Topline: Love and lesbians on screen

When “The L Word” premiered, the Showtime series offered some of the boldest representations of lesbians on TV, but it wasn’t the first to do so

Mabuhay, lovelies! I’m Chelle Turingan, your loveable queer Filpinx goofball, and I’m in the “Topline” driver’s seat this week. These Toronto summers can be unbearably humid, so I’ve opted to stay inside a little while longer to indulge in the steaming hot scenes from the new season of The L Word Generation Q. Clearly I’m eager to talk about it, so without further ado, let’s dive right in! And remember, “Topline” is just a teaser—the best way to get our good good each week is to subscribe to our newsletter, Xtra Weekly.

What’s the buzz 🐝?

As Xtra’s managing producer of video, I’m used to working behind-the-scenes—whether that’s producing, shooting or editing weekly content for the magazine, or co-directing a huge ambitious feature film like Small Town Pride. But this week marks the return of Showtime’s The L Word Generation Q Season 2, which also means the return of Off The Chart, Xtra’s L Word recap podcast series. 

This time around, my co-host Erica Lenti and I are doing things a little differently and bringing you our unfiltered takes on Gen Q to YouTube (that way you get to hear our voices and see our faces)! It’s been a really fun project to work on so far, and we hope you enjoy following along with us. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to Xtra’s YouTube channel.

What were we thinking 🎞️?

Today, LGBTQ2S+ representation in mainstream media is more prevalent than it’s ever been. But back in the early aughts, finding my queer tribe reflected in the cultural zeitgeist felt like participating in the hardest scavenger hunt ever. Of course, there was Showtime’s Queer As Folk, but it mostly centred around gay men. And while I was happy to watch the story arc for Lindsay and Melanie, the show’s token lesbian couple, I desparately wanted more.

 

When Showtime debuted the original The L Word series in 2004, my newly-out 24-year-old self was ecstatic! Set in Los Angeles’ West Hollywood, the groundbreaking TV show introduced us to a cast of glamourous lesbian characters not yet seen on the small screen. I was equally delighted to see some familiar names and faces as the seasons progressed. So as I reflect back on The L Word’s pop culture legacy, I thought I’d take this opportunity to highlight some of my favourite early representations of lesbians, specifically from the New Queer Cinema film movement of the ’90s. 

Go Fish (1994)

Written by and starring Guinevere Turner (who also appeared in early seasons of The L Word) and directed by Rose Troche (who has worked on The L Word Generation Q), this film is an absolute CLASSIC. In a sea of coming-of-age narratives, Go Fish dared to explore what happens after you’ve been out for awhile and have already broken up with your first queer love.

The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls In Love (1995)

That said, coming-of-age stories were incredibly important during this era, and boy oh boy did we see a lot of them! The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls In Love is a coming-of-age story about Randy Dean, played by The L Word’s Laurel Holloman, who develops a crush on the most popular girl at school. It’s really a kick to see our beloved Tina Kennard also play a baby dyke from the midwest.

All Over Me (1997)

All Over Me is another coming-of-age story, set in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen, about a teenager named Claude (Alison Folland) who falls in love with her best friend, Ellen (Tara Subkoff). The L Word’s Leisha Hailey plays Lucy, Claude’s alternate love interest, and My So-Called Life’s Wilson Cruz plays Jesse, Claude’s co-worker at the pizza shop. Seeing these queer icons’ baby faces alone is worth the watch!

High Art (1998)

In this moody arthouse film, Radha Mitchell plays Syd, an ambitious young photo editor at FRAME magazine who becomes enamored with her new neighbour, Lucy (played by The Breakfast Club’s Ally Sheedy)—a reclusive but renowned photographer. It’s one of the more heartbreaking films on this list, but the loungey trip-hop soundtrack is very ’90s (a.k.a. excellent). 

But I’m a Cheerleader (1999)

The most recent film on the list is a satirical comedy that provides a campy commentary on conversion therapy rehabilitation programs. Natasha Lyonne plays Megan, a clueless cheerleader who is unaware of her lesbian leanings, and Clea Duvall plays Graham, her reluctant camp workshop partner turned love interest. Bonus points for supporting character RuPaul Charles who plays camp councillor and “ex-gay” Mike.

Did I miss any of your favourites? Tell us all about them on Twitter @XtraMagazine!

In other Xtra news 🌎

👉Looking for something new to watch? Xtra contributor Valerie Complex has got you covered with seven diverse cinematic portrayals of Black queer life that you can find online and on streaming services.

👉Novelist Marjorie Celona interviews Ivan Coyote about their latest book, Care Of, which includes a decade’s worth of correspondence. 

👉Actor Devery Jacobs talks about her role in Reservation Dogs, a very queer Indigenous comedy from showrunners Taika Waititi and Sterlin Harjo, and one of the buzziest shows of the summer. 

👉Xtra contributor Nour Abi-Nakhoul talks to Fatima Al Qadiri about the eclectic influences—from Iranian pop divas to video game tunes—that inform her atmospheric music.

👉Want more headlines? Subscribe to Xtra Weekly.

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Light and love, y’all 🔥🥰

Chelle Turingan is a video journalist and filmmaker based in Toronto, ON. Their work has appeared in Maclean’sChatelaine, and Today’s Parent. They are also co-director / producer / editor of Xtra’s documentary film, Small Town Pride.

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