Carmen Redefines Family on “The L Word”


Shane materializes in most of Jenny’s scenes with Carmen, and much of Carmen’s actions toward Jenny are reactions to Shane. Carmen only makes a move to kiss Jenny for the first time when she knows that Shane, who has just rebuffed her, will witness it. Carmen decides to head out with Jenny to get more beer precisely when Shane starts kissing some girl on the couch in their apartment. When Shane and the twins she has brought home for the night walk in on Carmen and Jenny in the kitchen, Carmen decides to call it a night mid-makeout. The next morning, Carmen tries to explain away the buzz kill but Jenny points out that Carmen is still hung up on Shane.

For Carmen, Shane lurks in the background even when she isn’t physically present.

Carmen is clearly threatening to Shane, challenging her aversion to love and commitment. Shane tries to keep Carmen at arm’s length, but it seems that Shane’s m.o. has never before been put to the test, and falling for Carmen poses a definite challenge. Shane is clearly enamored, and this throws her off balance–as evidenced by her certain discomfort when she sees Carmen and Jenny share that brief kiss that in all likelihood is performed expressly for Shane’s benefit.

That first kiss between Carmen and Jenny is an obvious ploy for Shane’s attention and an attempt to mirror her apparent indifference. But Carmen is not one to play games, and she doesn’t let Shane get away with any either. Within a few episodes she confronts Shane about how the affection “we sweet simple folk” show is genuine, and that Shane had better learn how to handle it before people like Carmen give up on her entirely. Shane’s inability to accept affection is even more apparent when she responds to Carmen’s speech, and to the whole love triangle, by taking way too much Oxycontin and winding up with a black eye and an existential crisis.

While she sends Shane into a tailspin, Carmen manages to bring out a lighter side of Jenny. When it comes to Carmen, Jenny is less of a tortured soul and more the shy kid stumbling into possible love.

The time Jenny spends with Carmen is practically the only time she isn’t giving off the tiresome it’s-so-hard-to-be-Jenny vibe that has continued to mark her character since the first season. Jenny’s coolness quotient and general likeability have risen this season simply by association with Shane–and Carmen, as Jenny and Shane’s shared love interest, provides a primary conduit for this connection.

Carmen and Shane

Any apparent inconsistencies in Carmen’s character can be chalked up to the fact that it’s still her first season on the show. Her character’s development meanders as those creatively responsible for the various episodes–so far this season, four writers and six directors in eight episodes–experiment with how Carmen will evolve on screen. She seems to be a straight shooter but then she also seems to be playing Jenny only to get at Shane. While her interest in Jenny seems calculated for this purpose, Carmen takes it further than would seem necessary if she is merely trying to front.

But regardless of where and how the pieces eventually fall, Carmen is consistent in her ability to shake things up on set, with no sign of letting up.

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