On Blackness and “The L Word: Generation Q”

When The L Word: Generation Q returned for its second season, we were so prepared to fall back into the messy gay drama and hot sex and, well, Bette Porter saying “fuck” but also this time hopefully “fuck me” and to a dark-skinned Black woman for the first time in the show’s history.

Generation Q Season One was not perfect in its treatment of Black and POC characters, but in many ways it was an important step away from the original series which famously privileged its white characters and treated its breathtakingly few characters of color as a joke or afterthought. There was so much upside and potential back then in August, when we were so young! And with nine characters, Season Two had more Black cast members than any other in L Word history. But as the second season progressed, a thread became more apparent: Generation Q was sidelining, undervaluing, and leaving their Black characters behind.

Autostraddle Culture Editor Shelli Nicole, writers Dani Janae and Natalie (who also compiled our questions), and Editor-in-Chief Carmen Phillips  got together to talk about the Generation Q’s second season, how it (often) failed its Black characters, and ask if there was anything good to left save or any room left to fix it.


Bette smiles smugly at the camera.

In our roundtable after Gen Q’s first season, we talked about the lack of melanin in Bette’s inner circle. So imagine that you’re Bette’s friend: give Bette Porter one piece of advice that her white friends won’t.

Natalie: Stop wearing those blazers?

Shelli: Get Over Yourself & Go To Therapy — You can afford it. Respectfully.

Dani: You say Pippa made you think about your Blackness and queerness in new ways, maybe spend even more time thinking about those things outside the context of your love life?

Carmen: I’m going to offer this up to the universe: Girl, Make Some Black Friends. You need Black people in your life that you aren’t related to by blood or banging. Ideally back in like ‘78 or ‘88 or ‘98. Ideally in 2004 (when The L Word first started). But most certainly now. You need it. Your daughter needs it. It’s time.


 I don’t want to date anyone that I have to teach about Blackness.

Last season, Bette had an affair with Felicity but we never got to see that flourish into a full-blown relationship but this season she begins dating black artist Pippa Pascal (played by Vanessa Estelle Williams). What do you make of Pippa Pascal? How do you feel about her relationship with Bette?

Natalie: First and foremost: I love this casting choice. One of the issues that came up during our conversation last year was that Gen Q was lacking dark-skinned characters and so we’ve gotten that with the addition of Vanessa Williams to the cast. But also, it matters to me that it’s Vanessa Williams… someone who comes from Black entertainment — Soul Food, New Jack City, Candyman — and has cachet within our community.

Carmen: I completely agree! Casting Vanessa Williams specifically, given her long history in Black Hollywood, was so meaningful to me. It felt like we were going somewhere.

Shelli: I LOVE Vanessa Williams, and Gen Q is lucky that someone like her said yes to doing this role, and they should have def treated her better.

Natalie: That said, I want a reason to cheer for the character besides the fact that she’s played by a beloved actress… and, so far, Gen Q hasn’t given me a reason to? The problem with Pippa Pascal is that so much of her narrative is rooted in a past we didn’t see. Almost everything we know about her we’re told, not shown, and that makes it difficult — for me at least — to forge a connection with the character.

As to her relationship with Bette, two things stand out:

First, we’ve seen Bette fall for an enigmatic artist before and, knowing that Bette’s still carrying these unresolved feelings for Tina, it’s hard to get over that feeling of déjà vu. Is Pippa anything other than Jodi Lerner, V2.0? I’m not sure the show’s given us reason to believe she is.

Second, I’m wondering: we know that Pippa checks off all of Bette’s boxes but why is Pippa interested in Bette? I think about Bette telling Pippa that she’s reckoning with her queerness and Blackness in ways that Bette hasn’t; the show clearly means it as a compliment for Pippa but I take it as a slight against Bette (though I’m certain the show doesn’t intend it to be). How does that relationship work — and why would Pippa want to be in it, frankly — if they are so far apart in their understanding of their own queerness and Blackness, especially at this moment?

Their relationship just doesn’t feel authentic to me.

Bette and Pippa share a bed

Shelli: I think you are absolutely right! We don’t know much about her. I can’t connect with her because I don’t know anything about her. I would have much rather them have spent the season introducing us to this character that Bette is literally obsessed with and then see it play out in the next season. It proves to me that they don’t write Black characters in mind with staying power, they write them so they can be disposable depending on what the audience thinks of them.

I don’t know who wrote those storylines but it gives major “This is my first Black girlfriend energy” and I hate it. I don’t want to date anyone that I have to teach about Blackness. There is a difference between you peeling back more layers of your Blackness while you are with me, as opposed to our relationship being the catalyst to you understanding it. Like — you should have just made her date another non-Black person if you were gonna do that.

Also, it seems like Pippa was quite literally minding her own business and would have been just fine fucking fangirl Bette — but they pulled her out of this element, only to hurt her in the process.

Dani: Yeah, it really made me sad that Bette kinda pulled her out of “obscurity” and promised to protect her only to do what Bette does, mess up a professional relationship with sex and let someone down in the process. Like Pippa is a mother too, a Black mother, and that could have been explored more too. She was checking off all of Bette’s boxes — I would have loved to have seen that relationship work and for Pippa to receive all the respect she deserves.

That said, I personally am Pippa Pascal hive.

Carmen: PIPPA HIVE!!!!

Dani: I wish she had more of a storyline than to be so carelessly discarded by Bette. Here we have a Black queer artist who is doing important work in the context of talking about race and sexuality. I would have loved to have seen more of that, like show Pippa working on her art, working with her student artists, more of that please!

Carmen: I make no secret out of the fact that I’ve been pretty firmly Give Bette a Black Girlfriend 2kFOREVER since we first were introduced to Felicity back in Season One. I was (and am!!) completely ready to go into battle for Pippa, who’s already become one of my favorite L Word characters. I didn’t have any trouble connecting with her. I appreciate that Pippa values strong boundaries and stands up to Bette; I always think Bette works best in Top4Top relationships. I loved when she called Bette out on her shit about still being hung up on Tina in the (ahem, infamous in my memory) chapstick sharing scene!

