reactions, and a few of the positive ones, are specifically focused around Ilene Chaiken‘s involvement in the project given how The L Word ended, but almost as many reflect negative attitudes toward reality TV in general.

Most mention or allude to the lack of lesbian/bi visibility on TV, which leads to another common sentiment expressed in the comments: resignation, expressed as variations on "I’ll watch it because there’s nothing else with lesbians on TV."

So while the facts as I laid them out in the article are important, they’re only part of the story. Combining these facts with comments from so many different people gives the reader a different understanding of the news than just the facts alone.

This is not true of every news story, of course, but the success of a television series depends on finding and retaining an audience to survive, so understanding the context in which a series will be viewed — the attitudes of potential viewers, the media landscape, etc. — is not only important, it changes and enhances the story for the reader.

To illustrate this, I’ve highlighted below a handful of some of the more entertaining or insightful comments, grouped by type of response (some are excerpted for the sake of brevity, but the only editing was to fix spelling mistakes). You can read all of the comments here.

This is only a snapshot of responses from a small corner of the lesbian/bi world, and I don’t necessarily agree or disagree with any particular comment, but I found them interesting — and, in some cases, hilarious — and thought you might, too.

The Bad
Titanic? Hindenberg? If you weren’t alive to see those tragedies, well, now we bring you The L Word: Los Angeles! (MistressPearl)

"Even though we concluded our sixth season of The L Word on Showtime this past March," Chaiken explained to Variety, "I believe we are not nearly finished telling our L Word stories." for gods’ sake, not her f#*%ing stories again. (7th-key)

Oh No. Not again (dyslexia)

Really Showtime? You think that this is a good idea?  A better idea than The Farm?  Well, cheaper at least (reality stars vs. actual actresses). (monica_ca)

Reality show ladies tend to categorize as whores,  exhibitionists, or foils for the whores and exhibitionists. How could this possibly go wrong. (mousalope)

Ilene = producer = no. I agree with many of you: this is embarrassing. Dude, move on, show some creativity and CREATE SOMETHING DIFFERENT. Heck, Ilene doesn’t even have to be original, just go with the trend and create a lesbian vampire series – or something that can justifiable be broadcast on premium cable. (bleu_lightening)

It’s like weather forecasting. Meteorologists aren’t psychic, they can’t tell the future of weather with 100% clarity. But they can look at the radars, compare them to past events, and give a pretty accurate prediction based on those things to determine whether or not a hurricane is going to hit a certain place. In this case, we’re the meteorologists of television. We see Hurricane Chaiken on the horizon. Is it going to hit Awesometown, or Sucksville? Well, going by past events (The L Word, and every reality show ever) we can conclude that there is a very high chance of this storm hitting Sucksville, while Awesometown will likely only get cloudy skies with light precipitation. (Megan Rose Gedris)

I can’t believe this will be any better than Gimme Sugar, Workout, or the amazingly bad Curl Girls.  Lezzies will look stupid, shallow, and overly dramatic by the time they get done with the editing…reality TV is just lame. (TampaStephie)

Ilene Chaiken has exhausted her lesbian project. It’s time for a new generation to take the torch — by force, if necessary. (Way2Gay)

I thought this was another L Word Musical shenanigan. Sigh, I guess not…I don’t know which one is a better idea. (decoy)

I think you forgot to file this under Fake Gay News. I’ll wait patiently for the correction. Just over in the corner. With a copy of War and Peace. (AMN)

The Good
Why so judgmental? As some of you have written, the show hasn’t even been aired yet.. I don’t think that TLW was at all as "bad" as some of you are saying. The TLW was basically one of the first series to emphasize the lesbian culture and I am very very thankful for this. It may have been a poor imitation but still it had a huge impact on so many of us. I do think Ilene is very competent. (iica)

I definitely look forward to seeing this show.  I usually don’t like reality shows but in this case I hope I am wrong. (Rashun)

This I can not wait to see. The fact that it’s being co produced by the same production company that produce Project Runway and lesbian friendly Top Chef: Masters you know it’ll be tastefully done, unlike some other reality television show. (TS)

awesome !!! i am super excited about this. :) (Megan)

The Conflicted
I know I’m not alone on this site when I say that I sorta kinda resent the fact that Chaiken is the one with her finger on the button here. But, I actually don’t think it’s an awful idea. If it were done with sensitivity and if it fairly represented our community without sensationalizing it, then I’d watch it. The producers of Top Chef being involved gives me a bit of hope. (katemc39)

I loved [The L Word], but the finale was so terrible I’m incapable of watching anything that has to do with the show again. Because of that, Ilene Chaiken is dead to me. I refuse to watch anything else she tries to offer us….Aw who am I kidding, I’ll probably watch it. I won’t enjoy it, but I’ll watch it… and probably enjoy it… Damn it. (jordan-writes)

Usually I have my opinions early on these kinds of things and vociferously express them. However, in this case, and perhaps because Tibette-going-at it-in-an-elevator memories are currently clouding my judgment, I think I’ll wait until I at least see a promo before I condemn. (Penny Winterr)

I’ll watch it but, instead of a "new reality series [that] will follow six lesbians in Los Angeles as they go about their lives," how about one that follows six women in six different cities? I’m a little weary of glamourized LA lesbian culture. (people call me face)

Oh geez. I had a handful of internal reactions while reading this, but above all i’m just interested in how this is going to turn out… (kyre)

Problem with reality shows is that they’re never truly based on reality.  Everything is still scripted, scenes are edited to manipulate the truth, and cameras can never capture reality if they’re only filming 2 out of the 7 days of the week. But of course, let’s wait and see before we pass judgment on this series. (socalbaby_18)

I think has a better chance at being terrible than it does at being watchable. The title of the show makes me wonder if Ilene Chaiken wants to do shows in other cities if this one is successful (i.e. The Real L Word: NYC, Miami, Seattle…). This could be the start of her plan for world domination. (snazzynic)

I agree we really don’t need anymore reality tv shows but I would probably still watch it because I’m still really curious how Lesbian is defined. Even if it doesn’t apply to Lesbians everywhere the show would be the only exposure for some straight people. (Julie)

I don’t know about this one. It could either go terribly wrong or be a big hit. Even if it were the latter, most reality shows wind up going down the commercial path just to gain viewership. Might start off with really good "insight" into real lives of these selected lesbians, but end up just picking the bitchiest lot to interest people to watch and laugh and bitch about it. If that’s the case, it’ll just cast a really bad light on the LGBT community. Still, there is hope that this could be done really well like a good docu/reality show to really shed some light into the lesbian community and help open up more people’s minds to this. Don’t know. But it will be worth a watch. =) (Fiona Rae)

I know it’s frustrating that there are so many horrible lesbian shows out there but I would rather have bad lesbian shows than no lesbian shows. It is progress as slow as it may be. (Mantisgal)

The Just Plain Funny
Ilene needs to move on:

It’s getting even more embarrassing than it already was. (grandma)

I absolutely would not like to be cast in the "questioning-girl-just-arrived-in-LA-and-fascinated-by-my-lesbian-neighbours" role.  Chances are it could end badly… (dr_tinkywinky)

— by Sarah Warn

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