You have to make your own fun when you live in the country.
Fortunately we were aided in our fun-making this past weekend by one of our friends hosting an L Word Party. As a self-confessed tragic of the television show, I just had to attend.
For those who may not orbit in the lesbian (or pop culture) universe, The L Word was a television series about a group of LA ladies of a Sapphic bent. Its sixth and final season was screened in the US earlier this year.
The L Word is significant because it portrayed “women who identify as not straight” (as one high profile woman put it) as everyday people with complex, inane, yet likable lives. For the first time in television history, these characters were played out in an ongoing series, rather than just bit parts in heterosexual dramas. Sure, anyone who has been in a dyke community knows that The L Word was not truly representative of the diversity of the culture, but the producers and writers of the show generally portrayed a group of women who, while flawed, were women you wanted on your team.
So an L Word Party is something I see as deeply embedded in “what it’s like to be a lesbian circa 2009”. I can’t imagine it happening in ten years as the show, like DTWOF comics, explored issues of its time: gay marriage, censorship, parenting. It was also styled in a very LA way, so I can see us exclaiming “Look at what they were wearing!” in ten years and wondering why they raided the costume department of 1979 Dallas for this noughties drama.
Ahh costumes… which brings us to the L Word Party – country Australian edition. What does one wear to an L Word Party? A couple of dozen women turned up at the property, which had been decked out as two of the sets from the show: The Planet and the Arts Centre (albeit regionalised for the party). The Arts Centre came complete with po-mo installations such as a bowl of lemons entitled “Family” and yart from local creatives. But the theatre of the night was certainly provided by those who came in character. We had a couple of Alices, a couple of Tashas, a glamour Tina and a pregnant Tina, a couple of Danas, a couple of pregnant Maxes, a Tom, some Shanes (who kept ducking out all night), a funky Kit, a Joyce and a Candace, and – how could we forget – a Jenny. Of course, the evening would not have been complete without its gracious host, the very glamorous Bette.
Highlights of the night included an L Word quiz (which exposed those who really had watched the series one too many times), re-enactments of key scenes (sometimes re-scripted for effect), and a local edition of The Chart.
The Chart, which was introduced into the show by the character Alice, was a wall-sized diagram that showed the interconnectedness of lesbian liaison. In the show, it illustrated how there is seldom more than two degrees of separation between women. Real-life versions of The Chart linking up local lesbians have been done on the internet and in coffee houses the world over. I remember thinking when The Chart was introduced on the show that it was so true, you could link up all the women by who’d slept with whom.
So it was surprising when The Chart from the party consisted of lots of little orbits of names but very little interconnectivity. I wondered if it was because we didn’t know each other and were from different places. Maybe it only works in localised communities? Whatever’s at work, it was fascinating, especially with a few “I didn’t know you slept with her” bringing whole new dimensions to relationships.
I write about this party because it illustrates what it’s like to live beyond the ghetto and how people can be brought together through common interests. Sure, I may not be bestest buds with everyone but I did feel a shared sense of experience, a common language and an acknowledgement of the values that I hold dear in my life around openness, diversity, acceptance, and joy. And I doubt I would experience that in the city, where it’s so easy to keep the same group of friends and also become very blasé about living free.
And it’s probably why, despite all my kvetching about how dreadful the last season of The L Word was, I am grateful that it was produced. It gave us stories that captured our hopes and fears, our joys and heartbreaks, and for us to gather around and say, “This is us. We exist.”