But I agree, we never got a sense why Pippa would be with Bette. Not to project myself, but I’m a queer Black woman who is, like Pippa, very into my queerness and my Blackness, so much so that, like Pippa, I’ve literally turned it into my job. I think that’s true of all of us here. And I’m not trying to be anyone’s identity experiment.

Even with all of that, do I hope Pippa and Bette stay together? I sure the fuck doooooo! If Bette leaves Pippa for Tina (who again, I must dutifully remind everyone when I speak of her, that she didn’t even want a Black baby to begin with and that’s how we were introduced to her character in 2004) — 100% that’s going to be my villain origin story.


Lena Waithe plays poker as Eddie in Generation Q

The excitement over Bette’s black girlfriend notwithstanding, there was a lot of consternation about the show’s treatment of its other black characters: killing Kit off last season, Quiara taking half of Shane’s money, despite the fact that she was the more successful of the two; Lena Waithe’s Eddie taking Shane’s money and then backballing Tess from the underground poker scene; Isis King’s blink and you missed it cameo as Claudia; and, of course, bringing Marcus Allenwood back just to kill him.

What do you make of what the show’s doing and how would you improve its treatment of black characters moving forward?

Shelli: It’s never been a secret that The L Word is not a world where Black queer folks heavily exist. They quite literally hate niggas and always have, this season was just the final stamp of them letting us know that. The reboot promised many a change, but it’s clear after two seasons that featuring Black queer folks in a fully fleshed out way is not and will never be something they care to do. This will forever be a show for thin, cis, caucasian lesbians.

The show thinks that doing things like giving Shane a Black ex-wife, bringing on Lena Waithe for a guest spot (are we not going to acknowledge that Shane quite literally stole her idea btw?), showing us Angie’s Black sister, bringing back her father (just to kill him and also for a portion of the show make it as though more of her Black family didn’t want her), and mentioning Black artists (I’m sorry but how the fuck do you not know who Kerry James Marshall is?!) is all they need to do to be diverse and inclusive — two words that Hollywood loves to use, but consistently executes poorly.

Dani: That Lena Waithe scenario was so fucked because we were supposed to empathize with Shane and it made Lena’s character seem so unreasonable. She goes from, “my wife can flirt with whoever she wants” to “fuck you, Tess is fired” SO QUICK. And that throwaway line about reparations!! *eyeroll* Like lol I need reparations after watching the treatment of Black characters in this show.

I think the whole storyline with Dani’s dad kind of overshadowed everything this season. We see that opioid-caused deaths are very personal for Bette, but we spend way more time watching Dani grapple over supporting her father’s heinous crimes.

It felt like the use of Black artist as a backdrop for the show was really unjust. Which brings us back to Pippa and her treatment. I get the cast has its core people, but that doesn’t mean you have to use Black art and Black issues as pawns to give your story some gravitas.

Shelli: Yes! Most of the Black characters on this show are an afterthought. Their plotlines are not wrapped up or even properly introduced. How dare you make a fictional show where the Black characters are so disposable, trauma based, or a tick on your checklist?

Angie, Jordan Hull, cries while looking off to the camera

Natalie: After the second episode of this season — after Bette (OF ALL PEOPLE) #AllArtistsLivesMatters Isaac Zakarian’s offer of bonuses for BIPOC artists, and then everything about the poker storyline — I nearly quit watching the show.  I posited two questions on Twitter: 1. Does Gen Q have any black writers in their writers’ room? and 2. If so, do they actually have any power?

The answer to question #1 is yes, but within a certain context. As far as I can tell, Gen Q has one black writer in the writers’ room, Maisha Closson. To put that in perspective: last season, when the show told fewer stories about blackness, there were two black writers in the writers’ room (Regina Hicks and Francesca Butler). I cannot fathom how a show decides to tell more black stories in its second season and also decides to hire fewer black writers at the same time.

That brings us to the second question: Did that black writer actually have any power? The answer to that question is evident in the storylines that the show produced this season: No. That’s not a reflection on Closson — whose work I’ve covered and enjoyed when she worked on Claws and How to Get Away With Murder — but more of a reflection of what happens when there’s only one in the room. There’s so much pressure on that one person and those are impossible conditions for a writer to succeed under. So many TV writers have told us that.

If there’s more than one black person in the room, if there’s an empowered black person in the room… maybe they avoid these egregious missteps, maybe they don’t have the racial blindspots that this show clearly struggles with.

Shelli: That’s 100% true, this is what happens when there is only one of us in the room and I can only imagine the wild pressure. I’ve been there. Fighting on your own to be heard can not only be a losing battle but a fucking tiring one.

To me, them reducing the amount of Black writers while simultaneously attempting to insert more Blackness just shows how performative it all really is. I’m HEATED, like — fuck y’all.

Carmen: I knew that Regina Hicks (from Insecure) had left between seasons, but I had not fully realized the other writer had also left!!!! I am H O T!!!


It’s very true that though Bette and Tina were so concerned with having a Black child, they never thought about building a life rich with other Black people to help raise that child, for her to see herself reflected.

Jordan Hull’s performance as Angie has really been a highlight of Gen Q’s second season. Perhaps her standout scene came in the fifth episode, “Lobsters, Too,” when she, Bette, Tina and Carrie all participate in a family counseling session with Micah.

Angie admits that part of the reason she wants to seek out her biological father is because she wants to know how he walks through the world as a black man. She also confesses that she wants to talk about race with someone who walks through the world being perceived as she is, rather than someone like Bette who can pass.

Angie: Also, you know that the two of us walk through this world differently, Mom.
Bette: I know. I mean, just because some white people mistake me for… Italian or whatever, that doesn’t mean that I don’t know who I am. And you know who I am.
Angie:I do. But it doesn’t change the fact… that you experience more privilege because of the way you look.

How did that scene resonate with you?

