She Is 'The L Word'

Talking with Ilene Chaiken, producer of the world's only lesbian soap opera

Ilene Chaiken is no-holds hot. The creative force behind The L Word, Showtime's Sapphic ensemble hit about dykes in L.A., is living the large life—shooting a third season in Vancouver and making the rounds of glossy magazines.

Despite being listed on an unofficial fansite as nesting with "her partner of 20 years," Chaiken is in fact a free-range chick again. Fuggedaboutit, ladies: This interview is as close as you're going to get.

Every woman I know has a different opinion about where you should take the show. I always knew that it would be a contentious audience, that everybody would claim ownership. Everybody would feel that her story wasn't getting told, that there aren't enough butch lesbians and there aren't enough women of color, or this or that.

Ilene Chaiken
photo: Isabel Snyder/Showtime
Ilene Chaiken

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The Queer Issue:

  • 'L' Is for 'Look Out, World'
    Longtime lesbian has whole life edited by very hot TV show
    by Laura Conaway

  • Diff'rent Strokes
    Mixed-race loving in the gay community turns the rainbow into a reality
    by Brad Sears
    Plus: How to Date a Whiteboy
    by James Hannaham

  • We Are Not OK
    Crystal meth marks a new crisis for the gay community—and an all too familiar underlying problem
    by Patrick Moore

  • The Irresistible Banality of Same-Sex Marriage
    Plus: Recent Books on Same-Sex Marriage
    by Kenji Yoshino

  • Mix-And-Match Loving: Interracial Transgender Coupling
    by Elizabeth Cline

  • Parade Fatigue
    To march or not to march? That is the Gay Pride Day question.
    by Mike Albo

  • Lesbian AWOL
    Switching teams is OK every once in a while—unless you're totally hot
    by Marga Gomez
  • Martina Navratilova complained recently in the Advocate that the show has too much sex. How could that possibly be? I agree. Lesbians, in particular, have never had their sexual desires represented on screen—or rarely, I should say—and they just clamor for love scenes, and diverse love scenes. Of course, there are some people in the world who are more prudish and think, "No, no, no. We need to portray ourselves as wholesome because all of those people who hate us are going to hate us even more if they have to watch us as sexual creatures."

    And on The L Word we're being portrayed, largely, by a bunch of straight actresses. I don't ultimately think it matters, and I think that the way that people identify is so fluid that I don't assume anything. I don't assume even that the actress who tells me she's straight is straight.

    A colleague wanted to know if we can get that Betty band off the show. People seem to just hate them. I'm dismayed by that. I've been saddened by some of the real vitriol. They're a band that I love. They represent an important movement in our community.

    People also seem to really hate their theme song. To me, that song is fierce and feminist and in-your-face. It does what a TV show theme song is meant to do. It's incredibly recognizable—you hear it and you know that it's The L Word.

    Can we get more Kelly Lynch? Um, maybe.

    Can we get rid of the Jenny character's flashbacks? Okay, some people hate the flashbacks. They're not going to be in the third season because we're moving on and telling our stories in a different way. There are a lot of people who've hated Jenny with the same passion that some people have hated Betty.

    It's out there, it's passionate. Go, girls, it's all yours. You can have it.

    But by the time people start seeing the shows, the season's all canned and ready to go, right? The things that people are asking us to change, it's too late to change.

    In the sex scenes, what's with the really long arms? Long arms?

    All these actresses have much longer arms than I do. You mean, is it like the way they're fucking? Is it like she's so way inside her? Is your question from the point of view of "You're faking it"?

    For anybody who's thought that lesbian sex was this, or this, and dull and boring or not really fucking—any number of things that have been said about the way women have sex with one another—I've got news for you: There's a lot that can happen.

    What do you yourself find sexy? That may be a little personal for me.

    I like hands. [Pause] I find a lot of different things sexy. [Really long pause] It tends to start before the sex, definitely. [Eternal pause] Intelligence has a lot to do with it. I like intensity, but I like it to be subtle. [Dead silence]

    Would you like to stop answering this question? Um, yeah. I think my own sexual proclivities are irrelevant and are probably much too well represented in the show.

    Okay, which character do you lust after? I love these girls and the way that they portray these characters, but I'm much too put-upon to lust after any of them.

     
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