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Series / The L Word

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A Showtime series running for six seasons, from 2004 to 2009. It followed a group of lesbian (and bisexual and transgender) friends who hang out together at a queer-friendly coffee shop in Los Angeles.

Distaff Counterpart to Queer as Folk.

The show has now received a Sequel Series, entitled "The L Word: Generation Q".

Now has a character sheet.

The Other Wiki has extensive and detailed lists about the main and minor characters of the series and summaries for all episodes.

Unmarked spoilers, ahoy!


This series provides examples of:

  • Absentee Actor: For most of Season 5, Helena is missing after running away to escape her mother.
  • The Alcoholic: Kit. Played for Drama. Kit's kid sister Bette slips into this during Season 2, after Tina dumps her over her infidelity.
  • All Gays Are Promiscuous: Most of the cast tends to avert this, but Shane is this trope distilled into human form. Most of Bette's problems over the course of the series are caused by her poor judgement and self-control when it comes to sex. Sooner or later, she cheats on every partner she ever has, and Alice even calls her out on it at one point.
  • All Girls Like Ponies: The characters lampshade this trope at a party, specifically the fact that almost all of them avert it.
  • All Lesbians Want Kids: Bette & Tina's decision to procreate, and all the resulting drama which ensues, is one of the major plot threads throughout the entire run of the series. Averted with pretty much all other characters who frankly have enough problems as it is
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  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: "Virgin Cat" by Anna Tsuchiya is the theme song in the Japanese version.
  • Amicable Exes: Alice and Bette, Tina and Helena, Jenny and Carmen, Jenny and Max, Alice and Phyllis and for a season or so - Bette and Tina.
  • The Atoner: Mark, in the last few episodes of Season 2. Judging from his absence from the series from Season 3 onward, it doesn't seem to have worked.
  • Author Avatar:
    • Jenny and Dana were based loosely on two of the creators of the show, Michele Abbott and Kathy Greenberg. The subsequent treatment of both characters over the course of the show's run could be interpreted as a Take That! (see Evil Former Friend below).
    • "Jessie" from the Show Within a Show Lez Girls is Jenny's.
  • Bad Boss: Jenny was such a giant pain up her personal assistant's ass, that she quit.
  • Bastard Understudy: Adele, Jenny's personal assistant, displaced her as the producer of LezGirls through blackmail.
  • Batman Gambit: It probably would have been more difficult for Adele to get her Magnificent Bastardry on if she couldn't count on S5 Jenny acting selfish, irresponsible, and just plain terrible at every opportunity.
  • The Beard:
    • In Season 1, Dana and her tennis partner Harrison act as beards for each other, since neither one is out of the closet.
    • In Season 5, Niki's agents insist that she use her male costar as a beard, as damage control after Alice outs her on national television. She caves under the pressure, which drives a wedge between her and Jenny.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Averted. Some of the most attractive characters (in-universe) are the most mean, spiteful and intolerable. Yeah, we mean Jenny.
  • Bifauxnen: Shane McCuthcheon.
  • Broken Aesop: In Season 3, episode 2, Jenny tazes a homophobic bully who was assaulting Moira and shouts "We're dykes, not fags".
  • Brother–Sister Incest: During the after-show "Interrogation Tapes", Tina revealed, that Bette was not her first lesbian experience, but that it was her own sister, whom she had that kind of relationship (judging by Tina's words, it was less about romance than about "experimenting"), when she was from about 11/12 until 15 years old.
  • But I Would Really Enjoy It: Phyllis says this to Bette after coming out as a lesbian and leaving her husband thanks largely to Bette's influence. She realizes nothing is ever going to happen between them, though.
  • But Not Too Black: Both Bette and Kit have biracial parentage, but Kit is darker-skinned. Bette and Kit had different mothers. Kit's mother was- presumably- black, as evidenced in the first episode: during an introduction at a party, Bette makes it a point to mention that Kit is her half-sister, to which Kit replies, "Guess which half?"
