Uh Huh Her and “The L Word” effect

Last night I went to see Uh Huh Her at the Wonder Ballroom in Portland, Oregon. I’ve seen them twice before in Chicago, including their very first tour which came on the heels of The L Word‘s series finale. Leisha Hailey and bandmate Camila Grey have always seemed to take the “Alice Pieszecki” effect in stride. By this I mean, the obvious attendance of lesbians who are interested in seeing her character from the show in the flesh.

I thought maybe it would be over by now, considering The L Word has been off the air for more than two years and this is the second album behind which Uh Huh Her’s is touring. Surely people were there for the music, right? I’m sure many people were, but there were way to many embarrassing things being shouted at Camila and Leisha last night that reminded me some fans aren’t able to get past it.

As soon as the band took the stage, any moments of quick silence between songs were peppered by whistles and shouts from the audience. And I mean incessantly. I’ve never seen someone be so objectified by their crowd. The constant shouting of “I love Alice!” “We love Alice Pieszecki!” is annoying enough, but when fans began shouting “Camila, I like your hair. You’re sexy!” and (in reference to Cam having almost electrocuted herself by putting her finger in an electrical socket), “You can put your fingers in my socket!” It was awkward and disrespectful. They are there to play music and instead it seems like several people paid $20 to stand and watch them while shouting things at them in between songs.

Is this The L Word effect?

I thought about the other women who starred on the show, wondering if they might have similar experiences. Can Kate Moennig ever escape Shane? Probably not. She embodies that character to so many. She’s going to forever be a lesbian icon, whether she likes it or not.

Laurel Holloman works with the notoriety she received as Tina to help sell her art. At The Dinah this past year, she’d pose for pictures if you bought her prints.

And while Jennifer Beals is a talented actress who has played many great roles in her career, she still retains a little bit of Bette for us to see in her.

Alice, besides for a terrible post-break-up down-spiral obsession with Dana, was the most likable character on The L Word. She was funny, quirky and cute. Plus Leisha was one of the only out lesbian actresses on the show. Having already starred in a lesbian film (All Over Me) and famously dated k.d. lang, she’s someone most of us have known for years. We remember The Murmurs and Leisha’s bright pink hair, for better or for worse.

Leisha obviously cannot take this back, nor should she want to, but there’s some sort of warped idea that celebrities deserve to be gawked at. It’s like TMZ has given rise to us all feeling like we should share our thoughts and feelings with public figures whenever we’d like, even in a room full of people. I’ve been to many a concert with lesbian musicians on stage and I’ve never heard so many audience members screaming about how hot the women were or shouting sexual innuendos throughout the show. And the band ignored it, which might have only egged the audience on even more. For some reason, the crowd felt permission to act as if the presence of Leisha and Cam was for their entertainment, but not in the musical sense.

I understand that The L Word was “our” show. We feel ownership over its stars, its characters, its stories, even if we have a love/hate relationship with and its creator, Ilene Chaiken. The passion and dedication much of our community has for the show probably surpasses that of Buffy and Xena put together. (Although I’ve never seen Lucy Lawless perform live — do women yell at her from the audience, too?) I suppose some fans feel they have the right to express themselves when they have a real live L Worder in their presence. When else will they get to see Alice again? Only on DVD.

Now that it’s known that Camila is also gay and dating her bandmate, I wonder if it had anything to do with it. But then again, I think of when I’m at Tegan and Sara shows and it’s never been so brazenly forward. Sure, I’ve heard “Marry me, Tegan!” but once during a show isn’t so much of a surprise. It’s the neverending “I’m-waiting-for-them-to-stop-playing-so-I-can-shout-this-clever-thought-about-how-they-look” that’s troubling.

I don’t know that there is anything Uh Huh Her can do to relieve themselves of this distraction. Last night they’ve played better than I’d ever seen, with more confidence and interaction with one another than before. Perhaps all of the attention gives them more confidence, or maybe they don’t mind being objectified. Surely The L Word effect is good for sales. But eventually it has to get old and if it puts them off playing music, you’ll lose the chance you had to see “Alice Piezecki” in the flesh at all. It’s fine you love her and think she’s hot, but she’s not there just for us to ogle.

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