Dani: I enjoyed watching Angie call out Bette by saying “you don’t look like me and our experiences aren’t the same.” Like YES Angie! It’s very true that though Bette and Tina were so concerned with having a Black child, they never thought about building a life rich with other Black people to help raise that child, for her to see herself reflected.

Shelli: My favorite part of this season was Angie realizing that she needs more niggas in her life. She looked around and was like “DAMN — nobody here gets me.” Of course she feels that way — she comes from a family where her white mother questioned having a Black baby from jump, and her other mother is just now reckoning with the intersection of her queerness and Blackness after years of being out and surrounding herself with whiteness.

Carmen: Yes! Thank you. That’s exactly it.

Shelli: I just wanted to hold Angie — I am the aunt of three mixed race kids, two of them girls, who I know aren’t yet aware of who they are. I am their only Black aunt and they are surrounded by whiteness in every area of their life, from school to home and it’s been tough for me with their mother to not continuously overstep my boundaries. Not to get into too much detail about my personal life, but these kiddos have been heavily separated from their Black side of the family.

It’s hard to grapple with because I am not their parent, but I do love them and have responsibility to them as their aunt. When I look at what Angle is going through it assures me that I am doing the right thing by often overstepping those boundaries I spoke about earlier — sometimes sacrificing my relationship with their mother in order to show up as the person/example that they need.

If you make the conscious decision as a non-Black parent to have a Black child, you must think of their future. It’s 2021 and folks still don’t understand that, you don’t have to do the most but you have to fucking do something in order to minimize the possibility that they go through what Angie currently is. Be honest with your children and raise them with awareness of who they are to the best of your ability.


Pippa, Vanessa Williams, looks directly into the camera

Bette makes a point, a few times this season, to Pippa that “You are reckoning with your own queerness and your Blackness in ways that I have… barely begun to unpack for myself.” How would you like to see Bette’s reckoning with her blackness and queerness play out on screen? Or is that something that you want to see?

Shelli: I HATED THIS. I don’t know if it’s even something I wanna see at this point. What the writers are basically trying to do, when they write lines like this, is apologize for the years that they put Bette’s Blackness on the back burner. I DON’T ACCEPT IT. They have made Bette such a type of character when it comes to her Blackness, I don’t feel bad for her in any way and it’s WILD that I don’t have empathy for a Black character.

Carmen: Oh actually I still have a lot of empathy for Bette! (call me her #1 apologist). She is absolutely being written as that type of Black person who doesn’t have any Black friends or connection to her community, and maintains a certain type of armor around it. No doubt. And is that the kind of person I keep in my personal life? Absolutely not. But I think there could be real depth there, because that is the reality for a lot of different types of Black folks, and they should also have some guidance on their journey. I wish the show would explore that with more honesty and nuance.

Natalie: See, I think people should get upset… or, at the very least, be disappointed. The original L Word ended in 2009 and Generation Q was supposed to be the opportunity to right the wrongs done by the OG series. Instead, it’s just perpetuating the same narratives and emphasizing the same POV (that is, white cis lesbians) that we saw in a show that debuted 17 years ago. And the show has the talent… these actors are so talented… but the writers fail them all the time. And, listen, I’m not asking the show to soar to extraordinary heights — all shows can’t be Vida — but saying, “hey, let’s not kill any more black people on this show” or “remember that trans lesbians exist” feels the lowest of low bars.

Shelli: That’s when I knew I had to make the decision to either keep watching the show and waiting for them to give me what I deserve as a Black Queer person, (from a show on a network with enough money and resources to do just that) or just watch it knowing what I’m gonna get and not complain anymore — what’s the saying in preschool? “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.”

Bette and Pippa laugh together while talking to Carrie

Natalie: But, back to the question: A reckoning of blackness and queerness? With this writers’ room? No thanks. For chrissakes, hire more black writers or just leave our stories alone.

Dani: We never see Bette reckon with it! At least not on screen. The moments where she could have were overshadowed by other plot points. There’s someone very close to me in my life that grew up passing as white, and that person really reckons with that every day by using their art. Bette, an art lover and someone with a lot of capital, doesn’t really do that. And I hate that they have written her this way, because it would be soooo interesting to see her play out that journey on screen. I think the actors involved with the show are great. Jennifer Beals has the range to go there, but they aren’t letting her, and that’s a huge disservice.

I get it, the show is supposed to be fun and sexy, but if that’s the case why tackle the opioid epidemic in such an intense way, but leave Bette’s Blackness off the table? Are the writers afraid to really get down to the bones with that topic? Are they afraid to get it wrong? It just doesn’t feel like they are even trying. You have the power to hire more Black writers! To do research on passing narratives! All of that. The resources are there!


Give Rosanny Zayas more to do than to look pensive in response to whatever white woman she happens to be talking to at the moment.

Let’s talk about the Suarez sisters! What did you make of Sophie and Maribel’s storylines this season? Where did you think the show succeeded in providing their characters with the depth we were hoping for and where do you think the show failed?

Natalie: After Gen Q‘s first season, I was hopeful that the show would allow its new queer characters of color to take center stage. When it was announced that Jillian Mercado would play a bigger role this season, I thought I was getting my dreams fulfilled. But, oh no…

*Deep Negro Sigh*

I wanted more of the Suarez sisters. I wanted more of them together — family’s such a central part of Sophie’s story in the first season and it’s missing for the most of this season — and I wanted more for their individual storylines.

Give Rosanny Zayas more to do than to look pensive in response to whatever white woman she happens to be talking to at the moment. Don’t sell Micah and Maribel’s story as groundbreaking and as such important representation — though it clearly is both of those things — and then completely leave them out of multiple episodes! These actors are so talented and deserve so much better than what this show is giving them.

Dani: For Sophie, her whole storyline gets wrapped up in loving and caring for an alcoholic. And, to paraphrase beloved Autostraddle writer and podcastor Analyssa, as a person of quit-drinking experience, the show majorly gets that wrong too. I won’t spend this space pontificating about what alcoholism looks like and how movies and TV routinely get it wrong, I promise. But all we see of Sophie is her playing the grieving wife. She’s either dealing with Dani this season or running after Finley, and it’s not fair.

