By the by, The L Word was a good show. It dabbled in its fair share of offensive tropes (the lack of non-femme presenting women and the mishandled portrayal of transman Max’s story come to mind) but most of us loved it for its campy, serialised portrayal of lesbian in-fighting and love life drama. Its reality television spin-off, The Real L Word, though? We didn’t like that quite as much.
If The L Word was fiction then The Real L Word was fiction…but with significantly poorer actors. Meant to shine a real spotlight on the real problems of real lesbian women, almost the entire thing devolved into staged storylines and uncomfortable dialogue that was jarring to watch as much as it was laughable.
Alas, if The L Word was going to go ‘reality’ it would need to do it right, so after three seasons of The Real L Word, documentary L Word Mississippi: Hate The Sin set to right its predecessor’s wrongs.
What’s key is that the folks behind L Word Mississippi (a production company called the Magical Elves) actually have some experience in reality TV programming. Granted, they were also partly responsible for The Real L Word, but that’s a blot on an otherwise clean page. Not only that but The L Word’s creator Ilene Chaiken took a backseat this time round, perhaps allowing L Word Mississippi not to suffer from her fictional TV background.
Instead, what the Elves have done is put together a 90 minute broadcast that really depicts the lives of lesbian women in the South, a location of the United States that’s notorious for its conservative opinions. People say Mississippi is part of the United States ‘Bible Belt’ too, referring to the usually devout, often homophobic Christians in the region. So hardly a walk in the park for a group of homosexual women.
Having been filmed over six to eight months, a various array of real people’s lives get told. There are two interracial couples (both with children from previous marriages), a pregnant lesbian with her recently transitioned husband and one woman featured on the show is converting to heterosexuality although she once took pride in her lesbian sexuality and the same-sex relationships that she had had.
With such a range of stories being told in such a conservative area, homophobic opinions and tough-to-hear stories about the threat of homelessness are just some of the hard hitting events. So it might not make for such a happy-go-lucky watch as the previous ‘L Word’ TV shows did then, but it will certainly make for the most real and emotional one yet.
L Word Mississippi: Hate The Sin is airing now on Showtime.