“The L Word” Reinforces Negative Bisexual Stereotypes

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Over the last three of

its five seasons, The L Word has sent

messages that erode positive representations of bisexuality by creating story

lines and characters who reinforce myths that all bisexuals are crazy, in

denial about their true sexual orientation, and likely to cheat on their

partners for the other gender. The show didn’t always so flagrantly display

this style of prejudice. It used to discount it.

When The L Word debuted in 2004, it featured two strong bisexual

protagonists — the characters of Alice Pieszecki (Leisha Hailey) and Jenny

Schecter (Mia Kirshner) — on very different sexual journeys. Alice was an out

bisexual, always eager to defend the legitimacy of her orientation to her

lesbian friends; Jenny was discovering her attraction to women while in a

heterosexual relationship.

Through these two

characters, particularly Alice, the writers addressed the lesbian community’s

biphobia while still acknowledging the legitimacy of the orientation. Unfortunately,

this informed depiction of bisexuality proved short-lived, surviving only the

first season.

As a bisexual viewer, I kept

tuning into The L Word in hope that

it would magically revert to the beginning, when it portrayed bisexuality

fairly. That hope officially died last Sunday during The L Word’s fifth season episode “Lay Down the Law,”

when our former bisexual heroine, Alice, confirmed to viewers everywhere, under

oath, that she’s now a lesbian.

Called to testify during

a military hearing concerning her girlfriend Tasha’s sexual orientation, Alice

is drilled by Col. Gillian Davis about

her own sexuality.So,

you’re a lesbian, Miss Piezecki?” Davis asks.

Alice responds,

“Last time I checked.”

Though Alice has been gay for more than a season

now, I, like many bisexual viewers, maintained hope that her character wouldn’t

fulfill the stereotype that all female fence-sitters transition into lesbians.

My expectations were a little too optimistic.

Way Back When

During the first season

of The L Word, someone’s bisexuality would be challenged by a lesbian

character, and the recipient of the challenge would defend her sexual

orientation. For instance, in the pilot episode when her friend Dana attacks

Alice for her bisexuality, Alice fends off the accusation that she needs to

pick a side:

Dana: Christ, Alice, when are you going

to make up your mind between dick and pussy? And spare us the gory bisexual

details, please.

Alice:
Well, for your information, Dana, I’m looking for the same qualities

in a man that I am in a woman.

Later in the first

season, Alice dates a man. True, it’s for comic relief — he’s “a lesbian-identified man”

named Lisa — but her craving for male intimacy comes off as believable. Alice tells Tina, who questions Alice’s rationale for “going back to

men,” that she’s “had enough drama and mindf—s, and women are

f—ing crazy.”

Tina (Laurel Holloman), a

recovering bisexual, reminds Alice that “men are boring.” Alice

replies, “Yeah, well bring it on, ’cause I could use a little nice, uncomplicated

boring boy-girl sex masquerading as love.”

In Season 1, we are also introduced

to Jenny, who’s in love with Tim. She seems to enjoy having sex with him after

describing the two naked lesbians she saw in Bette and Tina’s swimming pool.

Later, she confirms her love of Tim to her lover Marina, saying: “I’m going to marry

Tim. I can’t imagine my life without him. I don’t want to imagine my life

without him.”

 

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