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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.

It can best be described as a Distaff Counterpart to Queer as Folk.

In 2019, the show received a Sequel Series entitled The L Word: Generation Q.

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!


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This series provides examples of:

  • Affectionate Nickname: Angelica is mostly nicknamed as "Angie" by her mothers and friends.
  • Age-Gap Romance:
    • Kit is at least twenty years older than her boyfriend Angus.
    • The same goes for Phyllis with Alice, who inspired her to come out as a lesbian.
  • 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.
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  • 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.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: "Virgin Cat" by Anna Tsuchiya is the theme song in the Japanese version.
  • Ambiguously Bi: In Season 6 a female contractor works on Bette and Tina's house who has a stereotypical Butch Lesbian style, while flirting playfully with her male employees. Both are confused about what her sexuality is (the "ambiguous" part being possibly all in their minds, as she could just be a butch straight woman).
  • 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.
  • Armoured Closet Gay:
    • Burr Connor is a famous actor who's shown making homophobic remarks toward another actor who's a closeted gay man in the past and then Jenny, an open lesbian. It soon turns out that he's a closeted gay man himself, and regrets doing this.
    • Alice and Tasha meet an NBA star at a closet party. A few days later, said player makes homophobic comments about a fellow player, and Alice outs him in public.
  • As Himself:
    • Gloria Steinem appears as herself in "Lacuna" for Melvin's memorial service, as an old friend of his. There is a lot of Reality Subtext here, as not only was Steinem really friends with Melvin's actor Ossie Davis (the two are shown in a real together) but Davis actually died shortly before it aired.
    • Former tennis player Billie Jean King later appears interviewing Dana about her career and being (like King) an openly lesbian athlete. Dana gushes that King is her hero and had paved the way for later lesbian athletes like her with her own coming out.
    • Tegan & Sara appear as themselves in one flashback performing their song "Love Type Thing" while Dana and Shane listen. Dana hallucinates due to being on LSD at the time that they tell her she's a lesbian, urging her to come out of the closet, which she hadn't yet at the time.
    • In Generation Q lesbian soccer player Megan Rapinoe and later bisexual feminist writer Roxane Gay show up too as themselves.
  • 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.
  • Auto Erotica: More than once a couple has sex in a car, Papi and Alice then Shane with Paige for instance.
  • 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 has very short, loose hair, wearing boyish clothes with a masculine attitude and husky tone of voice. When she worked as a prostitute, her clients were gay men (Shane didn't engage in anal sex or undress, so they wouldn't notice). Even in the present she's mistaken for male and seen as a hot young man by some gay guys while visiting a gay bar along with a friend (she has to correct them because they can't tell).
  • Bilingual Bonus: In Generation Q Gigi, Dani and some other characters speak in completely untranslated Farsi (though a little can be discerned from context or shared words).
  • Bilingual Dialogue: Bette and Jodi, who's deaf, often speak in a mix of ASL with English during their relationship.
  • Birth/Death Juxtaposition: Tina gives birth very shortly after Melvin dies of his cancer.
  • Blackmail: Adele, Jenny's assistant, steals a sex tape Jenny made with Niki, her girlfriend (the lead actress who's closeted). She then threatens releasing it if she's not made director, replacing Jenny, and the executives cave in because Niki is the pull the film needs.
  • Broken Aesop: The show constantly defended itself from being just a cash cow pandering to the straight male demographic, while featuring extensive sex scenes between women and restricting gay guys to extras. Let's just say most of the so-called PSAs in the show never really got much impact.
  • 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.
  • Butch Lesbian:
    • Candace, Dusty, Jamie, Robin, Tasha all have short hair and more masculine attitudes/attire.
    • Moira appeared to be one until he came out as Max.
    • Shane arguably qualifies as butch. She doesn't think of herself as one, as evidenced by her bemused but slightly puzzled reaction in an episode where she and Max help carry some luggage for the others, and Max refers to both himself and Shane as "butches." Overall Shane's look is more bifauxnen.
    • Tasha is a soft butch, and definitely a tomboy. She starts out as a tough, tacturn soldier suffering from PTSD who wears tanktops often or sleeveless shirts in civilian garb, with long hair but having it pulled back in a bun mostly.
  • But I Can't Be Pregnant!:
    • Kit, who's going through menopause, got pregnant by accident anyway. She's incredulous and used multiple tests to be sure.
    • Max gets pregnant with Tom the interpreter's baby, and didn't think this could be possible after taking so many male hormones.
