The Official L Word Drinking Game (That Factors In Its Inherent Problems)

By Matilda Douglas-Henry

Ah, The L Word. What a time. For a show that began in 2004, its content – chronicling the lives and loves of lesbians in WeHo – was truly groundbreaking. Ilene Chaiken pulled off the impossible by creating the queer answer to Carrie Bradshaw and her crew. Indeed, the tagline for most of the series’ run was “Same sex. Different city”, which, in my opinion, is wordplay at its best.

For my generation, The L Word endured. I was eleven when it ~came out~, but watching it at fourteen officially confirmed that I was madly gay. I have many queer friends – largely from small towns – who reminisce on a clandestine hiring of season one from the video store, or watching it under the covers with headphones on so their parents wouldn’t find out.

(My experience was slightly different. As a child of lesbian mothers, they would walk past as I was blaring a racy sex scene and go, “Ugh. This is SO unrealistic”).

The L Word is responsible for establishing some now well-known facts in the queer lexicon. Tennis is the gayest sport ever – NOT softball. The Chart is definitely a thing, and we’ve all probably had a friend who is such an Alice who tried to do one for their own queer community. Loose-hanging, but well-fitting blouses are an iconic power lesbian look that is surprisingly arousing (Gillian Anderson’s character from The Fall, Stella Gibson, also supports this claim). And Shane is immortalised as an inimitable style guru and the ultimate hot person, who turns even the straightest of viewers down a curious path.

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That is not to say that this show was without its problems. Watching it now offers me a unique sense of nostalgia. I can remember loving these characters so much, and being madly attracted to the Holy Trinity of Carmen/Dana/Bette (so my type), but adamantly insisting that these feelings came from a place of sisterly awe. It’s all very adorable. Beyond this, however, The L Word is so imbued with a sense of separatist lesbianism that it feels pretty gross in this day and age. Re-evaluating how the trans characters are handled, in particular, is devastating. It makes you realise how The L Word attempts to shed light on an idyllic queer utopia – but really, it’s just like any backwards society, in that the narrative perpetuates queer invisibility beyond the scope of lesbianism, and exterior markers of success are held in high regard.

Lo and behold, The Official L Word Drinking Game that none of you have been waiting for. This has been a brainchild of mine for quite some time, and I am excited to share it with you all. Let me make it abundantly clear that this game seeks to encourage an interrogation of why and how The L Word was problematic. I make no excuses. I have no shame. Let us begin.

Prologue: Who Are You?

Obviously alcohol is required, and lots of it. If there’s one thing these gals know how to do, it’s drink.

You are probably playing this game in the comfort of your living room. That must change immediately. The characters of The L Word have one place where they hang out, and that’s The Planet. Renovate your house to mirror the aesthetic of the beloved lesbian hotspot. You must be eating deeply average food (they always seemed to exclusively order bland salads and cake), and if you have good taste, it must go! The Planet lives for questionable decor.

What are you wearing? Be a Shane in your tightest leather pants and a teeny top that looks like a shoelace. Why not have a confident Bette moment in a salmon power suit? Whatever you do, do not attempt to inhabit Tina, otherwise you will be sad.

Once all this pre-arranging is complete, it is time to start the game. Everyone must sing the worst theme song of all time from start to finish.

Whoever messes up the lyrics first is Jenny for the night. JENNY! Narcissistic, transphobic Jenny. Everyone hates Jenny. If you are Jenny, you still participate in the game, but you are not allowed to speak. You are given a notebook, and you must write a carnival-themed short story as you go, inspired by each scene of the episode.

The second person struck out of the singalong is Bette. Bette is flawed, and she has a difficulty understanding her own privilege, but she is also a goddess. If you are Bette, you must draw a worry vein on your forehead, and when the drinking element of the game is introduced, you must cry intensely each time you take a sip (this is, of course, a reference to Bette’s fling with alcoholism after the whole Tina/carpenter scenario).

If you are the reigning champion of the singalong challenge, you are Dana. Dana is pure! Dana is angelic! Good for you! Taking out the coveted spot of Dana Fairbanks gives you an advantage. You drink nothing but very special fun cocktails, a la when Dana got tanked on the boat in season one.

When To Drink

People come and go in The L Word like the sun in Melbourne, so it is hard to make overarching rules. I’ve attempted to factor in all the seasons, as well as focusing specifically on when the characters are the worst, and should be called out.

Take a shot:

Every time Shane kisses/has sex with someone.

Whenever Jenny’s Canadian accent is hilariously obvious (look out for “house” or “about”).

Every time Alice mentions The Chart.

Whenever Marina says ‘Jenny’, in that hilarious breathy voice.

If you feel sorry for Tina.

When Bette waxes lyrical about art.

When Bette takes her clothes off and you see her absurdly toned arms.

If Carmen talks about the poetry of being a DJ.

When Max spouts video camera jargon.

When Dana complains about needing to train.

When Helena says “mummy” re: Peggy Peabody.

If Tasha and Alice have a fight about being in the army.

When the theme song is obscurely remixed at strange intervals of the episode.

When Jenny clashes with someone over her need to be an artist.

If Bette yells/breaks something.

If they go to a strange event, such as the casino night, a bridal shower, a cat funeral, or one of their many nautical themed parties.

Pause, have a glass of wine/spark a critical discussion, when: 

Tina is hesitant to have Marcus, a Black man, be the sperm donor for her and Bette’s baby. Why, Tina? Why does this make you uncomfortable? What makes me uncomfortable is how unapologetically white you are.

When the whole gang are critical of Max when Jenny comes back from Chicago, largely because Max comes from a working class area of Illinois and can’t afford to buy an expensive dinner. The worst.

When Bette is furious that Tina gets the Peabody Grant over her. What does this say about Bette? What is her deal sometimes?

When Alice doesn’t want OurChart to extend into a forum for other queer communities, and is for lesbians only. What is up with that, Alice?

When Alice outs a basketball player on television.

Everything that Jenny does in season six. Why does she do it?

BIZARRE COUPLING ROUND: 

When an absurd pairing occurs (AKA SHANE AND JENNY. SHANE AND JENNY. SHANE AND JENNY) pause and go around the circle, trying to list all of the ridiculous romantic trysts on the show. Whoever gets stuck first has to have two shots.

CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE ROUND: 

If a character says something that’s very ignorantly privileged (take note of Bette, Alice and Helena), everyone must have three shots, because those are the rules.

TRANSPHOBIA DOES NOT MAKE YOU A GOOD LESBIAN ROUND:

Whenever one of the characters excludes people because they’re not a lesbian, or is very casually transphobic, everyone must have four shots, because you need to feel as disgusting as these people are in that moment.

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