For Maribel, I thought they did a little better. Again, to reference are friends at the podcast “To L and Back”, they kinda made her unnecessarily combative and mean this season. I think it’s supposed to come off as no nonsense and “take no shit,” but she truly just comes off as not nice to be around. That said, I think the sex scene with her and Micah was really great! I loved seeing them tackle that.

Maribel (Jillian Mercado) smiles up at the camera

Carmen: Yes, the Micah/Maribel sex scene was a season highlight, hands down. And I am glad that both Jillian Mercado and Leo Sheng have gotten a lot of good press this season off of that relationship, because it is important (and they have excellent chemistry together).

I actually think that Sophie and Maribel’s storylines had the easiest fix – they just need each other. The fact that Sophie was so connected to her family is what made me fall in love with her in the first season; she literally said that being around them made her feel freedom like she could breathe, it was such an authentic take on being an adult in a Latinx family — and one not often depicted in queer media, which for very real reasons often doesn’t portray a lot of biological family support — without falling into sterotypes. Bringing back Jillian Mercado in a larger capacity should have solidified that fact (and I loved knowing that Rosanny Zayas had another Dominican to play with on set), and instead it went so far in the opposite direction.

Even if you are a fan of Sophie and Finley, I think it’s safe to say that Sophie’s life blew up when Finley showed up at the wedding. She’s navigating all those waters without her sister? She’s grappling with Finley’s (poorly written) alcoholism, and where is Maribel? The only time we see the Suarez sisters cope with either of those very serious things in Sophie’s life, it’s to fight in front of the rest of their family. I call bullshit, that’s not how this works. They maybe would fight big, but they would make up big as well. Maribel wouldn’t leave her side. Conversely, Maribel is starting a relationship with one of Sophie’s best friends and roommate and where is Sophie in any of this? No way she wouldn’t be teasing the hell out of Maribel. And to that point, it’s not lost on me that one of the best scenes in the entire season, easily, is when Maribel, Micah, and Sophie are all together at Karaoke Night at Dana’s and Sophie fakes a phone call ON HER HAND to give the other two space.

Why didn’t we get to see more of that!?!? You have this rare opportunity with these two Afro-Latina actresses, to tell a Latinx story that we almost never get on television (have they ever even acknowledged that Suarezes are Dominican?? We know Dani’s entire family history), and you’re barely even using them! And Sophie is supposed to be one of the main characters! Why is it that after her backslide with Dani, her entire storyline is centered around her (white) boss or her (white) girlfriend. It’s negligent.


Rosanny Zayas, as Sophie, prays with her eyes closed.

Generation Q hasn’t been picked up for a third season yet but if you could tell the Generation Q writers’ room one thing about Season Three and where they should go next, what would it be?

Natalie: First, I hope this show gets renewed, I truly do. I want this show to exist, I just want it to be better.

My advice: Hire black writers. Hire trans women writers. Do better.

Shelli: Honestly? Do us right or leave us the fuck out of it. I’m unsure if I’d watch another season.

I don’t have advice — I have questions and I TRULY want them answered.

What is their excuse? What do the creators and writers have to say for themselves? Let me hop on an IG live with them Ziwe style and put them on the spot and get some fuckin’ questions answered about why this beloved dykey show hates niggas so much. I don’t want their percentages, I don’t want to know about their diversity training, I don’t care about the amount of light research they did on AAVE or any of that shit — I want to know why they don’t care about Black queer people.

What is literally stopping you from flushing out Black characters? Why isn’t your writers’ room as Black as it should be? Why do you clearly not care about what your Black viewers think? Why should we keep giving you chances? Are you reading all the articles and tweets except the ones that critique how your show handles race, colourism, and more? Why are you not allowing Bette to actually evolve.

Dani: I don’t know if this is allowed for a roundtable, and not to compare two bad bitches, but Work In Progress is shown right after The L Word and the Black characters in that show, though secondary to Abby, are more flushed out than the primary Black characters on The L Word. And I find that FUNNY.

Shelli: The way I love Work In Progress is wild, they are so unafraid to get things wrong that they often get them right. Also, they have the greatness that is Sam Irby and many other Black folks behind the scenes. But it’s wild to me that a new show, without the following of The L Word (yet) manages to find many a nigga to work on the show and do the damn thing

Dani: Not only does The L Word need more Black writers, they need better writers. And I’m being empathetic: I know we need to move storylines along, but the way they are doing it is leaving behind a lot of casualties. I really wanted a fat, Black character this season, but now I don’t trust them to treat that character well.

Shelli: There is no way in hell that I want them to touch that, not after this season. Look what they did to Rosie’s charecter — they opted to make her the fat, butch person who is insecure and constantly comparing herself to everyone else, when in reality she is hot as shit and far doper than any of them could be.

Dani: The thing is — I complain, but I watched it every week. I rolled my eyes and screamed at the screen, but I watched. If all they care about is appeasing white Bettina shippers, they are failing to right a lot of the wrongs they set out to correct.

Carmen: That actually sums it up for me. Because ultimately it is about who’s the audience at this point, right? There were more Black characters on The L Word this season than its entire history, and I’ve never felt more isolated from the show.

I don’t know how that gets fixed, to be honest. I do hope that Generation Q gets renewed, because there is nothing else quite like it. I love the experience of watching people gather together at watch parties, making the same jokes together online. Despite all odds, it somehow becomes the only thing we want to talk about the entire time it’s with us, you know? It’s as much a community experience as it is any TV show.

I wish the creators of the show understood that. Black queer people are in this community. Trans queer people are in this community. And we deserve to get lost in a good time, too. We deserve fun, messy, sexy storylines. Just as much as any cis white woman over 50.


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the-speakeasy

The QTPOC Speakeasy is a collective of Autostraddle's writers of color.

has written 21 articles for us.