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome:
    • Lisa, the male-identified lesbian, vanishes without a trace after Alice dumps him. He is never mentioned again.
    • Mark probably got Chucked the worst of all on this series. In season two, he's part of the main cast, gets a decent amount of character development, and reaches an almost familial level with the girls. The last time we see him is in the season two finale at Bette's dad's funeral. He is absent the following season and is never mentioned again, despite having been Shane and Jenny's roommate.
  • Closet Key: Marina to Jenny and Alice to Phyllis.
  • Club Kid: Shane. Particularly in the first season, where another character actually mistakes her for a (male) club kid.
  • Cure Your Gays: When Jenny & Shane are interviewing potential roommates in Season 2, one of them makes this offer, and she is shown the door.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: The physical and sexual abuse Jenny suffered as a child is explored, but never defined, in one of the major plot threads of Season 2. Shane's dark past is not focused on as much, but is still mentioned. In Seasons 1-2, we learn that she was once forced to work as a (pretending-to-be-male) prostitute, that she was essentially abandoned by her parents, has various drug addictions, etc. These events are strongly implied to be the reason she is such a loyal friend, but terrible with relationships/commitment - she feels the need to please others, is satisfied with very little for herself, but is afraid to commit to anyone or anything. The later seasons continue to add heartbreaking details - Shane is thrilled to simply have her own, tiny little room because she's apparently never had her own before. (In Season 6, Jenny, of course, promptly converts Shane's room into a study one day when Shane is out, assuming that since they're now sleeping together, she'll just move into Jenny's room with her!)
  • Demoted to Extra: In Seasons 1-5, Kit was one of the main characters. In Season 6, she existed primarily to say "Girl!" about once per scene. After two seasons of being a core member of the cast, Jodi also fell into the background during Season 6.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Female: After Tina finds out about Bette's first affair and confronts her about it, Bette rapes Tina in an attempt to make up for it... buh-what? As the trope implies, after the fact, the rape isn't brought up again.
  • Drag Queen: Sunset Boulevard in Season 6. Subverted because he's straight.
  • Drugs Are Good: Most of the cast is shown using some form of marijuana at various points, and Shane even dabbles in harder drugs, to no ill effect. However, this trope was played straight in a Season 1 subplot involving a friend of Shane's who wound up consumed by his addictions. Unlike Shane, he couldn't handle his drugs. Niki using drugs is alluded to.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Just try to find one character on this show that isn't massively screwed up, even the successful and wealthy ones.
  • Ensemble Cast: Bette, Shane, Alice Jenny and Tina all get significant amounts of screentime.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: Shane. But kind of a moot point in a Cast Full of Gay, but even the straight girls go gay for Shane. Interestingly, Shane's based off a real woman named Sally Hershberger, also a hairstylist for celebrities- though her clients include far more 'big names' than Shane's, including multiple Presidents. She's also known for making even straight celebrities feel the urge to experiment a little, so perhaps the portrayal isn't that unrealistic.
  • Everybody Has Lots of Sex: The reason Alice created The Chart.
  • Evil Former Friend: Ilene Chaiken convinced Showtime to boot her two co-creators off the show after the second episode. Over the course of the series, the two characters based on them were the only characters to die.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Jenny makes one somewhere between the end of Season 3 and the beginning of Season 4, with no real explanation given. Arguably, her coming out in Season 1 overlaps with this - Jenny seems like the perfect girlfriend at first, so it's a surprise when she turns out to be so willing to immediately cheat on Tim when she realizes her attraction to girls. Don't forget all the times she lied to and manipulated both Tim and Marina over the course of the affair and the aftermath, alternating between trying to convince them that it was their fault and playing the victim while she bounced back and forth between the two of them like a rubber ball.
  • Fanservice: And HOW. It would be easier to list the number of episodes without any in it.
  • The Fashionista:
    • The show doesn't spare any expense for any character's wardrobe, but Alice and Helena are the only ones who regularly talk about it.
