Wednesday, April 16, 2008

L Word Season Five Finale, the Jodi Addendum

A friend wrote to remind me that I hadn’t addressed the Jodi debacle of the last episode(s), which does seem worth at least a few words. Jodi’s character shifted in unpredictable and rather unbelievable ways through the course of her run on the series. She started as a sex radical of sorts who didn’t want to commit to a monogamous relationship with Bette, and ended as a betrayed girlfriend infuriated by Bette’s affair with Tina. Too bad the show’s writers couldn’t maintain their hold on a character who could practice non-monogamy with magnanimity, but had to reduce her to a conventionally jealous, spurned lover.

When at the end Bette protests that their relationship never really worked, spectators can only agree. As I’ve noted before, Jennifer Beals and Marlee Matlin (who apparently have long been close friends in “real life”) never sparked much, physically or emotionally. Their sex scenes seemed forced and perfunctory; toward the end, when Jodi so frequently tried to force herself on Bette, their scenes were nearly distasteful.

Bette’s rekindled desire for Tina inspired all sorts of new moralizing from her friends (I still can’t fathom why Bette’s choices are always judged so harshly), with everyone protesting that they didn’t want to see Jodi hurt. Although the character was drawn as everyone’s best friend this season, the inner circle’s reactions tread close to pity for the disabled deaf girl who was about to be dumped.

Granted, Jodi’s affection for the L girls made her into a good buddy, but I couldn’t help feeling suspicious and uneasy that their protectiveness toward her came at least partly from her deafness. While writing a deaf character into a series like The L Word is a progressive choice, implicitly pitying her, under cover of emotional support, seems cheap.

Jodi’s “explosive” unveiling of her new “sculpture” in the last episode was a gratuitous attack, a gleefully performed humiliation of the woman The L Word loves to bash. Why does Bette have to take another one right between the eyes? Because she's so smart? Her speech at Jodi's premiere was elegant and eloquent, her intellect and her (fabricated, of course) insights into art-making keen and original. The show inevitably undercuts these admirable public performances by so openly dragging her through the mud of her private life.

And since when does a sculptor use two-dimensional multi-media to make her art? The scene at the gallery felt unnecessary, a public shaming of Bette that didn’t further the plot any more than letting Jodi exit with uncharacteristically vindictive self-righteousness.

I’m left wondering what will become of Max’s affair with Jodi’s interpreter, and who will be the next temporary standard-bearer for the show’s more radical (although in the context of The L Word, “radical” is relative) artistic and sexual practices. Tune in next February.

The Feminist Spectator