  • 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: One episode focuses on Bette and her white wife at a group therapy session being accosted by a radical black lesbian poet. The latter accused her of embracing her lesbian lifestyle but ignoring her own blackness. Previously, she requested her wife accept a black donor's sperm for their child so s/he could racially reflect both parents, so she argued the poet down, but was very hurt.
  • Child of Two Worlds:
    • Bette is biracial, having a black father and white mother. She always identifies this way to honor them both, although white people often don't realize she's biracial, thinking her olive skin tone and dark slightly curly hair just means Bette's Italian descent or something. Bette resists the demand to identify solely as black by a black woman she meets too, remarking how that's based on the racist One-Drop Rule, but points out she never tries to pass as white either, as noted above. Further, she requests that her wife Tina conceive their daughter with a black donor, which is agreed to, thus continuing her mixed heritage.
    • Dani Nùñez in Generation Q, who's of half Latino and half Iranian heritage. Although she has a Latin American name, she's fluent in Farsi along with Spanish and knowledgeable about Iranian culture, bonding due to this with Gigi, an Iranian-American.
  • 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 Gay:
    • Tasha is partly closeted due to being in the military, when Don't Ask Don't Tell was still in place. She's cautious about PDA with her girlfriend, and when found out gets warned by her CO not to let it ever happen again or he'll report her. Later she's prosecuted by the Army for homosexual conduct (which she's guilty of), but the military prosecutor is herself a closeted lesbian afraid Tasha's lover Alice will out her so she allows Tasha a way off to stay in the Army. Tasha though refuses to take it and admits she does love Alice on the stand, coming out in the courtroom.
    • Alice discovers a major basketball player is really gay when she sees him at a closet party. She outs him publicly after he makes homophobic remarks.
    • Niki Stevens, an actress whom Jenny gets involved with while she's directing her on Lez Girls, is in the closet as she fears coming out would ruin her career.
  • 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.
  • Coming and Going: Shane and Carmen are having sex at the same time Dana's dying.
  • Coming-Out Story: Several of them, most notably Jenny's, which is her main character arc in Season 1. In "Looking Back" several other characters relate theirs as well.
  • Cure Your Gays:
    • When Jenny and Shane are interviewing potential roommates in Season 2, one of them makes this offer, and she is shown the door.
    • In Season 3 an "ex-gay" ministry is introduced by flashbacks from the 1980s, showing this drives people into mass hypocrisy as the supposed "former" gays or lesbians just have sex on the side.
  • Dark and Troubled Past:
    • Jenny was always a bit off, but it doesn't get explained in detail until season 2. She was gang raped by boys as a kid, and her parents chose to ignore it instead of helping her, allowing it to "fester into this psychosis" as she puts it. She makes the best of it later though-her autobiographical book about it puts her into the spotlight that allows her to write a serialized novel, Lez Girls, and make it into a movie.
    • 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 other 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.
  • Disappeared Dad: In Gneration Q Angelica decides to meet her birth father Marcus Allenwood who conceived her via sperm donation and had no part of her upbringing (originally he'd agreed on this only after she'd reached 18). Tragically, it turns out he's dying, expiring the day before their meeting. She still gets a painting he'd made for her at least.
  • Drag Queen: Sunset Boulevard in Season 6, a rare straight example.
  • 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.
  • Due to the Dead: Her friends are all very upset when at Dana's funeral they're not only ignored with her sexual orientation erased by the minister while giving his eulogy, but her ashes aren't scattered how she'd liked, so Alice grabs them after storming out previously, and they scatter them later at the site she wanted.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Just try to find one character on this show that isn't massively screwed up, even the successful and wealthy ones.
  • Easy Sex Change: Averted with trans man Max (Moira formerly). The characterization was generally pretty awful, and much of the actual science was off - being on testosterone for as long as he'd been, it would be damn near impossible to get pregnant, even with no birth control methods being used; also, "roid rage" is a myth, and as such couldn't possibly be exacerbated by having testosterone obtained illegally. Non-prescribed testosterone's risks are vastly associated with the substance either being doctored or effectively "overdosing" - after a certain point, testosterone reaches maximum saturation in the body and the remainder is converted into estrogen, which is why non-trans bodybuilders using it can experience shrinking of testicles and breast growth. But he did hold a benefit to pay for his chest surgery (breast reduction/chest masculinization), which meant he couldn't afford even the more basic and less expensive of the "sex change" surgeries. Just FTM chest surgery ranges run about $8k in reality, not including travel, time off work, etc.
