Citation

L is for Looking: Art and Representation on "The L Word"

Abstract | Word Stems | Keywords | Association | Citation | Get this Document | Similar Titles



Abstract:

As the first television series to represent a lesbian community, Showtime’s The L Word had to confront the question of how to portray lesbian and bisexual women without reproducing the stereotypes and preconceptions of a sexist and heterosexist dominant culture, while accommodating commercial pressures to attract the largest possible audience. Responding directly to this challenge, The L Word takes a sophisticated feminist perspective on the history of female and lesbian representation, and makes that history a central theme of the program. The show critiques the stereotypical and objectifying portrayals of women that are normative in U.S. culture—in both popular and high cultural forms—and then presents clear, and sometimes queer, alternative representations. This paper focuses on one aspect of this larger project of The L Word: the representation of gender and sexuality in contemporary art, a topic that is both the subject of a major story arc in season one and an important subtext of the program in its entirety.

The L Word is a serial melodrama that follows the lives of a circle of lesbian and bisexual women, who live in West Hollywood. Among them is Bette Porter (Jennifer Beals), the director of a contemporary art museum. Her position as a cutting-edge curator provides the program with a device through which to explore complex issues of representation; probing the inter-textual relationships between high art and other forms of visual culture is central to the show’s narrative and mise en scene. Using specific artworks, The L Word makes an argument for the need for innovative female and queer self-representation, in the face of a long history of erasure, misrepresentation, and objectification. The program also offers a spirited defense of the right of artists to make work that challenges convention and that questions the boundaries between artistic expression and pornography or obscenity.

The L Word explores these topics through several strategies. First, each week, the work of different real-world artists appears on screen. What these artists have in common is that their work thematizes female, lesbian, and/or queer representation. Second, several featured artists appear briefly in the show, with their work, which is highlighted and sometimes even discussed by the characters. I will focus on three of these artists and analyze how showcasing their work advances the program’s goals. Lisa Yuscavage’s grotesque and cartoony (but beautifully painted) female figures explore the effects of pornographic representations on viewers’ perceptions of women, especially lesbians; Laurie Papou’s large-scale paintings re-stage well-known female nudes from the western art canon so as to reinvent the conventions of representation of female sexuality; and Catherine Opie’s elegant portraits of queer and transgender subjects make clear that lesbian communities are much more diverse than the show’s wealthy and gender-normative characters would suggest. Highlighting these artists, who are working to transform the representation of women and queers, allows the show to make claims about the possibility of making new meanings from within familiar forms on commercial television; these artists are all doing what the show means to do.
Convention
All Academic Convention can solve the abstract management needs for any association's annual meeting.
Submission - Custom fields, multiple submission types, tracks, audio visual, multiple upload formats, automatic conversion to pdf.Review - Peer Review, Bulk reviewer assignment, bulk emails, ranking, z-score statistics, and multiple worksheets!
Reports - Many standard and custom reports generated while you wait. Print programs with participant indexes, event grids, and more!Scheduling - Flexible and convenient grid scheduling within rooms and buildings. Conflict checking and advanced filtering.
Communication - Bulk email tools to help your administrators send reminders and responses. Use form letters, a message center, and much more!Management - Search tools, duplicate people management, editing tools, submission transfers, many tools to manage a variety of conference management headaches!
Click here for more information.

Association:
Name: The American Studies Association
URL:
http://www.theasa.net


Citation:
URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p186312_index.html
Direct Link:
HTML Code:

MLA Citation:

McFadden, Margaret. "L is for Looking: Art and Representation on "The L Word"" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the The American Studies Association, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Philadelphia, PA, Oct 11, 2007 <Not Available>. 2013-12-15 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p186312_index.html>

APA Citation:

McFadden, M. T. , 2007-10-11 "L is for Looking: Art and Representation on "The L Word"" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the The American Studies Association, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Philadelphia, PA <Not Available>. 2013-12-15 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p186312_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Abstract: As the first television series to represent a lesbian community, Showtime’s The L Word had to confront the question of how to portray lesbian and bisexual women without reproducing the stereotypes and preconceptions of a sexist and heterosexist dominant culture, while accommodating commercial pressures to attract the largest possible audience. Responding directly to this challenge, The L Word takes a sophisticated feminist perspective on the history of female and lesbian representation, and makes that history a central theme of the program. The show critiques the stereotypical and objectifying portrayals of women that are normative in U.S. culture—in both popular and high cultural forms—and then presents clear, and sometimes queer, alternative representations. This paper focuses on one aspect of this larger project of The L Word: the representation of gender and sexuality in contemporary art, a topic that is both the subject of a major story arc in season one and an important subtext of the program in its entirety.

The L Word is a serial melodrama that follows the lives of a circle of lesbian and bisexual women, who live in West Hollywood. Among them is Bette Porter (Jennifer Beals), the director of a contemporary art museum. Her position as a cutting-edge curator provides the program with a device through which to explore complex issues of representation; probing the inter-textual relationships between high art and other forms of visual culture is central to the show’s narrative and mise en scene. Using specific artworks, The L Word makes an argument for the need for innovative female and queer self-representation, in the face of a long history of erasure, misrepresentation, and objectification. The program also offers a spirited defense of the right of artists to make work that challenges convention and that questions the boundaries between artistic expression and pornography or obscenity.

The L Word explores these topics through several strategies. First, each week, the work of different real-world artists appears on screen. What these artists have in common is that their work thematizes female, lesbian, and/or queer representation. Second, several featured artists appear briefly in the show, with their work, which is highlighted and sometimes even discussed by the characters. I will focus on three of these artists and analyze how showcasing their work advances the program’s goals. Lisa Yuscavage’s grotesque and cartoony (but beautifully painted) female figures explore the effects of pornographic representations on viewers’ perceptions of women, especially lesbians; Laurie Papou’s large-scale paintings re-stage well-known female nudes from the western art canon so as to reinvent the conventions of representation of female sexuality; and Catherine Opie’s elegant portraits of queer and transgender subjects make clear that lesbian communities are much more diverse than the show’s wealthy and gender-normative characters would suggest. Highlighting these artists, who are working to transform the representation of women and queers, allows the show to make claims about the possibility of making new meanings from within familiar forms on commercial television; these artists are all doing what the show means to do.

Get this Document:

Find this citation or document at one or all of these locations below. The links below may have the citation or the entire document for free or you may purchase access to the document. Clicking on these links will change the site you're on and empty your shopping cart.

Associated Document Available Access Fee All Academic Inc.


Similar Titles:
Looking for Emotion: From Words to Narrative

What’s in a Date? Looking Beyond the Keyword of "9/11" for a Polyethnic "Word Order"

Words, Words, Words: A Two-Level Analysis of Language Reform as a State-Building Strategy


 
All Academic, Inc. is your premier source for research and conference management. Visit our website, www.allacademic.com, to see how we can help you today.