Article by Pam Cole
MAY 7, 2005With two episodes to go before the end of Season
2, L Word fans are actively panicking. As much as we have
bitched and moaned this season about the writing and the editing
and the storylines, here we are, tied to the end, hyperventilating
over the unknown. Even a quick look at these message boards would
scare the crap out of anyone. Tina is going to die and Laurel Holloman
is leaving the show. The baby is going to die and Jennifer Beals
is going to leave the show. Alice and Dana are breaking up and Mark
must be Shane's brother. (Why else would they keep this loser around?)
And then, amidst all this misinformation comes the startling real-life
announcement that Jennifer Beals is pregnant.
Last year we accepted Laurel Holloman's pregnancy and even bought into the
new storyline that included it-it was somewhat believable. We came to
adore the pregnant Holloman and the added radiance and sensuality it brought
to the character of Tina. But how are we supposed to react to the news that
the other half of the world's leading lesbian screen couple is now pregnant
in her real-life heterosexual relationship? (Honestly, there are so many babies
in this show, it's hard to keep track!)
Our first reaction should be joy and congratulations, of course. And best wishes
and prayers for a safe and healthy delivery of Jennifer's baby. But then, the
fear strikes. To L Word addicts whose nerves are already jangling in anticipation
of the next fix, the idea that anything might deprive us of our show is enough
to create mass hysteria. (I'm writing this about myself mostly, because it helps
me work it out.)
First Laurel, now Jennifer. I take some comfort in believing that this is no
coincidence. I can imagine that after a hard day's work kissing and tonguing
and fondling each other, creating the pinnacle of lesbian love scenes, these
two gals went home and jumped on their hubbies in a whole new way, releasing
that pent-up heterosexual tension. Surely, such acting would raise anybody's
libido a bit. It is hard to believe that two leading ladies would actually plan
to get pregnant with their first child while in the middle of shooting one of
their best acting gigs ever, an acting gig that requires love scenes and partial
Actually, when I heard the news of Beals' pregnancy, I felt a strange relief.
I have been fending off feelings of dread as we near the final episodes, untrusting
the intentions of the The L Word powers-that-be. As I thought of the lovely
Beals enjoying her first child at 41 (surely a blessing and a much-wanted baby),
it brought some lightness to my thoughts and reminded me of the truth: this
is just a TV show, it's not real life. Beals is not Bette Porter. Bette Porter
is a fictional character, who only exists briefly when Beals brings her to life.
Whatever happens in episode 13 (unlucky number!), it isn't real and I shouldn't
take it so seriously.
As viewers, we are reeling between the possible real-life and impending fictional
implications to our show (when we were already finding it difficult to separate
truth from story). Beals and Holloman do such a convincing job with their characters
that we must work hard to remember that these women are merely acting their
parts. We have been tugged by real and narrative pregnancies through two seasons.
We struggle back and forth in our minds, accepting the story as truth when it
comes on screen (engaging that willing suspension of disbelief), but then reminding
ourselves that this is fiction in order to maintain our sanity. Whose baby is
Tina carrying? Is it hers alone, or (as the season progressed) is it hers and
Bette's? But wait
it's really Laurel Holloman's baby and her husband's,
despite the way she shares herself onscreen with Bette. For involved viewers,
it has been difficult to discern the difference between truth and fiction. That
is the hallmark of good acting, however confusing it may be.
The reality is that Beals and Holloman are the stars of the show; they are
the center, the axis around which all the other characters revolve. If either
of them decides to leave for any reason, it would change the nature of the show
completely. On the narrative side of the coin, if anything happens to Tina or
the baby, it will create the kind of trauma we were subjected to at the end
of season one. (It could also create a feeling of resentment and betrayal toward
the producers and writers, who have seduced us completely into loving the show
and its characters, and then sometimes abuse us for our devotion in the name
Now we await the birth of Tina's baby, as involved as any family member might
be, our anxiety raised by spoilers and the ever present promo promising a "shocking"
finale. All season, we have been privy to Tina's pregnancy, as she has shamelessly
shared those details that only a partner or a physician might have seen-her
growing breasts, her rounding belly, her heightened sexuality. Tina's baby is
ours, too. We have grown to love it and want it and pray for it's safe arrival.
For me, the idea that any harm might come to mother or child at this point is
unbearable. And yet we know from season one, when Tina miscarried, that the
writers in this show are not beneath that unfathomable act.
The Season One finale hurtbad. And not just for 51 minutes, but for months
afterward as we were forced to wait over the long break to find out what would
happen. As an audience, we were deeply wounded by that ending, victimized by
our own caring. The L Word Internet community thrived over that break as computer-savvy
viewers shared their pain and searched for hope. (Were it not for the spoilers
and posts that gave me insight into season two long before the season began,
I would have lost many more night's sleep than I did worrying about the future
of Bette and Tina.)
Why was the season one ending so powerful? First it was great story, acting,
and directing. Second, it was us. For some of us, perhaps it was a reminder
of a traumatic loss of love from the past (and we all have one), a suffering
finally reflected and validated by the mirror of culture. Suddenly, it was real,
perhaps more real than it was before, when we experienced it in the shadows
of discrimination and hate and non-existence. The Season one finale hurt bad.
And none of us wants to go through that again. So, as the Season 2 finale nears,
our collective fear grows. Will it hurt that much again?
Combine this fear with the rumor mill and Beals' announcement, and you have
a recipe for panic. We are afraid of anything damaging or destroying The L Word for this reason: it's all we have. We cannot simply change the channel or switch
allegiance to another show in search of our deep-seated need for visibility
and voice. There are no other options for an audience that had none before The
L Word. Not yet, anyway.
The L Word has broken the barrier and set the stage for other stories "to
come out." We have seen the evidence in fan fiction, in re-sampled videos,
in the outpouring of creative attention from our community. We have other stories
to tell and artists who can tell them. I predict that The L Word will not be
the only lesbian programming for long. It has unleashed the aching within us
to tell our vibrant stories and see them on big and small screens, breaching
the fear and silence in a big way.
We must thank Jennifer Beals, Laurel Holloman, and the cast and crew for that
gift, however ragged or harrowing the last year may have been, or the next year
may be. The L Word has brought us together on message boards, around televisions
and water coolers, and mostly through a collective caring about fictional characters
that represent us. We have never had such a platform, and I believe we are stronger
as a community now.
There will probably be some kind of cliffhanger in the season finale to ensure
that we tune back in next season (as if they needed any assurance--where else
would we go at this point?). If the bastards screw us again, we'll get through
it. And if Jennifer or Laurel decide that their jobs are done and they move
on to the more important job of raising a family, I'll wish them well and thank
them for the enormous contribution they have made in my life.
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