Autostraddle March Madness: Better Halves — Generation Q

When I set out to do this year’s contest, I wasn’t expecting to do a The L Word: Generation Q region. Sure, we’ve all got some feelings about our favorite Gen Q characters and couples…but an entire region? But two things changed my mind: first, I knew that if I offered the show’s relationships as options for the selection committee, they’d likely win, pushing some of our favorite pairings in the GROWN region out of the competition. But second, and perhaps more importantly: few shows exist that better illustrate this year’s theme of Better Halves.

Thanks to the work of our A+ Selection Committee, the Generation Q region is populated from some of our favorite couples from the show. And before anyone asks: “Yes, Sinley was an option and no, it did not fall within the top 8 couples.” Trust me, I was as surprised as you were. I guess their Season 2 story did more to dampen enthusiasm for the couple than I’d anticipated. Still, though, what makes this region the most interesting of the tournament is that you’ve got multiple characters in multiple relationships…and it really forces you to think about what makes someone a “better half.”

Since she didn’t make the field, let’s use Finley as an example. If she were an option, you’d be free to pick Finley because she reminds you of yourself or because she reminds you of the exact type of women to whom you are attracted. But what if you’d been forced to choose between Finley with Rebecca and Finley with Sophie? That begs the question: which of Finley’s girlfriend made her the best version of herself? Who made Finley the better half?

Speculation aside, let’s get down to brass tacks: which of the 16 participants in the Gen Q region will move onto the field of 32?


background: a young Black woman watching TV with a remote in her hand. foreground text: autostraddle march madness // dani (with gigi) vs. dani (with sophie) on a teal background with purple font

Dani Nùñez (with Gigi), The L Word: Generation Q

Relationship Status: Temporarily Detained

When Dani meets Gigi for the first time, she’s just coming off the worst heartbreak of her life. She tries to excuse her reluctance by saying that she doesn’t want to do to Bette what was done to her by Sophie. Gigi doesn’t believe her but she doesn’t say anything; she gives Dani the space to come to that conclusion on her own. Finally, she asks the question she’s been holding onto since they first crossed paths: “is this real?” Because the chemistry is palpable between them and, of course, Dani can feel it…but she doesn’t trust it because she’s been hurt before.

Over time, that hurt yields to Gigi’s unrelenting passion and candor…and in its wake, it leaves a better Dani. One who doesn’t retreat into her shell when problems happen. One who isn’t afraid to stand up for herself, even in front of her intimidating father. One who meets Gigi’s openness with her own, one who isn’t afraid to be vulnerable and ambitious. One who is the best version of herself.

Dani Nùñez (with Sophie),The L Word: Generation Q

Relationship Status: So Over

Late in Gen Q‘s pilot, Dani busies herself trying to set-up a romantic scene: there are candles and wine (which she takes a sip of, to calm her nerves). Then Sophie comes rushing in — after a shitty day at work — and collapses on the wrong chair. Dani makes her move…she’s imagined this scenario so many times and in that imagined version of this marriage proposal Sophie was sitting on the couch. It seems miniscule but that moment is so emblematic of what was wrong with Dani and Sophie’s relationship. They were never going to match up to Dani’s imagined version.

But in the quiet (read: post-coital) moments of “Lake House,” you get the sense that it wasn’t always that way…that once upon a time, these two genuinely knew each other like no one else did.


background: a young Black woman watching TV with a remote in her hand. foreground: autostraddle march madness // Nat (with Alice) vs. Tom (with Alice) on a teal background with purple font

Alice Pieszecki (with Nat), The L Word: Generation Q

Relationship Status: Over

There’s this cheesy Salma Hayek romcom that I used to watch every time I caught it playing on cable and in the penultimate scene, the protagonist — a WASPy guy from upstate New York — professes his love saying, “You’re everything I never knew I always wanted.” I suspect that’s how Alice must’ve felt when she fell in love with Nat Bailey. The wife, the two kids, the picket fence…it’s not the life Alice would’ve imagined for herself…but by the end of Season 1, it’s all she wants.

