Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Real Lezwives of LA

I should've braced myself for disappointment the instant I saw the advertisement on the back cover of Star Magazine. There, in full color, with sunbeams and palm trees adorning their crotches, were the real lesbians of the new reality series, The Real L Word. The highly anticipated show, developed by L Word creator Ilene Chaiken, premiered Sunday night on Showtime. And it might as well be called The Real Leswives of Los Angeles because the show is pretty trashy.

I do not say it's trashy because I am offended by sex. No, no. I was a big fan of the plentiful sex scenes in The L Word. In contrast, this new lesbian reality show was surprisingly lacking in sex. Rather, it was trashy because Chaiken managed to find, among the otherwise appealing and smart lesbians of LA—which I assume exist, though you'd never know it from this show—a half dozen gutter-mouthed, unprofessional, and unlikable young women. I suppose I should expect nothing less from reality TV. But Chaiken seemed to be aiming no higher than the low-brow bar set by The Real Housewives and The Jersey Shore, which is surprising considering that The L Word was a show of some substance and quality, not to mention beauty. Or perhaps the real lesbians of LA—the "polished" lesbians—wouldn't be caught dead on reality TV.

In the opening scenes we hear Whitney, the show's tattooed Shane-esque stud, describing LA lesbians as "polished" compared to those East Coast ruffians in New York. If polished means having a vocabulary with adjectives and adverbs limited to those used by Tony Soprano, then, yes, the LA lesbians are very polished. Very fuckin' polished. But I dunno, I'm so East Coast. Sadly, I just didn't see anything that struck me as polished on this show. I saw a lot of bad overhead lighting and cheap kitchen cabinetry and poor interpersonal communication skills. And the unfortunate use of the word "douchebaggy." I try not to judge. But these gals are bragging about how sophisticated they are, and it's hard to not call them out when one of them—domineering Mikey, who wears sunglasses indoors—can't control her emotions at work. "We'll never fucking work with your agency again. Don't ever fucking call my showroom," she says into the phone. Badly done, Mikey. Badly done.

Grace Chu has created a hilarious "The Real L Word Dictionary," which illustrates how miserable things are. Considering everything, one wonders who was the intended audience for this show. Chaiken must have looked at the success (if you can call it that) of The Real Housewives franchise and seen dollar signs, because the show oddly does not seem targeted to a niche audience of lesbians. For example, the producers of the show felt the need to include an explanation of "pants" and "pumps." Get it, ladies? It means "butch" and "femme."

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Lesbians Are All Right

I know there is concern, and understandably so, that lesbian director Lisa Cholodenko's new film, The Kids Are All Right, includes a plot twist involving a lesbian (Julianne Moore) sleeping with her sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo). I have not seen the film, which is not released until July 9, but I have to say that I'm not going to get my bikini briefs in a bunch over this.

First of all, I'm willing to give Cholodenko the benefit of the doubt on the integrity of the lesbian credibility of this film because
the writer/director of High Art and Laurel Canyon has an impressive track record.  Cholodenko is sort of the Nancy Meyers of lesbian film. But edgier because she is, after all, a dyke. She is brilliant at capturing—creating, I suppose, is a better term—mood, culture, and the influence of place. The place in her latest film, as it was in Laurel Canyon, is California. The golden, barefoot, wine-infused, faded T-shirt kind of California you imagine when Joni Mitchell sings. In fact, Cholodenko has said that Mitchell's Ladies of the Canyon was an aesthetic influence on Laurel Canyon. And Mitchell is very much present in this latest film: The daughter is named Joni, and a duet of All I Want (~I wanna make you feel free~) is sung by Annette Bening and Ruffalo.

Secondly, from what I can see, Julianne Moore and Annette Bening portray a realistic (if, granted, unusually good looking) lesbian couple who are in a real, in-depth, long-term relationship. How often do you see that on film? Seldom. So let's welcome this. Cholodenko, 46, has been around the block, and so when she describes her choice to build an otherwise conventional family around two women as a "radical gesture," I think we should give her some credit. It is indeed a radical gesture in Hollywood.