I have a confession to make: Bette Porter of The L Word (and it suffices to say, Jennifer Beals) is a huge part of my queer origin story. When the original series first aired, I was still only dating men and streaming the show piecemeal on my shitty Macbook, letting the 50-minute episodes buffer for two hours or more and watching them at extremely low quality. When I divulged this to a friend recently, she said to me, “Your queer awakening was extremely lo-res, and a little illegal.” But who among us?
The original series was a beacon. When it aired, it stood alone — there was nothing else like it for lesbians, other queer-identified women, and the many nonbinary people who saw themselves represented in characters on the show, as well. That said, it wasn’t without its problems. Bisexual people were often treated as second-tier to lesbians, especially “gold star” lesbians. All representation of sex workers seemed to indicate that the only reason someone would take that career path is if they had trauma in their past or desperately needed the money. And then…Max.
But taken in the context of the time (the show originally aired between 2004 and 2009) when representation was minimal and in mainstream LGBTQIA+ discourse, the words “marriage equality” were synonymous to equality itself, the show still took on a lot. Beals recognizes that while the show did a lot of good, some mistakes were made along the way. “You can’t get it 100 percent right, you just can’t” she admits in an interview with Allure. “But you can try your best. With the original, I’d tell Ilene [Chaiken], ‘I hope we just reach one girl, just one girl, maybe in the midwest, who feels alone,’ and she was like, ‘Let’s just make a good show.’”
And it’s safe to say that the show did, indeed, reach much more than just one viewer. In fact, the number one comment Beals says she hears from fans is “Thank you” — that is, before they tell her their coming out story. (I was guilty on both counts during our interview.)
Now, with The L Word: Generation Q set to debut on Showtime on December 8 (with three of the original cast members reprising their roles: Jennifer Beals as Bette Porter, Leisha Hailey as Alice Pieszecki, and Katherine Moennig as Shane McCutcheon), fans of the original are excited, if not a little trepidatious. After all, though reboots are huge these days, they can either breathe new life into an old favorite or create some sort of zombified, Frankenstein-like monster of something you once loved. However, with Beals herself executive-producing this particular sequel, my hopes are high.
Rather than attempt to recreate the original series, Generation Q welcomes a slew of new LGBTQIA+ characters from a new, well, generation. Beals acknowledges that the queer community is not a monolith and that representation in media is far more diverse than when the original aired, which both takes a bit of the pressure off of the reboot and offers a little more room to play around. The original L Word was big on the queer theme of chosen family, and it’s clear from just the pilot episode (of which I’ve watched a screener) that Generation Q will be rife with opportunities to not only continue exploring this theme but queer mentorship, too.