Live from Australia: Things I Don’t Understand About “The L Word” (or “Crystal Loves Papi”)

In Australia, where all the teevee shows come out months & years after our own, young Sapphicly inclined females like Autostraddle’s own Crystal are left clamoring to keep up far after the fact. Without a supportive ring of friends to recap & bemoan & laugh & live along with her, she is forced to work out all this confusion by herself. Autostraddle can help …



ZOMG JENNY IS ABOUT TO DIE! I’ve been busy watching seasons 5 and 6 of The L Word but stopped watching at the 50-minute mark of the finale ’cause just like Max and his rack, I’m just not ready to let go. Bette, Tina and Max just stood around having an awkward conversation about sweaters! And the anticipation! It’s killing me! What happens next? Has anyone seen Jenny? Whodunit? Don’t tell me, I don’t want to know.r4

Even if I did, you couldn’t tell me anyway and that’s part of the problem, isn’t it.

No-one knows.

Not me, not you.

Not Ilene.

See … I’m a little behind regarding the going-ons of this show because ’til just last year, I hadn’t even seen it. Some could say that makes me a lousy lesbian but in my defense, Australian free TV only aired the first season, which is why “this train’s running so late for lezzie town.” But, I’m glad it finally did arrive, because as much as I don’t understand about this show, one thing is quite clear: it literally changed my life. See, if I didn’t run a “computer search” on this so-called “L Word” back in 2007, I never would’ve stumbled across Riese and a little blog called Autostraddle.

When I came to NYC to visit in 2008, I was eager to watch the show Riese was so dedicated to recapping, so I attended the viewing party for Lifecycle. The night was full of laughter, banter, jokes and Carly & Riese’s repeated exclamations of “write that down!” … and I had absolutely no idea what was going on.

Afterwards, with Riese’s peer pressure encouragement, I spent what felt like, and probably was, weeks on the couch discovering a fascinating yet confusing world of girls in tight dresses talking breathing sleeping breathing thinking breathing etc. She wanted me to write a blog about the special experience of watching so much L Word in so little time, primarily the things that I don’t understand about The L Word –– the things that just do not make sense.

I’ve gotta say, a lot of great things in life don’t make sense. David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. Courtney Love’s twitter feed. Stopping for a milkshake on my way home from the gym. But the going-ons of The L Word? Well, there are moments in this series that I think are genuinely brilliant: Manatees! Basketball! Monet! Stakeouts! Team Cheaters! Team Martyrs! Push It! Motherfuckin’nannyfuckers! And then there is everything else…

Things I Don’t Understand About The L Word

1. The L Word Board Game


The L Word Game allegedly enabled me to battle my friends for ownership of The Planet. I don’t understand how something with such potential turned out to be so disappointing. Showtime refuses to acknowledge Australia’s existence, but thankfully [redacted ex of Riese] kindly gifted me this game during my aforementioned NYC trip. I tore it open eagerly only to discover a thinly-themed game of “Truth or Dare.” The game was immediately stowed in the closet and never played, ’cause I am to Truth or Dare what Shane is to relationships and Papi is to breakfast.

When Kate Moennig was snapped playing this game at the Season 5 premier party, I’ll admit to a few seconds of judgment until I realised she was playing with Paris Hilton and then all was forgiven.

2. Excessive Product Placement


I’m not the most observant viewer, but even I couldn’t miss was the way Ilene Chaiken so persistently plugged the same products, places, people and musicians over and over again. It was relentless, and what I REALLY don’t understand is whether she genuinely cannot judge when enough is enough or if she just doesn’t care.

Let’s talk about Free City, the series’ most persistent brand. To be clear: I like Free City, it’s hot, it’s a really good brand. I’ve never personally been able to afford their USD $150 (AUD $5,000) t-shirts, but like so many things in life, not being able to have something just makes me want it so much more. However — if I can’t afford Free City, then I don’t think Shane and Tasha can either… although to be fair, Shane’s intriguing bedroom photography probably sold for big bucks.

3. The Lesbian Phone Tree Shakes For Pink and Gets …. Betty?


The usage of the lesbian phone tree was definitely one of this show’s top ten highlights (honourable mentions include Luck be a Lady for Alice supporting Shane’s underwear, Jodi calling Bette “wicked hot” and Papi explaining the difference between the words “girl” and “girl”.)

However, in Season Two when Alice shook the tree in search of Pink and BETTY fell out? Epic fail. Even more baffling was the crowd’s enthusiastic reaction to BETTY showing up in place of P!nk at the opening of The Planet. Personally I would be a little disappointed over that substitute. And THEN Shane KISSED EZ Girl and then Carmen kissed Jenny and I started feeling dissappointed and way less gay.