53 Comments

  1. I didn’t know how bad I needed this roundtable. Thank you all for this conversation. Two things I want to note: 1. Vanessa Williams is not darkskinned and it’s important to make that distinction. She and Lena Waithe (and Tom, for that matter) are medium-toned, and Sophie, Angie, and Maribel are lightskinned. The L Word has absolutely no darkskinned characters. 2. The racial politics of the show aren’t awful because of the writer’s room alone. Plenty of shows written for and by Black people are anti-Black, classist, colorist, and more. Watchmen is an excellent example of a thoughtful, nuanced portrayal of Black people and the history of American racism, and the showrunner is a white man. I make this point to say, it doesn’t matter how many of us are in the room if your personal beliefs and orientations to the world are also anti-Black.

    It is an act of profound anti-Blackness that Bette rejecting the Nunez Wing because of the company’s history wrt people of color motivated Dani to go have steamy sex with Gigi. It’s an act of profound anti-Blackness that Shane opened up a poker room because the Big Bad Black lesbian fired Tess. It’s an act of anti-Blackness that Sophie has no Black friends, no Black lovers, and that she doesn’t get to have fulfilling love stories like her white counterparts. This season hurt a lot to watch.

    • All of this! The show is fundamentally anti-Black. Since OG season 1, episode 1. The back half of this season did hurt a lot to watch. A lot. Especially when it came to Pippa and to Angie but I have to add Sophie to the list thanks to your observation, Lola.

  2. Much of this season prompted deep and heavy southern negro spiritual type sighs from me when it came to Bette and “her queer blackness journey” (shout out to Carmen). Like everyone on this panel and I was so looking forward to seeing Bette with a black woman or hell her being around a black person period other than family. In OG I don’t recall her interacting much if at all with Tasha despite her being Alice’s gf, she never shared a screen with Marcus until he was dying, and until this season she only talked of being biracial when it was of benefit to her in some way yet she had no qualms about shouting to anyone who would listen that she’s a lesbian. Yeah, she’s attracted to Pippa but it feels like Pippa’s just a conduit through which Bette allows herself to exhibit (I use that term literally and figuratively) her blackness while Heartspark Dollarsign (with an added “I’m black too” after each reference to “my black girlfriend”) plays in the background.

    Sidenote: she’s not going to find her blackness between the legs of a black woman. Just sayin’.

    Also, Bette’s in her 50s, so why is it important now? Is it because Angie is exploring her blackness and she now feels inadequate? Guilty? If that’s what the writers are trying to do (who knows?), why not have Bette explore that with Angie with a lot of therapy thrown in? Bette who gets things from a logical/intellectual standpoint but can be hard-hearted and rigid could metamorphose a bit by actually allowing something to sink into her marrow especially since it would be with someone she loves unconditionally and who is walking through today’s world in the very shoes that she’s claiming she wants to walk in. No one would be discarded when it doesn’t go the way Bette wants or when she fucks up, which Bette is wont to do. Also, Angie is the only person that Bette will step out of her own way for. It could be an agonizing yet fun and beautiful discovery for the both of them and ultimately all of that would help her be more conscious of her own blackness (maybe even resolve some of her other issues) and it could bring Angie and her closer (I do love their relationship which was sorely lacking this season). Intersperse that with her slowly rediscovering Pippa (and herself) through Pippa’s art and them gradually coming together? Yeah, that would be something I’d watch but alas this show has never been good at telling delicate storylines, and woooo if it were written without black writers? Let’s not even think about it.

    • Bette being in her 50s and suddenly being invested in grappling with her Blackness for no reason is one of those things that was just glossed over enough not to bug me all season, but it really is such an interesting thing to consider. I like what you’ve said here about Bette’s journey being more impactful (and logical) if it’s connected to Angie.

      I loved Angie’s scene about not having anyone who looks like her to talk to since Kit died, and I liked her specifically saying that Bette’s experience is different and not really that comparable. I wish the show could’ve acknowledged Bette’s defensiveness in that moment, and that it could’ve been the root of her racial reckoning.

      I don’t love Pippa (or Marcus Allenwood’s dying breath) being used as a tool to say that Bette’s on the right path or doing something big for all Black people, but perhaps if she had the self-awareness or the warmth to be vulnerable with either of those people and admit that she feels out of her depth sometimes when Angie’s experiencing racial trauma that she hasn’t faced, then we could have gotten more organic scenes of those characters reassuring her or encouraging her to reach out to other Black people and to forge for herself the kind of community that could help support Angie.

      • “I wish the show could’ve acknowledged Bette’s defensiveness in that moment, and that it could’ve been the root of her racial reckoning.”

        Mina throughout these comments you are writing a consistently better show than I personally believe TLW is capable of, but wow would I love to see it.

        • Seconding that, Carmen! I find some solace in reading these comments and the much more compelling, realistic, and complex stories they imagine this show could tell. I’ve never been a huge Bette fan but I would 100% watch an entire show centered around an evolving Bette/Angie relationship and their respective very different journeys as you’ve described it here, Mina. It depresses me somewhat that I have very little faith that this show could/would successfully enact even a sliver of what you’ve laid out here so concisely and convincingly!

  3. Thank you for this round table. I really hope Bette doesn’t go back to Tina but I also hope Pippa calls Bette out next season. Semi on topic, I will say l word did do one thing right, they got a Persian to play Persian & they did a pretty solid job at it this season. None of that weird stuff they did with Papi & Carmen making their West & Central Asian characters Hispanic for some odd reason.