Alice Pieszecki (with Tom), The L Word: Generation Q

Relationship Status: It’s Complicated

Alice has lived an extroverted life: first the radio show, now the television show that bears her name. Alice is as public as any person can possibly be. But still, there are pieces of Alice’s life that are reserved for her…that have well-drawn boundaries around them. Enter Tom, the dorky but charming book editor, who’s ready to push against those boundaries. Alice resists — if Dana can’t still be her own, at least her grief can — but Tom doesn’t give up and eventually she relents. The move makes Alice’s book better…but it also makes her better: opening herself up to the possibility that she might be able to fully love again.

(Also, points for just remembering that Alice is bisexual? Well, sort of.)


background: a young Black woman watching TV with a remote in her hand. foreground: autostraddle march madness // Pippa (with Bette) vs. Mirabel (with Micah) on a teal background with purple font

Bette Porter (with Pippa), The L Word: Generation Q

Relationship Status: TBD

Early in Season 2, when Bette lists her criteria for a new mate, Shane and Alice scoff at the notion that she really wants a career woman who is as passionate about her work as she is. What Bette really needs, they suggest, is a “wifey wife-wife kind of type” who will “deal with the stuff [Bette] can’t be bothered with.” Pippa Pascal is certainly not that.

Pippa and her work exceed Bette’s lofty expectations and, in the process, she forces Bette to level up. She pushes Bette to become a better art dealer and pushes Bette to reckon with blackness and queerness in ways she never knew she needed. Pippa challenges Bette and, ultimately, turns her into a better person.

Micah Lee (with Maribel), The L Word: Generation Q

Relationship Status: In Amor

When we first meet him, Micah is a fixture on dating apps. He opts for the easier path, hoping to escape the inherent vulnerability that comes with being in a relationship. And when Micah’s relationship with José collapses under the weight of José’s secrets, you think for a moment that Micah will regress but, instead, he starts to reconsider who he is and what (and who) he wants. It’s his friendship and his budding attraction to Maribel that drives this self-discovery. The relationship doesn’t proceed without bumps in the road but, in the end, Micah discovers the best version of himself is in a loving relationship with Maribel.

Is it the best bisexual story that either iteration of The L Word has ever told? Quite possibly.


background: a young Black woman watching TV with a remote in her hand. foreground: autostraddle march madness // Tess (with Shane) vs. Gigi (with Bette) on a teal background with purple font

Shane McCutcheon (with Tess), The L Word: Generation Q

Relationship Status: LDR, maybe?

Shane McCutcheon is used to being the one that’s chased. She crosses paths with someone, sparks fly, and then we’re off to the races. But with Tess, it’s different. Tess is so sure of who she is and what she wants, that she doesn’t immediately yield to Shane’s charms (the fact that Shane slept with Tess’ then-girlfriend probably didn’t help). But even when she’s rebuffed by Tess, Shane keeps trying: she courts Tess, in hopes of winning her affection. Finally, the chased has become the chaser.

In fact, she might chase her all the way to Las Vegas…because, as Shane seems to agree, “a love like [what she has with Tess] doesn’t come around that often and when it does you have to be willing to do crazy shit to keep it.”

Bette Porter (with Gigi), The L Word: Generation Q

Relationship Status: Over Before It Began

I try to write these things and make the best case for voting for each participant, irrespective of what I think. But Bette when she’s with Gigi, though? I’m not sure that there’s a case to be made for Bette here. Can’t we all just agree that it she was uniformly terrible? Bette laid out this list of things she’s after in a mate and Gigi hit every mark…and yet, she never really gives her a chance to be anything other that a fuck buddy. It’s Bette at her worst.

