Ilene Chaiken on the impact of The L Word and The Real L Word

'We got to do something that no one had gotten to do because the time was right'

Ilene Chaiken on the impact of The L Word and The Real L Word
03 September 2012

As Showtime’s The Real L Word wraps up its third season Thursday (6 September), producer Ilene Chaiken is reflecting on the reality series as well as its much-beloved predecessor, The L Word.

While The Real L Word follows the lives of lesbian and bisexual women living in Los Angeles, The L Word was a scripted lesbian drama that ended its six season run in 2010 with its rabid fans wanting more.

‘I would never deign to say that The L Word or The Real L Word changed the culture,’ Chaiken tells Huffington Post in an interview this week. ‘I think that we rode the culture wave. It was time. It was bound to happen. I was lucky enough to step into the path and catch the wave. We got to do something that no one had gotten to do because the time was right and I’m sure in some small way we also moved the conversation forward.’

Chaiken did not originally set out to make either series more than a decade ago. But after writing a magazine article about the gay baby boom in Los Angeles, she went to Showtime with an idea considered pretty radical back in 1999.

‘I was pretty much laughed out of the room,’ Chaiken says. ‘They said, ‘Cool idea but even for our progressive network, it’s not happening.’ Then a year later they did Queer As Folk. So I went back to them and I said, ‘You’re doing one about boys, why not one about girls?’ And they decided it was a cool idea whose time had come.’

While gay character figure prominently in such new comedies as The New Normal and Partners, Chaiken points out that there is still a dearth of gay-centric dramas on television.

‘There isn’t one,’ she says. ‘It’s barely changed and since The L Word and Queer As Folk went off the air, we are back where we are before they came on the air – unrepresented and occasionally represented as ancillary characters like best friends or fifth year members of an ensemble cast. You know, in the fifth year of a show that’s very solid and secure they can decide to let a character ‘go gay.’ Other otherwise it’s guest stars who get murdered.’

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