I like to think that BETTY’s music annoyed the cast just as much as it annoyed me, because this one time while Riese, Stef, [redacted], [redacted] and I went to see Uh Huh Her DJ at SXSW [in the spirit of our group mission to witness every UHH show] and [redacted] asked them to play BETTY, they did not break into laughter but rather reacted with horror, and perhaps even confusion … I suppose in a world where you shake the tree for P!nk and get EZ Girl, almost anything is possible, even UHH’s biggest fans requesting ‘The Way That We Live.’

4. The L Word Convention, Sydney 2010


Next January, your favourite L Word characters are traveling all the way to Sydney, Australia to meet their fans. I don’t understand why we’re still going be talking about this show in 2010, but okay! It’s happening. Given seasons 5 and 6 haven’t yet aired in Australia, it’ll be a sad day for the less-internet savvy lesbians out there who will now hear about Jenny’s demise from Max in his keynote address.

The convention line-up is Tina, Jodi and Helena, plus three more key cast members whose names are yet to be revealed. I hope it’s Kit, Angus and Max, because my inner-cynic would go into overdrive if every single one of my least favourite characters are in the same room at the same time. Plus if Max goes then he could podcast it with his video camera, reducing my need to take notes. [Convention organisers, call me. I have ideas.]

The official Convention press release states that the actors have “confirmed their intention to attend”, and the promoter’s careful wording makes me feel that come next January, the six cast members that do show up could potentially be Candace, Tom, Gabby, Lacey, Sunshine Blvd and Lover Cindi.

I kid, I kid. The Convention is going to be brill. P.S, please give me a media pass. [P.P.S. Riese please fill out the form to get me a media pass.]

5. Personality Disorder


Where do I begin? Most characters bounced back and forth on the extreme ends of the personality spectrum during the show’s life, changing personalities quicker than Shane changed her place of employment.

Speaking of Shane, in season 6 when she named Nikki as the biggest mistake she’d ever made, I couldn’t help but think that Shane from season 3 would be making a strong case for a certain mistake called Carmen de la Pica Morales. (As in, leaving Carmen at the altar).

Shane had a lot to say at the beginning, like profundities about the new male and his seed. And remember her ‘Sexuality is fluid’ speech? Missy Higgins does. So I was confused when Shane’s contribution to the show in certain seasons thereafter was reduced to sighs, head-tilts, hurt looks and fucking. But Shane is really a mild example.

There was Kit, who became more ghetto the longer she lived away from the ghetto. There was Nikki, who transformed from a relatively down-to-earth actress to a total diva in the season break. There was Helena, upper class mother one season, at-risk jail bait the next. I won’t even get started on Jenny, but to be fair, at least she had an excuse.

6. Naming Conventions

Tibette. Sharmen. Shenny. Sholly. I don’t understand what drives L Word fans to combine the names of their favorite couples. I know it happens to other lesbian couples on the TV too, but I don’t watch those shows. All I have to say about this is that I just don’t get it. I really don’t.

7. Jenny


What can I say about the confusion surrounding Jenny’s death that hasn’t been said already? I guess we should take a minute to talk about her life. Jenny Schecter was brilliant. She won my heart the day she told Tim she was writing a story about a mute woman who could speak the language of manatees. The crazier she became, the more endearing I found her to be. By the time she escalated to buying dogs from the shelter and buying Nikki for Shane, I was in love. And then The L Word broke my heart.

I don’t know what’s more ridiculous, the ‘Who Shot Mr Burns’ ending or the super heavy handed threats against Jenny’s life that encourage us to guess. And so we do. Before Riese informed me that Ilene never actually wrote an ending and never determined Jenny’s killer herself, I spent the majority of the season convinced that Jenny kills Jenny. A murder or even an accident just didn’t seem believable, regardless of how many times Bette and Tina remind me that that fucking balcony railing isn’t yet finished. And if I’ve jumped to the conclusion that Jenny turned to suicide, I’m probably not the only one. And I don’t think that’s okay.

And lastly…

8. Papi

The biggest thing that I don’t understand about The L Word is why Papi’s character only lasted for one season. I know sending characters into the vortex is Ilene’s best trick, but given that Jodi sailed her way through three seasons without bringing a whole lot to the table, I’d like to know what exactly Papi did to earn her own outsing.