  • 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. It connects everyone they're connected with by who had sex, and is very extensive. All of the main cast have multiple sex scenes and relationships across the series, along with a number of minor characters too, all traced by this. Each episode shows at least one sex scene, and often more.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • Forced Out of the Closet:
    • After her ex-boyfriend Tim is introduced with her boyfriend Max, Jenny outs the latter as transgender to him and undergoing medical transition. Max is pissed, since she didn't ask if this was okay first.
    • Alice outs a homophobic NBA player after seeing him at a closet party, angered by the guy's blatant hypocrisy.
  • 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: The show is set in LA's real one, West Hollywood, justifying how the vast majority of characters seem to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender - at least the people the cast interact with. Not to mention the fact that the café they all hang out at caters to LGBT+ people.
  • Gaydar: On several occasions people pick up that someone is queer. Jenny gets pegged as attracted to women before she's even realized or accepted this for instance. Not all of the queer characters are able to though.
  • 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. Multiple times later straight men would also comment on two women together with approval, which they found creepy at best.
  • Girls Behind Bars: Season 5 sees Helena incarcerated in the La County Jail. The scenes include a strip search and shower, where she's hit on/threatened (however all other naked prisoners are unattractive). Also sex with her cellmate, who is very butch. So it's played absolutely straight.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Kit gets unexpectedly pregnant, and soon decides to have an abortion. Her boyfriend Angus, the father, is wholly supportive along with her friends. They all sympathize after she's tricked by a crisis pregnancy center who try to shame her into choosing against abortion (one nurse even blocking her path out of the exam room), which infuriates Kit. She goes on to get the abortion, and feels slightly sad afterward though comfortable with her decision.
  • Hand Signals: Jodi is deaf and speaks using ASL. Bette learned this language, too, so she could communicate with Jodi, after they become a couple. We are also treated to a silent shouting match between Jodi and her ex which culminated in a sign that required no proficiency in a sign language to understand, and a little bit of actual shouting which included dual f-bombs.
  • 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 and Tina's daughter Angelica.
    • Helena is a mother of two children with her ex-wife.
    • Later in Generation Q Alice is dating Nat, who has two children with her ex-wife Gigi as well.
    • Also in Generation Q Shane agrees to co-parent her ex-wife Quiara's baby. This ends tragically as Quiara miscarries later.
  • 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.
  • Hereditary Homosexuality: This turns out to be the case a number of times.
    • Cherie Jaffe is a lesbian (she's married to a man, but later confirms her orientation) like her daughter Clea.
    • Helena Peabody is a lesbian, while her mother Peggy's a bisexual woman.
    • Dana's a lesbian and her brother Howie turns out to be gay.
    • Molly, like her mother Phyllis, it turns out is a lesbian.
    • In Generation Q Alice interviews a sportswoman who's a lesbian, like her twin sister is too.
    • Bette and Tina's daughter Angelica turns out to be queer, coming out to then dating her girlfriend Jordi.
    • Generation Q introduces lesbian Sophie, whose brother Maribel's gay.
  • 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.
  • Heteronormative Crusader: A number of homophobes appear over the series, perhaps most notably Fae Buckley, who leads the charge against the art display at the museum Better runs and then becomes even more hostile on learning Bette's a lesbian, horribly insulting her over it during their live TV debate.
  • Homophobic Hate Crime:
    • Max, while he was going by Moira and with Jenny on a road trip, gets assaulted by a man when he's presenting as a Butch Lesbian. Jenny rescues him by tasing the guy.
    • Maria, a homeless teenage girl, reveals to Alice in a letter she reads on TV that her gay brother was killed by a man he hit on.
  • Hot Teacher:
    • Jenny's creative writing instructor in Season 2 (played by real-life bisexual 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.
  • How We Got Here: Season 6 opens with the reveal that Jenny's dead. Over the rest of the season it's shown what led up to this, starting three months before.
  • Hurricane of Euphemisms: A truly staggering number of euphemisms for the 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", "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.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: A lot of women show great enthusiasm during sex scenes. Female Casanovas and Sex Goddesses Papi and Shane especially tend to elicit highly vocal pleasure from their partners.
  • 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:
    • Kit, a straight woman, is pursued by Ivan, a transmasculine person, and she's somewhat amenable. It's discussed by her and Bette (who feel's Ivan's a Butch Lesbian). Kit says Ivan's said they're "more of a man" so she's willing to explore a relationship. It doesn't work out though.
