Welcome to the 13th installment of our 2021 Pride Month Series! Each day in June, we will be highlighting a different member of the LGBTQ+ community who we think is a great example of representation and dynamic characterization. We will focus on fictional characters, celebrities, and activists alike — the positive voices within the LGBTQ+ community and mainstream media.
The L Word ran for six seasons from 2004 to 2009 and was groundbreaking for that time. This show aired before there was marriage equality, openly serving in the military, and very little positive representation in the media. While it missed the mark on diversity and contained some inaccurate portrayals, it was a step in the right direction. The main storyline focused on a group of queer women in Los Angeles and their relationships. And one of those characters was the vocally proud lesbian, Bette Porter.
Bette Porter is many things; she is an Art History major graduating from Yale, a strong protector of family and friends, and a fierce mother. She puts the power in the power suites she wears. But, unfortunately, Bette can also be self-sabotaging, a bitch, and very controlling when things do not go her way, which tends to find her making the same mistakes or in some trouble. The one thing that is for sure is that the actress who plays Bette Porter, Jennifer Beals, knocks it out of the park.
During the first season of The L Word, Bette has been in a long-committed relationship with Tina (Laurel Holloman), and they begin considering starting a family. Things are not all good on the home front though, the couple does not see each other that much and have not been intimate in some time, and when they do decide to have a baby, they cannot agree when choosing the sperm donor. The season concludes with Tina finding out the Bette has been cheating on her with a construction worker from the gallery.
Season two does put the strong Bette through the wringer. Not only on the romantic front but work and family as well. She finds out her father is dying from advanced prostate cancer and does not want treatment. Being close to her father, even though he never truly accepted her sexuality, Bette brings him home so he will not pass away in a hospital. On the day of her father’s funeral, she also gets news that she has lost the job that she loved. The one good thing to come from this season is the birth of Bette and Tina’s daughter Angelica and the vastly improved relationship with Bette and her half-sister Kit (Pam Grier).
“My father never accepted me. Ever. Till the day he died, he called my partner—the woman that I love beyond measure—he called her my friend. As if our love was less than. And our love is not less than. But it was painful. It still is.”
Bette continues her on and off again love interest for the remaining seasons, doing what she thinks is best for her daughter, and starts a new job as dean of California Art College. I loved when she left the silent retreat and just kept yelling to the point that the others waiting at the bus stop started to join in. Seriously, it is therapeutic. And yes, she continues to make mistakes, as do the other characters in the show. But, we can all agree not to mention season six.
The L Word: Generation Q brought Bette back to our screens in 2019, ten years after the first series ended. Joining her from the original cast, with Shane (Katherine Moennig) and Alice (Leisha Hailey), who are joined by a diverse new cast.
When we catch up with Bette, she is running to be the mayor of Los Angeles with plans to improve the city as a whole, but with a focus on homelessness, including the homelessness of LGBTQ+ people and the LGBTQ+ community and those on the margin of society. This is right where she should be. Bette has always wanted to change the world, and this is how she will achieve this. When approached by a pharmaceutical company that wants to donate, she turns them down, wanting to run a clean campaign. It is also during that time we learn that Kit passed away from a heroin overdose. “I am running for her. I am running to change a broken system that failed her.”
She is raising her now teenage daughter Angelica who is her world. They ground each other in their crazy lives. It gets shown how they support each other with how the season ends with the news of Tina’s engagement to another woman and losing the election. Her breakdown and Angie comforting her was a real emotional scene. Where does Bette go from here?
Season two of The L Word: Generation Q is currently in production and set to return in August 2021. Stay tuned for more Pride spotlights throughout the month!