I have no idea if Papi’s character was developed by the work experience kid (ed. note: that’s Australian for “internship”), or by real writers as a parody, but regardless – she was hands-down my favourite character. Sure, it’s an ironic love primarily cultivated from her ridic pimp ‘tude, sense of style and talent for talking in the third person, but love is love. I’ve shortlisted my favourite Papi-related moments in three quick ‘n easy points:

1. Now that you’re in my solar system, I can’t have you dimming my stars and shit.” – Papi
2. Really Papi, Really?” – Alice
3. Rule number one…

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Founding member. Former writer. Still loves Autostraddle with her whole heart.

Crystal has written 320 articles for us.


  1. I shouldn’t have read this in class, I could barely control my laughter. Totally agree with everything you said, down to “Really Papi, really” one of my favorite quotes. Great job!

  2. Holy crap, this is hilarious. I love looking at everything that’s wrong with the L word ’cause IFC is batshit crazy.

    • She is batshit crazy! I spent a lot of the weekend thinking that if I were Ilene, I’d prbably be batshit crazy as well. Then I slapped myself. I’ll flesh out these thoughts in my next post, ‘IFC: Maladjusted, or Misunderstood?’.

  3. crystal this is all amazing. the other product placement that bothered me (aside from the obvs OURCHART DOT COM) was Dos Equis beer. It was featured in almost every single episode I think. Every time someone drank a beer, it was emblazoned with an XX on the label. I think I noticed someone drink a different brand of beer late in the final season, but I also might have been hallucinating from the stress of watching said final season.

    • I was always annoyed by the blatant Subaru advertising in the first/second season when they “sponsored” Dana. What other show has ever had a sponsorship within a sponsorship before?

    • I haven’t been around many lesbians — I live in Indiana, which is kind of like Mississippi, but north of the Mason-Dixon line — so when I saw all the DE on TLW, I thought, “Lesbians must love Dos Equis!?”


      I also always wondered how any of the characters could afford Free City.

    • Sorry? What is this ‘Chart’ you speak of? Is it for everyone?

      The whole Dos Equis thing confuses me because I thought lesbians only drank vodka. But I do remember you commenting on the change up to Dos Equis in a recap. The catering truck must have ran out that day.

      • It seems I don’t know how to reply to individual comments.
        I wonder if Ilene got a free car out of the Suburu promo? I imagine the Dana tie-in sold a lot of Suburu Outbacks. She has probably traded it for a Prius by now.

    • Apparently the advertising worked though because I enjoy XX and I don’t even remember noticing it in the show.

  4. I am sitting at work attempting to stifle my laughter! Also, “really Papi?” has changed my life. It is part of my regular internal monologue on a daily basis.

    • Have you ever been caught out reading Autostraddle at work? I imagine that could be awkward. I’d like to create a questionnaire on this matter.

  5. “Do you remember Shane’s ‘sexuality is fluid’ speech? Missy Higgins does.”

    i Love you, Crystal!

    And Missy.
    And Shane.

    And Autostraddle.

  6. Ha ha! Awesome. I could provide my Belarusian perspective on the show, but it would end with potatoes and a dictatorship, so I’m not going to. But thanks for this, Crystal!

      • Haha I didn’t even notice this was that old. Your comment brought me here because it was in the sidebar thing. I love that I didn’t realize it was from two years ago. I just thought “Wow, they’re REALLY behind with TV in Australia!” Er, yeah.

  7. Potatoes and a dictatorship is the best comment ever, on any blog. Go Suzanna.

  8. I could provide my Irish-diaspora perspective on the show, but it would end with potatoes and a failed revolution against the English.

    • I could provide my Jewish/Native American perspective on the show, but that would end with us all being rallied together in a too-small uncomfortable parcel of land/work camp by a bunch of very white people to either slowly or quickly lose our identities, health and lives while the rest of the world spins madly on. Too soon?

  9. Speaking of product placement, I always thought having the Season 3 finale take place at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler was cool. Only if I skied…

  10. what I really didn’t understad was why IFC brought Papi back for 1 episode of the last season. I was really excited, and then spent the rest of the season waiting for her to reappear. I probably should’ve known better, hey?

  11. bravo. Very funny. Seasons 5 and 6 just seemed like a train wreck to me. Would have rather that the show had ended a bit earlier with some shred of coherency.

  12. i predict that at the tokyo convention in 2027, ilene will stand on a stage with a microphone going “if you’re all good little lesbians, i’ll give you a movie.”

  13. honestly, if we’re still talking about tlw now, we’ll still be talking about it in 2010. i’m embarrassed, but it’s true.

    this also is brilliant. another true statement.

  14. all ihave to say is: this is brilliant. 100% made my night.
    it’s a good point that shane never once goes back and thinks about how big a mistake she made my leaving carmen.

    *shakes fist at ilene.*

  15. I really enjoyed reading this. Props to the writer! was hilarious, Im gonna show my brother this when I see him :)

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