    • Mark's fascination with Shane obviously includes lust. His friend notes that it's hopeless since she's a lesbian.
    • 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.
  • I Never: Used in "Lifecycle." The question of whether anyone playing has ever cheated on anyone ends up causing a serious mess.
  • 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.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy:
    • Tonya relates to Dana's parents that she was once engaged to a very nice man named Bayard who deeply lover her, though she was secretly unhappy as a closeted lesbian. He finally realized this and broke off their engagement, wanting Tonya to be happy by embracing her true self. It's this which gets Dana's parents to accept their relationship.
    • 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. Also, unlike Carmen Molly actually accepted Shane for who she was.
    • Alice recognizes her girlfriend Tasha is attracted to Jamie. She doesn't want to keep Tasha with her if she'd prefer Jamie, though it's unresolved during the series. Later she is with someone else in Generation Q, the Sequel Series, thus clearly they broke up at some point though (whether or not Tasha went with Jamie).
    • Alice then goes even further in Generation Q, becoming a throuple briefly with her girlfriend Nat and Nat's ex-wife as they have a lingering attraction, but doesn't like it. Nat realizes this, and goes back to having their old relationship, moved by how much Alice would do for her.
  • 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.
  • Last-Name Basis: In Generation Q Sarah Finley is almost always called just "Finley".
  • Late Coming Out: Phyllis is in her fifties when she admits to being a lesbian and comes out.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Long-Lost Relative:
    • After reconnecting with her estranged dad, Shane finds out she has a brother, Shay, from his second wife. Eventually she has to care for him as his mom leaves him with Shane.
    • In Generation Q Angelica does a DNA search and finds she's got a half-sister as they share the same birth father (who had been her mother's sperm donor).
  • 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.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: There are many sex scenes in locations outside characters' beds, such as in workplaces, bathrooms etc.
  • Masculine–Feminine Gay Couple:
    • Shane is bifauxnen and always dates more feminine women.
    • Jenny is pretty girly and thus had this dynamic with the very butch Moira (before his transition to Max anyway).
    • Mostly girlish Alice has a relationship with tough soldier Tasha.
    • Elegant, high class femme Helena hooks up with her intimidating butch cellmate Dusty while in jail.
  • 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.
    • After scattering Dana's ashes at the waterfall that she wanted along with her other friends, Alice, sees what looks like an image of Dana in the water briefly afterward. She's clearly unsure if this was really her spirit, a trick of the light or something else.
  • Meat-O-Vision: Shane experiences Sex-O Vision; when she swears off sex, she starts to hallucinate every women in her field of view as naked and willing.
  • Mister Seahorse: Max gets pregnant while transitioning to male (and looks quite masculine due to the hormones he's been taking).
  • 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. Angelica, Bette and Tina's teenage daughter (who's biracial) turns out to be queer too. Supporting characters include a Black trans man and a lesbian woman of color (she's played by a Swedish-American actress with Iranian parents, though her character's ethnicity is not stated).
  • Mr. Fanservice: Most of the prominent male characters are conventionally handsome, and have many shirtless scenes.
  • Ms. Fanservice: A lot of the main cast and many supporting characters are attractive women who frequently get it on pretty explicitly, with nearly everyone (except Bette) shown topless too. In Jenny's case, she even shows full-frontal nudity during her work as a stripper.
  • 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 Bisexuals:
    • At the end of season 1 Jenny (who earlier in the season was torn between her long-time male partner and the first woman she was attracted to) is involved at the same time with both a man and a woman. Both of them are aware of the other and it seems to be shaping up into an interesting poly relationship. However the writers seem to have decided not to pursue the the possibilities of this storyline and Season 2 begins with the guy breaking up with her because she's clearly more interested in women (later on, Jenny's sexuality gets complex again when she is dating a transgender man in the process of transitioning).
    • Alice identified as bisexual and dated both men and women up through season 2. After that the writers quietly dropped this and by the end of the series she was identifying as a lesbian.
    • Tina gets attracted to men in Season 3 and begins a relationship with one, which is mostly treated as her "changing sides" or "going straight" rather than bisexual.
    • In regards to them and other characters, lesbians show skepticism that bisexuality exists on more than one occasion.
    • Alice's bisexuality comes back into focus during Generation Q, when she's attracted to Tom and starts a relationship with him. This is after years of identifying as a lesbian with only same-sex-relationships. She's unhappy at knowing she'll have to essentially come out again, complaining about lesbians disbelieving that bisexuals even exist and afraid of the reaction her many fans will have (Alice heads up a lesbian-oriented talk show). It's implied that she's largely attracted to women and just found it easier identifying as a lesbian.
