I tend to catch on to popular trends about five years after they die.
The first was my virtual love affair with the band Weezer--specifically the self-titled blue album, which came out when I was 10, but whose songs I didn't really properly listen to until my brother left his CD in the car the summer I turned 17. I remember listening to "In the Garage" over and over while my parents and I were driving through Vancouver, watching the rain fall and waiting--no, praying--for a garage of my own where I could just be. Then there was the Pinkerton album, which my friend Vivian and I used to blast while driving up the 101 from Santa Barbara, and a few years later my love for Weezer waned, as love for overplayed media tends to fade.
Then there was Harry Potter. I was in high school when the first book came out, and was prepared to poo-poo this so-called fantasy novel when my aunt April asked me to read the book aloud to my cousin Jeff one day in the car. I was reluctant at first, wondering if I could just read until Jeff fell asleep, but then my mouth couldn't keep up with the words tumbling out, and all I wanted to do was curl up in a corner and read for the rest of the afternoon. And although the Harry Potter films and related merchandise could never measure up to the power of the books, my allegiance to Hogwarts remains strong.
I acknowledge that by admitting to my own love of Weezer and Harry Potter means sacrificing tiny shreds of my dignity, and yet, who are we if we can't own what we like?
All this to admit to my current passing fancy: the Showtime drama "The L Word", which aired from 2004-2009, and whose soap opera plot twists revolve around the exploits of a community of lesbian friends in Los Angeles. I'd seen an episode here and there in the years that it was on t.v., but wasn't truly hooked until a few weeks ago, when I stumbled across the first season at the San Francisco Public Library, of all places. And now I find myself itching to know who ends up with who, and how, and why Jenny, the character who is a self-proclaimed "fiction writer," exemplifies the exact kind of writer I'd never want to be.
But there's more to "The L Word" than smoldering naked ladies--there's a cultural undercurrent that I find more interesting than any love triangle. Perhaps more than anything, this show epitomizes the evolving societal attitude toward homosexuality. I remember as a child that the very notion of being openly gay was a fairly dangerous thing. I've always had friends who identified on all parts of the Kinsey spectrum, and yet when I was in high school, the idea of even declaring one's sexual orientation was an act of courage, something that put them at risk. I was in junior high school when Matthew Shepard was brutally killed and in high school during the Columbine shooting. I remember when Ellen DeGeneres came out on her own sitcom, and how that made headlines for months.
Perhaps what interests me the most about "The L Word" is not its farcical romantic nature, nor its graphic-bordering-on-sensational love scenes, but the very fact that it made homosexuality a mainstream, everyday phenomenon. "The L Word" is just one of many such television shows and popular media that approached homosexuality with both humility and pride, and yet, like so many other trends, its relevance is just hitting me now.
Maybe, just maybe, trends can be a good thing, even if it takes us a few years to figure that out.