The L Word, Progressive or Heteronormative

After reading Samuel Chamber’s “Heteronormativity and the L Word,” and investigating his claims during a class discussion, I was curious how the show was portrayed in promo commercials to audiences. Chambers criticized the show for presenting lesbian characters as having a very homogenous identity. Succinctly, he argued that “The narrative structure of the L word, despite its central cast of characters – often serves to perpetuate, preserve, and sustain the normatively of heterosexuality.” With this in mind, I analyzed the promo clip for Season 1, which is intended to function as a glimpse into the show’s main story lines without revealing too much. Although it can not encapsulate an entire complex and fluctuating season, promo clips are recognized as indicative of a show’s content.
This season 1 promo begins with two very attractive blonde white women speaking to each other. One says, “Why is it important for you to believe that everyone is sleeping with everyone else?” The blonde characters responds somewhat seductively, “Because they are,” implying that the show depicts rampant sexual affairs. Next it highlights the committed relationship between Tina and Bette and their desire to have a child. Chambers identifies this dynamic as heternormative forcing traditional expectations of behaviors on lesbians. The rest of the clip shows beautiful lesbian women constantly kissing and seducing each other. The clip also alludes to erotic affairs between some of the lesbian characters and a white male heterosexual character. With this brief 1:40 clip, it appears that many of Chambers’ claims are valid. Rather than portray the lesbian community as extremely variable, their representation appeals mostly to heterosexual men; men have ultimate fantasies of threesomes with two women, and watching women interact in sexual behavior. Thus, the behavior of the characters’ onscreen alludes to this; it is tantalizing. Near the end the voiceover says, “Sexuality is fluid, whether you’re gay or you’re straight you just go with the flow.” This line which is intended to project the main idea of the show implies that the lesbian characters are not strictly lesbian. Instead they are free and liberal and open to having affairs with men as well. It reduces the lesbian identity to an extremely sexual one with the objective of drawing in male viewers.

Chambers, Samuel A. “Heteronormativity and the L Word: From a Politics of Representation to Politics of
Norms.” Reading The L Word: Outing Contemporary Television. By Kim Akass and Janet McCabe.
London: I.B. Tauris, 2006. N. pag Print.


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