That said, it does remind me of a real version of that fever dream from the OG show where Bette kisses Helena — just the two hottest people on the show, making out, NBD — and for that, I’m eternally grateful…even if Bette was an ass.


background: a young Black woman watching TV with a remote in her hand. foreground text: autostraddle march madness // dani (with gigi) vs. dani (with sophie) on a teal background with purple font

Gigi Ghorbani (with Dani), The L Word: Generation Q

Relationship Status: Temporarily Detained

For this one, let’s go to the video tape:

I rest my case.

Sophie Suarez (with Dani),The L Word: Generation Q

Relationship Status: So Over*

It takes until Sophie’s relationship with Dani is over* for me to finally get a glimpse of why they were together in the first place. They’re lying in bed together, after comfort turns to passion, and they just seem to get each other. Sophie sees how sexy Dani’s ambition is, Dani recognizes Sophie’s heart. Their relationship had gotten too hard and it shouldn’t have been…and in Ojai we see that, maybe, it wasn’t always that way.

Maybe, in the before-times, Sophie pushed Dani to go after the things she wanted at work…to challenge the patriarchy and to show everyone that she deserved to be in the room. It’s easy to imagine that…and it’s easy to imagine the fire she stoked in Dani also being the thing that ultimately doomed their relationship.

(*This assumes that they are over…which everyone seems to have accepted as fact…but that no one’s firmly said and I don’t know that I entirely believe. Are they this generation’s Tina and Bette?)


background: a young Black woman watching TV with a remote in her hand. foreground: autostraddle march madness // Alice (with Nat) vs. Alice (with Nat) on a teal background with purple font

Nat Bailey (with Alice), The L Word: Generation Q

Relationship Status: Over

The initial decision to invite Nat’s ex-wife into the bed she shares with Alice may have been an impulsive one, spurned by a few too many drinks at the Dana Fairbanks Memorial Tavern, it ends up being a life-altering one for Nat Bailey. It opens her up to the possibility that relationships can exist in a different way that she’s always known. It breaks down all her conventional ideas of what love should look like — the wife, the kids, the white picket fence — and allows herself to imagine something new. And yet, when Alice says that she’s fine with the conventional…that she wants Nat and the conventional…Nat readily sacrifices her exploration and seeks to build a life with the woman she loves.

Tom (with Alice), The L Word: Generation Q

Relationship Status: It’s Complicated

Did I think that a cis man would make it onto our field for March Madness? No, I did not. But I get it, A+ members, I do….there’s something about Tom, right? The way he uses humor to break down Alice’s walls (and ours, if we’re being honest). The way he evokes his own losses and shortcomings to find common ground with Alice. The way he pushes Alice to mine her emotional depth, rather than allowing her to rest on her ability to be funny. Plus? He seems so thrilled just to be on Alice’s arm…like he knows he hit the jackpot with her. It’s endearing…and you find yourself liking him and cheering for them, despite yourself.


background: a young Black woman watching TV with a remote in her hand. foreground: autostraddle march madness // Pippa (with Bette) vs. Mirabel (with Micah) on a teal background with purple font

Pippa (with Bette), The L Word: Generation Q

Relationship Status: TBD

Early in Gen Q‘s second season, Bette announces her criteria for her next mate: has kids of her own, isn’t married, isn’t straight, has a career and must be passionate about her work. Pippa checks off every box on Bette’s list. But what Pippa brings to the table — and what Bette is wholly unprepared for, at first — is her firm and unrelenting sense of self and how that makes Bette want to re-evaluate everything she’s ever thought about herself.

Does Pippa make Bette into a better version of herself? As an activist and an art dealer? Absolutely. And perhaps, by pushing Bette to interrogate her blackness, Pippa makes Bette a better mother: someone who can understand the challenges that Angelica’s vocalized. But a better partner? Well, the jury’s still out on that one.