    • Bette doesn't have the fashionista attitude, but she certainly dresses the part, even relative to her castmates. And the one holiday gift we see her purchase for her father is a $500 necktie.
    • Niki has a hissy fit because she doesn't think her character's clothes in Lez Girls are fashionable.
  • Female Gaze: Since most of the cast are lesbian, their gaze mostly falls on other women.
  • Fetish Retardant: Jenny and Dana attempt to have a tryst, but have so little chemistry with or desire for each other that they basically go through the act like they were reading it from a textbook and just give up and go dancing instead.
  • Fille Fatale: Nadia was legally an adult, but her position as Bette's student and employee made their affair professionally and socially inappropriate. Despite (or because of) this, Nadia pursued Bette relentlessly (and sexual self-control wasn't exactly one of Bette's defining traits).
  • Fish out of Water:
    • Jenny in Season 1, when she first arrives in L.A.
    • Max in Season 3, when Jenny picks him up in her hometown and brings him back to L.A. with her.
  • Flanderization: Much of the cast, but especially Shane. Bette went from "classy yuppie who knows how to cut loose every now and then" to "stick in the mud so uptight it's a wonder any of her friends bother with her at all."
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In the pilot, they mention that having a longer ring finger than index finger is a hint that someone may be a lesbian (which is Truth in Television). On Jenny, they are exactly the same size. Alice mentions that this might mean she's bisexual. Just a few minutes later...
    • Jenny wears a necklace with the Hebrew letters "חי", meaning "life" in Hebrew. But she is always wearing it in backwards (Hebrew is read and written from right to left). This is most likely a foreshadowing for the opposite of live, death (her death later in the series).
  • Gayborhood: West Hollywood. For "WeHo," this is Truth in Television.
  • Gayngst: Dana during most of Season 1, when she was still in the closet, mostly on account of her conservative parents and Smug Snake manager. As it turned out, said closet was even more transparent than she realized.
  • Genre Shift: Apparently what this primetime lesbian soap opera really needed to do in its final season was introduce a murder mystery. Which never got solved.
  • Girl-on-Girl Is Hot: Exploited. Due to featuring a lot of sex scenes between women, the show has a very large male fanbase whose primary motivation for watching it is... yeah. The show got often accused of Pandering to the Base because of said Misaimed Fandom. Writers eventually performed a Take That, Audience! with Mark's attitude towards Shane and Jenny to a mitigated reaction from the audience.
  • Hand Wave:
    • In Season 3, Bette's inexplicable conversion to Buddhism (reportedly to get pregnant actress Jennifer Beals out of Bette's wardrobe of snappy power suits and into bump-concealing kaftans and shawls for the duration of the season).
    • The Alice/Dana/Tonya love triangle was an important (and well-executed) subplot from the latter half of Season 1 through the first half of Season 2. The conclusion was a poorly-written anticlimax that came way out of left field. A superb performance by Erin Daniels only served to highlight the awful writing.
  • Has Two Mommies: Bette & Tina's daughter Angelica.
  • Heartbreak and Ice Cream: Phyllis, after she broke up with Alice, her Closet Key.
  • Heel Realization: By the end of Season 2, Mark finally has some understanding of the depths to which he has sunk.
  • Her Codename Was Mary Sue: In the first season, pretentious, weird Jenny Schecter wrote a series of implausibly well-received stories about pretentious, weird Sara Schuster. Yes, the Author Avatar had an Author Avatar.
  • Hero Antagonist: Helena Peabody in Season 2. She was a villain from Bette's point of view. But giving money to charity isn't evil just because you're not giving it specifically to the PoV character's company. And it's not "stealing your girlfriend" if your girlfriend already broke up with you, because you cheated on her. In Season 3, Helena quickly makes the transition to full-fledged protagonist, a status she maintains for the rest of the series.