  • No Pregger Sex: Averted with Tina in the second series, where her pregnancy doesn't deter her from having sex with Helena and Bette.
  • Not What It Looks Like: In Season 6 Jenny spots Bette and Kelly, who are apparently having sex from the angle that she sees. This turns out to be a mistake though, and Bette is helping clean Kelly's dress after she spilled wine on it.
  • One-Drop Rule: Mixed race Bette and fully black Yolanda discuss racial politics in one episode, and at one point Yolanda brings this up to tell Bette why Bette is still considered 'black'. Bette retaliates by asking if she's going to let White America define her identity. Bette notes that she could pass, but never does, consciously embracing having black heritage and always calling herself biracial rather than to deny either of her parents implicitly.
  • Opposites Attract: Alice and Tasha are very different people, yet become a couple nonetheless. On the one hand, Alice is a bubbly girly effusive woman who's staunchly opposed to the Iraq War. Tasha is a butch, taciturn soldier (starting out), who's very defensive of it given her service there.
  • 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.
  • The Peeping Tom: Mark, Shane and Jenny's housemate in Season 2, is allowed to make a documentary on lesbian life but then places hidden cameras throughout the house. He records Shane having sex with multiple women (one of which Mark hired to seduce her) and intimate private conversations. Jenny finds out and is coldly furious, saying it was "rapey", asking him to speak with his sisters about how they'd react to this. He initially planned to sell the film as a "lesbians gone wild" porn flick to a sleazy company, though Mark later breaks the contract after he's gotten close with them, removing the cameras and apologizing to Jenny. Shane reacts by slapping him, but is more forgiving, though Jenny flatly rejects Mark's attempted apology.
  • Polyamory: In Generation Q Alice, Nat and Nat's ex-wife Gigi become a "throuple" briefly, though this doesn't work out for them.
  • Post Coital Collapse: The camera cuts to Alice collapsing on her back, breathless and exhausted after she just finished having sex with Papi. Only for Papi to state that they're far from finished and the sex resumes.
  • 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!" She does, and is threatened with it by other inmates before her cellmate stops them.
  • 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.
  • Put on a Bus:
  • Dylan was Put on a Bus after Season 3, but then returned to become a major character of Season 6.
  • Race Lift: In-Universe, Bette's annoyed that the actress to play the character who's based on her in Lez Girls is white, not biracial like her.
  • Really Gets Around:
    • Shane in Season 2 estimates she's had sex with between 900 and 1200 people.
    • Later on Papi reveals she'd had over 1000 conquests.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • Bette gives an epic one to a conservative Senator who's on the subcommittee controlling NEA arts funding after he's denounced a lesbian-themed painting in her museum and then publicly set the copy she brought on fire, telling him that he's really the unpatriotic one for this (after he called her work that) with this whole thing just a distraction from the real issues in the US which legislators won't deal with.
    • Alice gives a long (and funny) one to Gabby where she strings together all the serious things her friends told her to say ... and then concludes it by saying "Step off, bitch!"
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Kit leaves her gun in her coat, and her little niece Angelica gets ahold of it. Kit gets it safely away from her but is distraught over what could have happened.
  • Scenery Censor: Unlike most of the characters, Joyce is covered by nearby objects when she's naked in her office.
  • Self-Harm: In one episode Jenny is found cutting her legs by her roommate, Shane.
  • Sequel Series: The L Word: Generation Q began in 2019, ten years after the original ended, picking up with Bette, Alice, Shane and Angelica, Bette's daughter (Tina is not seen at first, but later appears). Four new main characters were also introduced, along with several supporting.
  • Sex for Solace: While mourning the death of Dana, Alice and Lara try to find comfort in each other’s arms, with Alice pleading for Lara to scratch her back hard because she just wants to feel something.
  • Sex with the Ex: After they'd broken up, moving on into relationships with other people, Bette and Tina began an affair together again in Season 5.
  • Shared Family Quirks: Shane's dad it turns out is promiscuous like her and easily picks up women.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Variant; Tasha is very closed off and defensive about her experiences in Iraq.
  • Shout-Out: A hilariously hammy one to Charlie's Angels, using seventies-style laser-weapon-looking gaydars (it found out Alice's orientation (bisexual, but not Jenny's)).
  • Show Within a Show: Lez Girls, Jenny's movie based on her life along with the other main characters. Many of them are very annoyed by their unflattering fictional counterparts.
