When I first heard that The L Word was coming back, I immediately texted several friends, my ex-girlfriend, and the person I was dating. Though it only had been a few years since I binge-watched the original series in college, I was more than ecstatic to see that Bette Porter, Shane McCutcheon, and Alice Pieszecki were making their return. After watching all eight episodes of The L Word: Generation Q at least twice, I can say that while the show entertained me, it definitely has some work to do in season two.
Generation Q picks up with Lizzo’s “Better in Color,” and takes place about ten years after the original show ended. Bette is running for mayor, Alice is hosting her own feminist talk show, and Shane is reeling from divorce. We are also introduced to several new characters: Sophie and Dani, two Latina women who are engaged to each other; Finely, who is trying to reconcile her Catholic religion with her sexuality; Micah, an Asian-American man who is navigating romantic and sexual relationships as a trans person; and Nat, who is dating Alice while trying to remain friends with her ex-wife, Gigi.
In terms of diversity, the show definitely improved, but only marginally. While the original show used cisgender actors to play trans characters, the new show cast four out trans actors. However, as others have rightly criticized, only the male trans actors played explicitly trans roles, which can make it seem like trans men have more in common with lesbians than queer trans women. In addition, though Micah was played by out trans actor Leo Sheng, in many ways, his character seemed slightly one-dimensional. Other identity categories were also missing from the show, including lower-class lesbians, bisexual or pansexual women, non-binary people, and Black masculine women.
Despite these flaws, the show really shined with its political storylines and its soap-opera level drama. Bette is running for mayor since her sister Kit died from a heroin overdose, and Alice struggles with staying true to herself and her audience despite white males on staff telling her otherwise. In terms of drama, we (and apparently the actress who plays her) also find out that Jenny died by suicide and get a surprise two episode arc with Bette’s now ex-wife, Tina.
Generation Q also made a positive impact by including storylines that challenge typical relationship structures. For example, Alice and Nat navigate life as a throuple with Nat’s ex-wife, Gigi, and Shane gets back with her partner with the intention of not being a parent to her partner’s child since she doesn’t want kids. Even though in the end Alice and Nat decide they are better off just the two of them, and Shane and her partner have a dramatic breakup, the inclusion of these stories was definitely a step in the right direction, as it acknowledged that there are so many different ways to be queer.
Though the reboot wasn’t perfect, I’m still glad that the show returned. Even with the abundance of LGBTQ characters on television, there has not been another lesbian ensemble show quite like The L Word. With that said, what the show will always have going for it is that it makes being a queer woman look “normal,” and that, in and of itself, is such a gift.