    • Except the problem with Helena was that she was originally presented as almost like this predator of pregnant women. She had children, but they weren't her biological children. She had stayed with her previous girlfriend long enough for the woman to give birth to two kids, and then dumped her and used her influence as a philanthropist to get primary custody of the kids. It was heavily implied that she was attracted to Tina because Tina was pregnant, and may have eventually tried to steal Tina's daughter from her. Once Helena joined the main cast and she got her much-needed Character Development this whole backstory just sort of disappeared, but Bette had plenty of reason to be concerned.
  • Heterosexual Brigade Bait: Most of the prominent male characters are conventionally handsome. There's also Shane, the dark-haired, androgynous Bifauxnen with the deep voice, the Dark and Troubled Past, admirers lining up around the block, and as many shirtless scenes as any other two characters on the show put together.
  • Hot Teacher:
    • Jenny's creative writing instructor in Season 2 (played by real-life lesbian Sandra Bernhard) is pretty much the opposite of this.
    • Bette becomes this trope in Season 4, when she joins the university faculty. It does not end well for her (see Teacher/Student Romance below).
  • Hurricane of Euphemisms: A truly staggering number of euphemisms for vagina are listed by the regulars at the end of the first episode of season three, featuring such terms as "bikini biscuit," "breakfast of champions," and "munch box" and probably 30 or so more.
  • The Hyena: Weezie, the contractor who does the extensions on Bette and Tina's house, so they have enough space for their child, who's gonna be adopted. Bette and Tina's Gaydar doesn't work on her and leaves them extremely confused.
  • I Don't Pay You to Think: In "LGB Tease," Jenny delivers this line rather awesomely after Marissa brings back her dog wearing the wrong color ribbons:
    Jenny: [regarding her dog] What's this on his head? This is mauve. This is not orange.
    Marissa: Well, the groomer ran out of orange, so we thought we would...
    Jenny: No. No, no. I don't pay you to think. [to the dog] Do I, Sounder? Do I pay her to think? [to Marissa] He hates you. So take him back to the groomers now and get orange ribbons so that he can like you again. That's it.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Every single episode title in the entire run of the series begins with the letter "L."
  • If It's You, It's Okay: Shane tends to bring this out in straight women.
  • Important Haircut: Shane gives two of them in Season 2. Jenny asks for the first one, since she's tired of being read as "straight." Shane offers Mark the second one, as a symbolic gesture of friendship and inclusion (which, as she finds out later, he totally didn't deserve).
  • Incompatible Orientation:
    • Mark's fascination with Shane obviously includes lust.
    • Helena's affection for Dylan in Season 3 appeared to be unrequited because of this, but as the season progressed the situation proved to be a lot more complicated than that.
    • Season 5 introduced Molly, the one straight girl on the planet who won't go gay for Shane...until she does.
    • A rare variant with Jenny and Max, who is unable to accept him being a trans man since she's a lesbian and Max is technically a straight man.
  • In the Blood: Shane's father is also a womanizer, but unlike Shane, he's consciously and actively malicious. Yet he still manages to convince her that they're the same, which winds up ruining her relationship with Carmen and Paige.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Alice. Gets her in trouble when she inadvertently outs a celebrity athlete.
  • It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": Papi tries to get everyone to say her name correctly.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy:
    • Tina helping Bette get (and stay) back together with Jodi in Seasons 4-5. She wins in the end, though.
    • Shane chasing Molly away at the end of Season 5. A particularly tragic example, since she was one of only two women Shane had ever really loved. And unlike Carmen, Molly actually accepted Shane for who she was.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Mark. When he's rooming with Jenny and Shane, they find out he's hidden cameras all over the house and has been secretly recording every aspect of their lives. Somehow, he avoids being stabbed or thrown in jail. They do tell him to leave, but within the same episode, Jenny changes her mind and dares him to stay and atone. Because, y'know, a real woman would do that.
