"I watched the show and I didn’t see any lesbians that looked like UPS workers. That’s how my girlfriends — they all look like the UPS worker lesbians."
— Sherri Shepherd talking about the cast of The L Word to Cybill Shepherd and Jennifer Beals on The View, Jan. 9, 2008
When I tuned in to The View on Jan. 9, I wasn’t expecting to find evidence that The L Word has done less than I’d hoped to provoke straight women in media to have an intelligent conversation about "the lives and loves" of lesbians, but in just 8 minutes and 10 seconds I found more proof than I’d ever imagined.
From start to finish, the segment featuring L Word co-stars Jennifer Beals and Cybill Shepherd was a how-to for anyone interested in exploiting lesbians and the actresses who play them, as well as a lesson in mastering the many ways to conduct an uninformative and tasteless interview.
The segment began with View co-hosts Sherri Shepherd and Elisabeth Hasselbeck moaning "Oooh!" in unison as Shepherd embraced Hasselbeck in faux lust. Cheek to cheek, they smiled seductively as Shepherd introduced the stars. Hasselbeck turned the salaciousness up a notch by closing her eyes and head-butting Shepherd, to the delight of themselves and the audience.
Sherri Shepherd and Elisabeth Hasselbeck on The View
Looking more like adolescent girls starring in a homemade YouTube video than moderators of a top-rated daytime talk show, their attempt at humor fell flat in the eyes of many lesbian viewers. For all the good The L Word is doing, what became clear at that moment is that despite the hard work of its cast and the critical acclaim the show has garnered, its subject matter remains a joke in the eyes of uninformed and immature TV personalities.
Had Shepherd and Hasselbeck’s nuzzle-fest been performed at a sweet 16 party during a game of Truth or Dare, I’d be more forgiving. But because The View is a product of well-respected journalist Barbara Walters, the behavior of the women she hired to represent her was, on this day, an insult to lesbian viewers and, judging from the looks on the faces of Jennifer Beals and Cybill Shepherd during most of the segment, a slap in the face to the show’s guests.
Sherri Shepherd, who only a few months ago embarrassed herself and ABC when she admitted on air that she isn’t convinced the world is round, was the first to remind us that her research hasn’t improved.
"So, Cybill, you just joined the show," she said matter-of-factly to the actor who plays Phyllis Kroll on the hit series.
"Yeah … no!" I wanted Cybill to say. But she was too gracious. She politely explained that she joined the cast of The L Word last year. Remember last year? That’s the year Rosie O’Donnell co-hosted The View. The year in which lesbians and queer subject matter weren’t exploited on the show, but rather often celebrated.
That was then.
Now, sadly, intelligent and informative conversations about lesbians take a back seat to juvenile, unimpressive and clichéd jabber, as evidenced by Hasselbeck, who interrupted Cybill’s answer to ask the question every seventh-grader in the audience wanted answered: "Biggest difference kissing a man or a woman?"
Hasselbeck’s eagerness suggested that she was sure there’s a difference — a huge difference! Poor, inappropriate Elisabeth. To her detriment, she’s always overplaying to her fan base. Could it be that the woman who spent two years as captain of her softball team at Boston College is also sure that there’s a little guillotine in the vagina of every dyke? Nah.
Caught off guard by the childish question, Cybill simply breathed, "Umm … biggest difference?"
What followed was a brief moment of silence. Awkward silence. But the look on Jennifer Beals’ face — a forced smile that conveyed she would much rather be water boarded by Ilene Chaiken than sit on that stage — screamed, "Get me the f— out of here!"
Cybill, who tried desperately but unsuccessfully to change the subject, finally replied, "It’s just fun, both of them … I like kissing both."