As a self-proclaimed baby bisexual, I jumped on The L Word train a few years late. I went in blind, with no preconception about the show other than it’s cult level adoration within the lesbian community. I sat down to devour the first episode, my wife sat by my side and eagerly anticipated my verdict on my favorite character (her money was on Shane), and I was immediately overwhelmed with familiarity and emotion as Jenny’s story began to unfold. Little did I know as I began to scour the internet for extra tidbits and thoughts on the series, that Jenny is abhorred in most viewing circles, more than any television character I’d ever seen, actually.
Sure, Jenny is easy to hate, it’s even, dare I say, fun, to despise her. Jenny is self indulgent, manipulative, likely bipolar, often cruel, and possesses a questionable level of sanity. But does she really deserve every ounce of our loathing, more than all of the other destructive characters on the show? Before you roll your eyes and prep your typing fingers to convince me of how wrong I am and how awful she is, just hear me out.
Most of her hysterics aside, Jenny’s story —at least the beginning of it— was like looking into a mirror for me. I had a settled life with a longterm boyfriend, who semi-supported but was mostly disinterested in my passion for writing. I moved to a city with more culturally diversity in one square block than any place I’d ever been to, and was finally presented with the opportunity to realize that I deserved better.
I met a woman who changed everything for me. She was kind, attentive, empathetic, and genuinely interested in what I loved. She read my work and encouraged me to pursue a writing career instead of blowing off what I was meant to do as a frivolous, stupid hobby that would never make me a dime and wasn’t worth my time if it didn’t.
When I met my wife, she made me realized not only that I could be attracted to women, but that I was being abused. I loathed myself because my partner had facilitated chipping away at my self love so that I wouldn’t realize he was holding me back. When I left him, rebuilt my self confidence, and fell in love with my wife, I found a new sense of self. I found this online community of lesbian and bisexual women, I made friends with other like-minded ladies, and I finally felt I belonged. Mostly. I still had never seen anyone who was like me, who never once realized her sexuality was fluid until it smacked her in the face well into adulthood. Until Jenny.
Jenny, like so many women, was raised in a home by parents who brushed their issues under the rug, pretending they didn’t exist. She was abused growing up, both physically and emotionally, and then again in adulthood, by a man who just wanted a trophy wife who would site beside him and look pretty. Marina opened Jenny up to the possibilities of self-acceptance and freedom of sexuality, and then cast her aside as soon as Jenny began to come to terms with the fact that she had control over her own happiness.
How many people would be able to ever have a truly functional, healthy relationship after what she’d been through? Jenny has been picked apart, tampered with, and put back together by so many people, it’s only logical that she’d start to take herself out of the experience and begin to play god with everyone else in her life through her writing. Although she exploits the lives of her circle of friends, Jenny is always the first to ditch the filter and tell them all what they need to hear, whether they’re ready to hear it or not.
During a time when being transgender was eons away from being accepted as a legitimate part of of the rainbow community, Jenny swiftly and fiercely accepted Max for exactly who he was. In an expression of self-love, she also forced him to realize that transitioning might affect more than just parts of his anatomy, stepping aside as his girlfriend but cementing herself as a friend and a steady support system throughout his journey.
In a sea of lesbians who often spend their days stabbing each other in the back and putting on friendly faces in person, Jenny wasn’t willing to swim with the tide. Remember that time Kit lost The Planet to Dawn and her Lover Cindi, and they had that shady mafia meeting to settle the terms and cut their losses? Jenny was the only one unwilling to comply, and the only one who finally vocalized how preposterous the whole thing was, rolling her eyes about the claim Dawn had staked over Cindi’s existence. Jenny refused to put up with weakness, and why should she have to apologize for that?
Jenny’s uncompromising demeanor and distaste for those who aren’t comfortable in their own skin exudes a unique blend of delicacy and strength that’s actually a perfect match for Shane’s combination of casual confidence and the constant need for approval and salvation. Everyone else in the inner circle might have been shocked and appalled by the hookup, but it made more sense to me than almost any other pairing in the series. They suited each other, and as totally bonkers as she is, Jenny brought balance to the group, right up until someone killed her.
You don’t have to be Jenny’s biggest fan to admit she was the most complex character in the series. Tina and Bette’s relationship came full circle, Shane continued to cheat, and Alice never learned how to keep her mouth shut. Jenny might have been forced to exit the party early, but she certainly didn’t leave the same way she came. Her character went from almost marrying a man who didn’t make her feel alive, to directing a film about her life as a lesbian right before it abruptly ended. Jenny Schecter is ferociously flawed, sardonically unstable, and the best character on The L Word.