    • In the last two seasons, Adelle gets away with identity fraud, blackmailing an entire studio, and turning an original pro-gay film into an easy-sell Chick Flick against the wishes of the original creative team. The only plausible reason she gets away with her crimes was because the ultimate victim was Jenny.
  • Lampshade Hanging: The Lez Girls subplot of Season 5 was a lampshade cannon on full-auto, aimed primarily at Season 1.
  • Large Ham: Alan Cumming as Billy in Season 3 bounces back and forth between this and a Deadpan Snarker. He easily steals every scene he's in.
  • Lez Bro:
    • Mark to Shane in Season 2, before his betrayal was revealed.
    • Lisa the male-identified lesbian is introduced as Shane's Lez Bro before he starts dating Alice.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Most of the cast, quite deliberately. Ilene Chaiken publicly claimed that the show would never have been made if it hadn't pandered to the Male Gaze (and unfortunately, she's probably right). However, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. The show seemed to have a well-rounded group of lesbians who were feminine, butch, or somewhere in between. The fact that the show had so many overtly feminine lesbians was fairly groundbreaking, in having so many non-stereotypical lesbians. And it seemed even less about "lipstick lesbians" than it was simply "women who have different styles of dress." Shane dresses in an androgynous and punk rock way, Bette is fond of prim suits and button-down shirts, Alice is girly with a tomboyish streak, Jenny is overtly girly most of the time, Dana seems to be somewhere between tomboy and girly, and Tina seems to have a bit of a boho thing going on.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: So many they kept coming and going between seasons. Or breaking up with each other. Or dying.
  • Lock-and-Load Montage: A rather hilarious parody of one in season 1 when Dana and her friends go to the restaurant where Lara works to scope her out and see if she's right for Dana (ie. a lesbian). Before getting to work, there's an Overly Long Gag where they pull out notebooks, turn on their phones, and put on sunglasses for no reason. They even do a Power Walk on the way in.
  • Locked in a Room:
    • After Bette and Candace are locked in a jail cell, they have an extremely hard time not to jump each other's bones (they still do it, after they're out of jail and that breaks up Bette and Tina's relationship).
    • During a heat wave, accompanied by power outages, Bette and Tina got stuck in an elevator. They eventually got back together during this time.
  • Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: While Shane and Papi both appear at first glance to be The Casanova, they've both revealed themselves over time to be incredibly caring and empathic people, who feel almost obligated to please everyone around them. And they've both genuinely fallen in love, and had their hearts broken, without turning bitter or predatory.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: For a few episodes, Alice dates professor and vampirologist Uta Refson. Alice believes that she is actually a vampire due to her unwillingness to go out during the day, love for only red wine, sharp teeth, and ability to lift her two feet in the air with no visible exertion.
  • Meat-O-Vision: Shane experiences Sex-O Vision; When she goes swears off sex, she starts to hallucinate every women in her field of view as naked and willing.
  • Money Fetish: Helena and Catherine play with their winnings from gambling, which leads to fetishistic sex with it.
  • More Diverse Sequel: While both series feature a Cast Full of Gay, The L Word had a majority-white cast while Generation Q, is more racially diverse; of the main characters, two are Latina, one is an Asian trans man, and one is an Iranian-American woman.
  • Mr. Seahorse: Max gets pregnant while transitioning to male (and looks quite masculine due to the hormones he's been taking).
  • My Secret Pregnancy: In season 2, Tina tries to hide her second pregnancy from Bette, afraid of the pain it would cause if Tina experiences another miscarriage.
  • Negated Moment of Awesome: When Jenny and Shane find out about Mark secretly filming them, he tries to tell them how much he's "grown" since he set up those cameras. Jenny retorts, "You think that's what I'm here for? For some fucking man to chew up and spit out so he can 'grow'?!" She decided at the end of the episode to fold and give him another chance.
  • Nice Guy: Surprisingly, most of the male characters.