  4. this show has been such a frustrating watch which is annoying, because I’m not a hate watcher at all. but I kept/keep tuning in because there are some genuine moments of greatness stuffed between all the melodrama. pippa’s introduction was one of those moments. but of course, they couldn’t keep the energy and she became a basic prop for bette. they’re not all that good at fleshing out their love interest’s past ‘exactly what this character wants at this very moment and nothing else’—see:gigi for dani—but pippa was treated SO poorly it actually made me sad. from the jump bette interacted wit her like she was this precious commodity and not like a whole being and it was so shitty. like after they first slept together and pippa gave bette that soft look, i just wanted her free from bette. and bette’s probably my favourite next to finley(her storyline was another mess) but she’s such a menace!! she’s definitely ‘new black’ and maybe in show with a little more finesse and a lot more black characters, her antics would be amusing but here they’re just irritating. y’all have said everything there is to say about her and yes, she definitely needs black friends. like yesterday.

    sophie was another disappoint this this season. her and finley were messy, but last season i felt like the chemistry was there and was interested to see how their relationship would unfold. only for them to drop any and all joy or intrigue or idek depth and make her the long suffering girlfriend? HUH? where was the complex, coherent storytelling??? the show’s erratic timeline didn’t help either.

    im meh on a season 3 at this point because im not sure they’re going to listen and learn. seems the show is much more focused on flat(and boring tbh) relationship drama rather than exploring anything outside who’s banging who. they sprinkle some socially relevant issues in there but it’s so ham fisted or badly integrated that it feels like a ‘did we do good’ moment and i roll my eyes every time. 🤷🏾‍♀️

  5. Honestly, thank you for such a great roundtable. Insightful, and very clearly expressing the frustrations that I (and I’m sure many of the fans) have felt watching this season. As an Asian woman, I really do wish they’d do a better job with representation. Let’s not even talk about the inconsistent and (at least, in some episodes) awful writing, in the way they treat their characters, personalities, and choices that these characters do make. Like Natalie said – DO BETTER! Our community deserves better :(

  6. I’m not even done reading all this yet but I needed to shout about how grateful I am for this! This season got harder and harder to get excited about every week as the lack of care that they have for Black characters or Black life became harder to ignore.

    I need the writer’s room to post a picture. I’m getting traumatic OITNB flashbacks and I need to confirm that none of my own people would do us like this in service of elevating girlboss Bette Porter and her white besties.

    • It would not surprise me to find out that there wasn’t a single black person in that writer’s room. And if there is just one it is very easy to get your opinions overlooked or shouted down when you are the only POC in the room. Especially if you are a black woman. That’s all I will say on that.

      • There was exactly one Black woman and I hope her checks have already cleared and her skin is moisturized. Being the only one in that room must’ve been a ride, but like a wooden roller coaster with no safety bar.

        • From what I understand about television writer’s rooms, which admittedly is not much and principally comes from the To L and Back podcast, the showrunner (or other more ‘senior’ members of the writers room who are tasked with finalizing scripts) can basically rewrite episodes that end up being credited to someone else, without that original writer ever having a chance to review the edits. Which as an academic/writer is bananas to me. But also might suggest how some of these narratives or this dialogue got written. Francesca Butler wrote what was probably my favorite episode of Gen Q season 1 and prefer to hope she got herself the hell out of there before season 2 if needed, much as I wish she had been in that season 2 writers room.

  7. This is so thorough, wow! Really got to the heart of so much of what made this season hard to swallow.

    I don’t know that I was excited when I heard that this season would touch on race and BLM, but I really did want to reserve my judgment until aired. By the end, they’d burned up a cache of good will I’ve built up for this show.

    What I wanted for Bette Porter, instead of a handful of local Blacks to cosign her very big, very vague feelings about the pharmaceutical industry harming Black people, was to ask herself whether she was in tune with the community. She lives a life that is both incredibly curated and incredibly separate from other Black people. She’s built a far-reaching career and made a name for herself working under and alongside and on behalf of almost exclusively white people, and in an industry that is hostile to Black life and art. We’ve only seen her think over Blackness through the vehicle of art, even after we watched her run for mayor and host an event to specifically engage queer people about how she might serve them in office.

    She had none of that energy for Black people (remember when Brian Michael Smith’s s1 character talked about backing her because she’s the one who could get a foot in the door for lgbtq Black political rep, and then she blew it all up to string Felicity along even though she lowkey cared very little for her and he had to resign and presumably scramble for someone to hire him to a position of that level again?) until she thought about her own bloodline and decided that her principles are ubiquitous to Black life, even if it cost Black people their big break.

    Literally who made her the authority on Black pain? And who made her the arbiter of Black morality?

    I wanted her to be challenged, and as a result of challenge, to ask herself who and what she’s working for. What justice is she seeking and for whom? And if those answers didn’t come to her easily, I wanted to see Bette Porter reach outside of herself for once and to defer to people who have made it their work and their practice to answer those questions with Black people in mind. For Bette, I don’t think we’ll ever see true character growth without some humility, and of all arenas, I thought maybe she’d find some here.

    By the time she was using Pippa’s art as leverage, I was asking whether Bette remembered or had ever known that other Black people need to pay their bills and feed their kids and protect what they can of the careers that, like Pippa says, came much harder for everyone who doesn’t pass like Bette does. The moral victory of sticking it to a family whose evil empire is finally crumbling does not necessarily weigh the same as an endowment and connections that could launch several Black artists and their radical work into the well-funded limelight.

    I know I have never known brevity in all my life, but of all the season’s missteps on race, Bette’s story really was the standout for me. It’s the reintroducing of a Black character not to connect with the child that he helped create while she navigates racial trauma but to verbally commend Bette as a crusader for Black justice after she assumes sole credit for an idea that we watched another Black woman help her develop for me.

    I can’t even get into the Sophie Suarez of it all or my life will know no peace, but it felt some type of way post wedding-that-wasn’t to watch Bette snip at Sophie not at Finley, and try to rewrite her infidelity history for moral highground as though looking at Sophie wasn’t a little too much like looking in a tinted mirror

    (Also please stop reminding me that Tina said out loud that she didn’t want a Black baby, y’all, I worry about Angie enough without thinking about how Tina probably tried to give her an at home relaxer at least once after she couldn’t get the curls in line and then gave up and left the hair care to Kit. You know Bette would’ve just made an appointment at a white salon. I need to forget. I’m begging.)