Maribel Suarez (with Micah), The L Word: Generation Q

Relationship Status: In Amor

During the Suarez family dinner during “Last Dance,” it’s clear that Maribel’s mother has few expectations of her daughter’s love life…or as Maribel succinctly puts it, “My mom doesn’t think that anyone’s gonna want to date me.” The moment — however divorced from everything else we’ve seen from the Suarez family — does a lot to explain Maribel’s reluctance to jump into a full-fledged relationship with Micah. People put you down enough, you start to believe it. But, as the dinner goes on, it’s clear that Maribel’s relationship with Micah has undone some of that programming…and she’s started to believe that she can be loved.


background: a young Black woman watching TV with a remote in her hand. foreground: autostraddle march madness // Tess (with Shane) vs. Gigi (with Bette) on a teal background with purple font

Tess Van De Berg (with Shane), The L Word: Generation Q

Relationship Status: LDR, maybe?

When most people meet Shane, you know right away if there’s going to be something…she meets someone, sparks fly and maybe a relationship will blossom (though, probably not). But that’s not the way things go with Tess. As the manager of the Dana Fairbanks Memorial Tavern explains during poker night, “I hated Shane for sleeping with my girlfriend, but look at us now: we’re friends.” Everyone who’s known Shane at the table chuckles…because when in her life has Shane ever been friendzoned?

That’s the great thing about Tess, though: she challenges Shane in ways that she’s never been challenged. She makes Shane step up and be a person that’s worthy of her.

Gigi Ghorbani (with Bette), The L Word: Generation Q

Relationship Status: Over Before It Began

Gigi’s first date with Bette is a blind date. Alice and Nat set them up, in an effort give their former third something else to focus on (or, as I read it: so neither of them will be tempted to want to sleep with Gigi again). It’s not clear to Gigi, immediately, that Bette isn’t here for a real relationship so she makes a genuine effort to win her over. But when Gigi presses Bette for more honest and candid conversation…when she asks to be more than a booty call…Bette stubbornly refuses. Thankfully, though, Gigi knows her worth and finds a relationship where she’s valued.


Now that I’ve refreshed your memory…it’s time to vote!


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Natalie

A black biracial, bisexual girl raised in the South, working hard to restore North Carolina's good name. Lover of sports, politics, good TV and Sonia Sotomayor. You can follow her latest rants on Twitter.

Natalie has written 277 articles for us.

21 Comments

  1. obvi I’m biased due to my Sinley loyalties but god the idea of Sophie and Dani being this show’s Tina and Bette brings me physical pain!! (Although, who knows, since the l word likes to give characters personality transplants between seasons maybe it would be fine?)

    • If SHOWTIME really wants this show to survive another three seasons let Dani and Gigi carry the show and cut the cast list by reducing Nat, Micah, Maribel, Sophie and Finley to reoccurring. It’s funny seeing some fans of Tibette vote for Micah and Maribel because they despise Pippa. My wife did the same thing. Although I’m not a fan of Bette, I think she is better off with Pippa.

      • Very, very strange reply. First of all, Nat already is not a series regular. Secondly, reducing the screen time of the trans and disabled characters is not going to fix the show— better writing will.

  2. Maybe I don’t understand how the first round nominations worked (reader: I don’t), but I admit I’m very surprised that Bette/Gigi and Nat/Alice (and even Dani/Sophie!) made it to this round, but not Finley/Sophie (?!). I guess all 11.5 of us #Sinley shippers (plus Alice) couldn’t carry them.

    I understand the way the addiction storyline was (poorly) handled in season 2 directly impacted their relationship also in painful and just bad/unpleasant to watch way (due to aforementioned poor storytelling), but I feel like there is a strong case to be made for the way that many of the the reasons they *do* work as a couple can be traced back to how they each challenge and support the other to be the best version of themselves. (Prior “bro nights” notwithstanding).

    But no one my needs my dissertation defense on Sinley. In their stead: Dani when she’s with Gigi, Shane when she’s with Tess, and Pippa run for your life before Bette brings you down with her!

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