    • In Season 1, Tim seemed like the perfect boyfriend at first. After walking in on his so-called friend fucking his fiancée, he acted like a huge jerk. But most people would consider that a reasonable response. And even at his worst, while standing next to Jenny, the woman who spent half a season deceiving, manipulating, humiliating and cuckolding him during her journey of sexual self-discovery, he looked like a saint.
    • In Seasons 3-4, Angus played this trope ridiculously straight. But when he finally did fall off his pedestal, he fell hard.
    • Sunset Boulevard is not only a straight guy, but he's also probably the only genuinely decent man Kit has ever dated.
  • No Pregger Sex: Averted with Tina in the second series, where her pregnancy doesn't deter her from having sex with Helena and Bette.
  • Parental Abandonment:
    • Shane's absentee junkie parents screwed up her ability to form and maintain functional romantic attachments in a big way. And when Dad finally did come back into her life, he only managed to mess with her head even more.
    • Played literally with Shane's half-brother Shay, whose mother leaves him on Shane's porch never to return.
  • Prison Rape: After Helena goes to jail for stealing her girlfriend Catherine's money, Shane, Tina and Alice have the following advice for Helena: "Don't drop the soap!"
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: All characters get this to some degree, but Bette is easily the worst. Helena would rather donate money to a shelter for single mothers and their children rather than give Bette an art grant? Guess who the romantic antagonist is for the same season.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Bette skates into this at her worst. Chronic cheating aside, she did not take Tina's bisexuality crisis well. Getting mad at your ex for leaving you for a man is one thing. Trying to get sole custody of your child behind the birth mother's back is another thing entirely. As is kidnapping said daughter when Tina found out and called her out on it. See also Double Standard: Rape, Female on Female.
  • Put on a Bus:
  • Dylan was Put on a Bus after Season 3, but then returned to become a major character of Season 6.
  • Strip Poker: In "Lesson Number One," Helena plays strip gin against Catherine in an attempt to clear her gambling debts.
  • Take That, Audience!: Unsuccessful. Despite trying to dodge the virulent accusations of pandering to a straight male demographic by featuring an in-show betrayal from Mark towards Shane and Jenny who only got with them because he thought Girl-on-Girl Is Hot, the true lesbian audience remained unconvinced.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Bette's brief affair with her assistant Nadia in Season 4. Phyllis fires Bette over it at the beginning of Season 6.
  • Transgender: Max is a rare (for media attention) transmasculine example. He becomes pregnant, too.
  • Truth in Television:
    • Leisha Hailey, Clementine Ford, Tammy Lynn Michaels, Guinevere Turner, Jane Lynch, Alexandra Holden, Kelly McGillis, Kristanna Loken, Daniela Sea, Karina Lombard and Heather Matarazzo are all lesbian or bisexual in real life, as well as playing lesbian or bisexual characters on the show (and Mia Kirshner has hinted at bisexuality in interviews).
    • Kate Moennig is fiercely private about her personal life and refuses to comment on her sexual orientation. But Jennifer Beals may have accidentally outed Moennig in an interview she did with The Advocate. And there have been rumors of Moennig being involved with Francesca Gregorini and her co-star Clementine Ford (which Ford denies).
    • She's been pretty blatant about her involvement with Holly Miranda on Twitter.
    • There’s also this article that was published prior to the sequel series’ premiere.
    • More recently, suspicions has also arisen about Rose Rollins, who played Tasha, and is now in another show where she will play a lesbian role.
    • The deaf Jodi Lerner is played by Marlee Matlin, who's deaf in Real Life.
  • Two-Person Pool Party:
    • The swimming pool in Bette and Tina's backyard existed primarily to provide these scenes.
    • Tina and Helena had one in the second series.
  • The Unfair Sex: Jenny as a character can be incredibly creepy at points, but apparently it's OK because she's a woman. Notably averted for the rest of the cast, however.
  • Who Murdered the Asshole?: Each teaser seems to end with yet another person having a reason to hate Jenny Schecter, so there are plenty of suspects when she's eventually murdered.


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