    • Excuse me, ma’am, you’re just going to drop that whole last paragraph on me like that? I now cannot unsee the images of Bette and Tina dropping off Angie at Kit’s with a head full of woefully unmoisturized “she spent all week outside” hair. Followed immediately by images of Kit spending whole Saturdays sucking her teeth while she detangles, moisturizes, lays edges, and reassures Angie.

      Bette is a classist first then a woman then a lesbian then an aesthete then maybe 1 other thing then biracial. As far as we’ve seen, for 35+ years of her life, her only tethers to blackness were Kit and her dad, and let’s be honest, though she loved Kit, I don’t think she never saw her as an equal and her relationship with her dad was a hot mess so do those relationships to blackness even count? Then there’s this crusade the writers have her on which is especially baffling when you think about the fact that prescription opioid addiction is almost 5 times more prevalent in the white community than in the black community due to lack of access related to cost or doctor bias. So really, this crusade is hollow because the true tragedy for the black community is society not giving a shit about black addiction or the ravages of it and the government’s war on drugs both of which are far more damaging to the black community than big pharma. Not saying big pharma doesn’t play a part but within the black community, it’s small in comparison. The writers won’t have Bette explore that because it would require them shining a light on the show’s own continued bias (read: Shane’s drug use in the past or Finley’s current addiction issues are treated as tragic/sad but Kit’s addiction was often played as crazy or funny) and actually providing Bette with character growth. Think about it, Shane, Alice, and some of the Q cast have all grown but Bette is still Bette. Hmmm…should I feel some kind of way about this?

      • “ Tina probably tried to give her an at home relaxer at least once after she couldn’t get the curls in line and then gave up and left the hair care to Kit. You know Bette would’ve just made an appointment at a white salon.”

        “I now cannot unsee the images of Bette and Tina dropping off Angie at Kit’s with a head full of woefully unmoisturized “she spent all week outside” hair. Followed immediately by images of Kit spending whole Saturdays sucking her teeth while she detangles, moisturizes, lays edges, and reassures Angie.”

        THANKS TO YOU BOTH NOW I CAN’T UNSEE IT!!!!!!! This is what happened. This is Angie’s life.

    • I talk about how racist Tina is about once a day. My friends have SUFFERED through this rant.

      I want them to freaking acknowledge this because it’s a common issue. The inherent racism, whether intentional or compulsory, in white parents is something I’ve seen so many times, but is never addressed. How often did Tina say, “You’d look pretty if you straightened your hair” to Angie OR Bette? How often did Kit’s presence remind Tina that her partner is NOT as white as she obviously pretended her to be.

      Since they KEEP infecting our lives with Tina Freaking Kennard (and for some reason, trying to act like she’s the innocent victim in all this???), at least acknowledge this nonsense, AND ADDRESS IT.

  8. The roundtable on The L was very insightful, but, enough of the N-word to describe black people. This isn’t a mindless, ignorant rap song a la Bobby Shmurda, so there’s no need to include it, especially in a discussion on representation.

    Also, I’m not so hung up on Bette exploring her queerness or blackness at this time in her life because frankly, she comes from an era where it was very difficult to be either one of those descriptors, but here she is, being both. I also tend to believe that she grew up with a white mother who, like Tina, was apprehensive about birthing and raising a biracial child. And while Bette seems to be a better mother to Angie than it seems she had, she still somewhat fell into the missteps of her mother and father along racial lines.

    It was very clear to me during Melvin’s visit to Bette and Tina’s home that he chose to live as though race didn’t matter, when we know that during that time, it very much did. Like most who live in a colorblind world, they surprisingly see just enough color to avoid groups they don’t value, and in this case, it was other black people. No doubt that subconscious messaging had a profound effect on a young Bette’s friend group and love interests. I’m glad that Bette and Pippa are together, but like other storylines, the writers will mess this up. I guess it’s fun while it lasts.

    • Hi!

      It’s our editorial policy to let Black people use words to describe Black people that feels most comfortable to them. We obviously wouldn’t publish anyone else using the word.

      And also for the record we are pro “ignorant rap songs” (yes even Bobby Shmurda).

      Thanks for reading and calling the roundtable insightful. I think you’re on to something with Bette’s mother for sure.

    • So agree with you on the n-word use. I’m not about policing other Black women’s language, but the fact that it’s triggering for Black folk and other folks alike merits some consideration….

  9. Such a great read, thank you for all of this!

    Truly wild they didn’t have more Sophie/Maribel scenes – it would’ve made so much sense story wise, and they’re just always a delight to watch

  10. This was the breakdown I needed! I was pulling my hair out all season after learning that Bette was supposed to “reckon with her Blackness” this season. Bitch, WHERE? WHEN? I admit I have *never* liked Bette, so part of my disdain for this storyline has to do with the character, but I stopped looking for any sort of acknowledgement of Blackness as anything other than a hip accessory from this show and devoted all of my attention to Micah and Maribel. I hate that I have to settle for the crumb of two QTPOC in a relationship with each other instead of with another white person, but I’m old, and I need to keep my blood pressure down while watching television.

    I really hope they do better next season…if they get a third season.

  11. Thank you to all of the writers for this roundtable and for caring enough to take this show to task. I also feel like while the issues that unfolded in the roundtable did come up in the AS recaps and the podcast, in both and especially in the comments of each, much of the conversation focused on other elements of the storylines (addiction, relationships) – a focus to which I contributed myself. The various critiques and comments shared here help to give us all a fuller picture of the possibilities for these characters/the show but also what have come to me to seem like insurmountably inadequate, facile, biased, or feeble decisions that the show is/has made around race and Blackness in ways that touch basically every character, storyline, and dramatic development.

    Really I just want to say thank you. And can we get y’all (plus Mina!) to write season 3, please please please?

