Ah, yes, it’s that special time of year when I get to participate in my favorite form of anthropological research: talking to exes who have decided to watch The L Word: Generation Q together. This tradition more or less started by accident, with me originally pitching the first iteration back in 2019 on the precipice of the show’s first season. My questions were simple: Are you watching The L Word: Generation Q with an ex and furthermore WHY? I received a slew of stories ranging from earnest and sweet to messy and ill-advised. As a Gemini, I loved to hear about other people’s chaos. And so, I recreated the magic in 2021 for the second season, and perhaps as a result of the pandemic, the stories got even messier. What a beautiful thing to behold!
Something strange happened this year though. I put out my usual calls on social media asking to talk to folks who are planning on watching season three with an ex or exes, and my DMs remained…quiet. I did hear from a couple people on Twitter and exactly no one on Instagram (other than a couple folks who had stories they didn’t want to share publicly even if anonymous). In total, there were less than five people who answered the call, leaving me wondering: Is the age of watching The L Word with exes over? Have people been therapized to the point of no longer participating in this very specific activity? Why was I being punished with drama-free DMs when this is one of the things I look forward to the most with every new season of the show? Would I have to title this piece Well I Guess No One Watches Generation Q With Their Exes Anymore?
But then, alas, two heroes rose amongst us. I ended up in a group DM with Chris Belcher — author of the memoir Pretty Baby — and actor and musician Kristen Mortensen. They are exes. They are exes who don’t just watch The L Word: Generation Q together; they throw a popular viewing party for the show in Los Angeles.
Called DANA’S and fittingly hosted in the Semi-Tropic, where the bar scenes on the show are filmed, the party was co-founded by Chris, Kristen, and Kristin Vallacher, who also was a promoter for the party and its in-house DJ before leaving to pursue other projects last month.
DANA’S started when Chris Belcher and Kristen Mortensen were still dating and grew into a monthly queer party, which goes back to weekly when the show is airing.
“Back when we were still a couple, I was at a season 1 premiere watch party with a few friends, but the bar was packed and Kristen got off work late so she couldn’t get in,” Chris says. “Being the good gf I was back then, (lol) I made everyone leave the party to watch in my living room instead, so Kristen could join.”
Kristen and Chris both had some previous experience throwing queer parties, and they contacted the Semi-Tropic the next day. “Our first party was a huge success, and then the pandemic hit and we went into lockdown right before the next one was scheduled,” Kristen says. “We decided to do weekly screenings of old episodes over Zoom as a fun way to stay connected, and people from around the country tuned in to write hilarious commentary in the chat box.”
Then they were thrown for a loop again when they ended up breaking up. “Because the party is way bigger than us, we never wanted it to end,” Chris says. “We just had to figure out how to share space in the early months post-breakup, when everything was fresh and painful. But too many queer parties come to and end with breakups, and I think we were both committed to seeing this one through.”
Kristen adds it was indeed one of the first questions people asked when they broke up. What would happen to DANA’S? “Queers don’t get the luxury of getting space from their ex during a breakup,” Kristen says. “Even if we didn’t run this party together, we would be going to all the same events. I suggested we switch off going to certain things for a few months, but no one puts baby in a corner and it was clear I’d have to move states if I didn’t want to see Chris everywhere I went. Chris actually always said if we broke up she would move states, but she ended up moving right down the street.”
“We were together for years, including every moment of the pandemic, so there’s a lot of love there,” she continues. “We’re a great team, always bouncing ideas off each other and putting projects into motion, but it was stressful feeling like we’d built this whole world and it would come crashing down if we broke up. Our breakup felt like being ripped in half, but it is a huge relief to be able to let go of what wasn’t working in our personal relationship and move forward focusing on the things we love about each other — so Dana’s is a child of divorce.”
And they both agree that they’re handling those shifts well. Kristen met Chris’ new girlfriend at DANA’S, and Chris says the working relationship is good too. “I still appreciate Kristen just as much for her sense of humor, which translates to the Dana’s social media promotion,” Chris says. “I’m the logistics person, so it’s also nice to be able to dole out duties without worrying about it affecting your romantic life.”
DANA’S ultimately isn’t just about the show either. Co-founder Kristin Vallacher gave astrology readings during the events. And as Kristen Mortensen puts it, the show was just the catalyst to turn the bar into a queer space. That’s why the party keeps going in its monthly form even when the show isn’t airing. “Because Dana’s is at the filming location of Shane’s bar, it attracts people who not only watch The L Word, but who appreciate the making of it, and many who make their own queer art,” Kristen says. “I feel like we all grew up with The L Word as the only queer representation we had, and it in turn made us feel like we could create our own.”
Keeping in line with that, Kristen says she tries to make DANA’S feel more like a community than just a party. She finds out if attendees have their own work coming out and uses the DANA’S Instagram to promote upcoming projects or other queer events for folks. She makes playlists that include songs by DANA’S regulars for the party and has premiered music videos as well.
“I grew up Evangelical in Texas, secretly watching The L Word with the volume all the way down,” Kristen says. “So to now be watching in a sea of queers is very rewarding.”
Last season, members of the cast came to the finale party, which Kristen says felt like a full circle moment. “With that said, some people write in saying they want to fly in for the parties and asking if the cast will be there, so we want to remind everyone this is not a place for fangirling — this is a place for talking laughing loving breathing fighting fucking crying drinking.”
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include mentions of DANA’S co-founder Kristin Vallacher.