Ilene Chaiken on The L Words, Lesbian Representation and Bisexuality

Ilene Chaiken on The L Words, Lesbian Representation and Bisexuality
Tracy E. Gilchrist

Showtime’s The Real L Word wraps its third season and the creator – who, of course, gave the world The L Word – gives an in-depth interview to The Huffington Post’s Noah Michelson about both shows, LGBT representation on television, bisexuality and much, much more.

In the interview Chaiken says that the impetus for The L Word came to her from witnessing a gay family enclave in the Spaulding Square area of Los Angeles in 1999. She originally pitched the idea as a magazine article and eventually took the pitch to Showtime, although execs didn’t buy the idea until after Queer as Folk proved to be a hit.

On representing lesbian visibility Chaiken tells Huff Po:

“Even then I knew I would never be able to represent lesbians or lesbian lives. I knew that my only responsibility was to make the best TV show I could and to entertain people and to talk about a small group of fictional characters and create a world for them to exist in. I didn't anticipate the success of the show but even without knowing that it would be successful I knew that I would get criticized for not representing everybody and I just would have to be able to handle that because there was no way that I could.”

Chaiken also touches on bisexuality, which became more prevalent on The Real L Word since cast member Romi Klinger began dating a man this past season and subsequently discussed reactions people in the LGBT community have had to her being bisexual. 

“We are all aware that there is a sliding scale of sexual orientation in some sense. Some people are explicitly, devoutly -- or however you want to characterize it -- gay and some people are more inclined to bisexuality in one way or another,” Chaiken says.

But Chaiken explored bisexuality on The L Word when one half of the show’s central couple Tina (Laurel Holloman) left Bette (Jennifer Beals) and began a relationship with a man. She tells Huff-Po that she ultimately caved due to backlash from fans over breaking up Bette and Tina.

“I wanted to tell that story on "The L Word" because I was I wanted to tell as many of our stories as I could. But I had a hard time doing it because the fans of the L Word were so dedicated to the Bette/Tina relationship -- they loved the character of Tina so much. I got so much anger for letting Tina go back to men, Chaiken says. “Because I was in control of it, I buckled under the pressure. When I had originally envisioned that story I had just thought of Tina as a person who would have a relationship with Bette and then when that relationship broke up, her next relationship would be with a man and I thought I'd get to tell that story. And I didn't get to really explore it in that way." 

Turning the conversation back to the present show, The Real L Word, Chaiken says that Romi has been open about receiving criticism from fans over her relationships with men. 

We all recognize that discriminating against someone because of whom they love is a bizarre thing for a gay person to do, and yet, there's still a great many people just feel like "She betrayed us, she's not one of us anymore, we don't love her anymore,” Chaiken says.

Read the interview in full on The Huffington Post. 

Image via Getty. 

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Tags: #Women

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