  12. Just what I was looking for, thank you. It is so frustrating reading recaps, comments, etc.. and you just don’t feel the way that they do. I get so mad reading the racial undertones, hell, if you added some color to the, maybe people wouldn’t lose it at the sight of a non light skinned black person. I get tired of watching the show only having us being represented as light skinned (I am light skinned, and want to see something else).
    I was glad and extremely shocked that Vanessa Williams arrived and as a love interest for Bette.
    I know that Bette has dated/entangled with black women, but they were all light skinned, hell, they could “pass”.
    Bette has rarely shown any interest in her blacknesss, so the whole blowing up on Dani, I couldn’t understand. I guess that I was just as confused as Dani was.
    With all that said, I still want her to see where things go with Pippa. Pippa definitely brings out a side of Bette that Tina never could, honestly, Bette can’t handle Pippa, but it’s fun to watch. Lord knows Tina will still be there, if it doesn’t work out.
    I do like the question that was asked, what does Pippa want with Bette?
    Now, Sophie, I hate that they have screwed up her storyline so bad. They, actually hate Sophie on the forums. I can’t figure out why besides the obvious. This brown (lower class) character cheated on her significant other (higher class), so she needs to suffer. Not defending her cheating, but Dani was non existent for her in season 1, she played a part. I don’t think that she would have cheated on Season 2 Dani. So new and improved Dani gets turned into a saint, while Sophie is stuck with her mess of a storyline (her and Finely were at least fun to watch as bros before the cheating, in season 1).
    I guess that frankly, the show wasn’t imagined with a black audience in mind, and if it was, I sure hope that Bette wasn’t supposed to be our go to.
    Like another person mentioned, just leave the black issues out, if you can’t do any better.

  13. This entire article had me screaming and nodding. It’s so painfully obvious that the writers don’t care.

    One thing that enraged me in the original (And again in the reboot) was they had the opportunity to have an open conversation about Bette and Kit’s Blackness and how they differed from each other in and around their father’s death. They straight up could have said “Yup. Kit resents Bette for being white-passing in a world completely stacked against us” while also saying, “Bette resents Kit because their father barely acknowledged her as a human being”. And they’re doing it now with Angie, which is great, but it really surprised me that, after the way Bette handled Angie’s bully situation in season one, Bette seemed… almost dismissive of her feelings during therapy?

    AND! I really want to know why the show won’t navigate Tina’s racism, and how it affects Angie and Bette. Especially since they keep giving themselves the opportunity to do so (1. She didn’t want to have a black baby, something she said in the original pilot, and 2. It was a glaring neon sign that she didn’t show up to Kit’s funeral), and then trying to make her the victim. (And if the writers don’t know how to broach that, I quite literally have a spec script ready, haha)

    I don’t know. I walked into Gen Q with the bar so low it was basement level, and they managed to dig out a sub-basement below it. All I want is for black characters to be given the same respect as all the white characters. We are more than just disposable, and our stories are worth telling too!

    • “ It was a glaring neon sign that she didn’t show up to Kit’s funeral.”

      I deleted my line that discussed this in the roundtable but YEP THIS TOO.

      (She also left her Black daughter so that she could go off and “find herself” — which maybe I could have justified on it’s own, but when added with the other instances 👀)

      At this point they’ll never convince me that Tina isn’t racist. And the fact that Bette continues to be so hung up on her, despite that fact, speaks to some real deep seated self-loathing.

  14. I’m upping my A+ membership next pay day. Because roundtables like this are so vital. Because as a cis white femme I never have to look very far to see myself represented in media. Because, much as I strive to maintain awareness of my privilege, articles like these remind me that I still have a long way to go in thinking about issues outside of my own experience, without them being pointed out to me in articles such as this one. For example, I have ranted and raved all season about the portrayal of the alcoholism storyline, and the choices the writers put on Sophie, but have completely overlooked the fact that those choices also led to yet another black character being sidelined.

    I deliver workshops around authentic allyship and one thing we touch on towards the end is encouraging participants to go away and consider the diversity (or lack thereof) of the media they consume. And to look not just at representation (which we all know can be a tick-box exercise at times) but what type of representation. Does that LGBT+ character have their own rich storyline alongside the rest of the cast, or are they a one-dimensional creation whose sole personality trait is “fabulous gay best friend” or “transitioning”? Are LGBT relationships given the same airtime as straight ones? Etc. This roundtable reminds me that I myself have further to go in this area, more to consider, that I still need to work on broadening my own critiques.

    Essentially… thank you. It’s nobody else’s job to educate me but I really do value this content and the way it pushes me to think more deeply about these issues.

  15. I don’t understand why treats a show as if it were an essay on queerness or blackness. It’s a show. And this show has a huge problem on writing. That, to me, with all respect, doesn’t depend on how many black writers this show has, because they could be bad writers, as the whole writer room. What I don’t understand, even if I agree with many points, is why talk about this show as if it were the enemy. I think of it more like a product, first of all, built with the best of intentions, by allies unable to do their job. To me many problems depend on the fact that the writing, rather than focusing on interesting storylines, has concentrated on trying to give sops to all the spectators, with the result that we all come out unhappy simply because many events and characters are specious, so of course we have problems to identify with those characters. I see the failed effort and honestly I am very sorry. Returning to the construction of the enemy, if we go at this rate with all queer cultural products, it will end up that no one will want to do them anymore.

  16. I really enjoy having Vanessa Estelle Williams on the L word generation Q because with her comes such a wealth of experience, she has years of experience in acting, she bring a list of beloved characters that she has portrayed for more than two decades and she has endured Hollywood and all that it has to throw at our African American actresses and actors and yet she remain professional,relevant and continues to operate with complete and utter excellence, Vanessa Estelle Williams excels on the screen she woos her audience with her charm and humor, her performances are spot-on with such a sense of realness. This talented beauty draws her audience to feel they’re part of the show as well. Vanessa E Williams for me brings a new taste of excitement with an a alluring presence that brings more life to the show. If I was just strolling through tv shows and saw her (VEW) and didn’t know what the show was about, I would at least just stop strolling just to see what the show was about. Thanks for hearing me out guys☺️👍

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