  • Sleeping with the Boss: Jodi ends up in this situation when she's hired by the university as a professor, with her grilfriend Bette as the dean who's her superior. This gets awkward when they break up over Bette's cheating.
  • Strip Poker: In "Lesson Number One," Helena plays strip gin against Catherine in an attempt to clear her gambling debts.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: People repeatedly comment on how different Alice and Tasha are, with even their couples counselor telling them it won't work. In a subversion of how this would usually be handled-it doesn't. They ultimately do break up.
  • 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.
  • The Talk: In Generation Q Bette starts giving her daughter Angelica one after she's started dating. Angelica is embarrassed and begs her to stop.
  • Talking Down the Suicidal: In Season 6 Alice must talk down Marie, a homeless girl who sent a heartrending letter about her brother's homophobic letter. Alice read it on her show, and Marie is threatening to jump off a roof, feeling depressed over her loss. Tasha points out Alice is not a psychologist and really shouldn't be handling this. Alice manages to talk her down anyway though.
  • 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.
  • Thoughtcrime: Tasha believes even thinking of cheating is cheating. Later it comes back on her when she's attracted to Jamie, as her girlfriend Alice notes.
  • A Threesome Is Hot: In Generation Q Alice and her girlfriend Nat have a three-way with Nat's ex-wife Gigi as they still have an attraction for each other.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: The series had multiple romantic examples.
    • Dana the Tennis player, and flirty Alice. Later on, Alice was in a relationship with a military officer, Butch Lesbian Tasha.
    • Lipstick Lesbian Jenny also dated Shane, who's a more bifauxnen tomboy.
  • Tomboyish Name: Shane, the resident bifauxnen lesbian tomboy of the cast, has this.
  • Token Religious Teammate: Jenny was Jewish and Bette is a Buddhist, but it didn't come up a lot. The issue of religion within the LGBT+ community is raised and discussed in Generation Q, which introduced the recurring character Rebecca Dowery, who briefly sees new main character Finley who's thrown after learning she's a minister. Rebecca, it turns out, is with the Los Angeles MCC (Multicultural Community Churchnote ), an LGBT+ affirming denomination. She notes that she's much more closeted about being a Christian than queer as many LGBT+ people have very painful histories with Christianity (like Finley, who'd been raised Catholic and kicked out by her parents). After realizing that Finley is deeling with deep-seated issues over this and can't see religious people (let alone clergy) without anxiety over them, Rebecca breaks things off, expressing her hope that she'll work through them and maybe find another faith in the future.
  • Tragic Stillbirth:
    • Bette and Tina lose their first baby to miscarriage, devastating them both.
    • Shane agrees to co-parent her ex-wife Quiara's baby, but Quiara soon miscarries. In fact Shane's more upset than she is, as Quiara just says she'll try it again.
  • Triang Relations: Alice is dating Tasha when the latter becomes attracted to Jamie. Tasha resists the urge to cheat, but they break up anyway.
  • 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.
    • Dani and Sophie share a bath together in Generation Q, leading toward sex very quickly.
  • 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.
  • Unfortunate Names: Stacy Merkin, whose surname is that of a pubic wig. Jenny insults her mercilessly about it.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Shane and Paige were "telling stories" to each other, which meant, of course, sex.
  • Vampire Episode: "Lifeline" with possibly Lesbian Vampire Uta Refson and BDSM.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot:
    • Kit, cause she's pregnant with Angus's child and has Morning Sickness.
    • A dog that Jennifer wanted to get from an animal shelter throws up on-camera.
  • Wall Bang Her: Several times two women have sex up against a wall, and Jenny also with a guy while her back is to the side of an aquarium.
  • Wants a Prize for Basic Decency: Alice thinks she deserves credit as a result of wanting to cheat, though not doing it. Her girlfriend Tasha scoffs at this.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Max is last seen at the end of the original show, pregnant and single. Generation Q, the Sequel Series, explains what became of the characters who don't reappear aside from him.
  • Where Everybody Knows Your Flame: Several LGBT+ bars or clubs show up in the series which characters visit, such as The Planet, the SheBar and The Hit Club. In Generation Q Shane also buys a former lesbian bar that has since become a more general establishment, remaking it as such renamed Dana's after her friend who died from breast cancer. A couple of the new supporting characters work there with her. Mostly they're vanilla, though on special occasions they have wild music and drag performances.
  • 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. It turns out that she killed herself in Generation Q though.

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