an essay for Emily Carr University Spring Semester about Jennifer Schecter of The L Word. Assumes you're familiar with the premise of the show and the characters. Parallel between the coursepack's content.
Where is she?
Jennifer Schecter of The L Word lives her life out in metaphor, through stripping, as a cutter, as a romantic, as an author, as a diva. She finds strength when she finds a voice through her writing. Her life is a thread in the book cum film within Showtime's series The L Word, remembered in cinematic vignettes of a repressed, traumatized childhood and then expressed through her sexuality and the writing of Les Girls.
Her thoughts work through the opposition of her ex-husband Tim, of her lover Marina, of her friends, and her financial backers of Les Girls, even of her assistant Adele. Tim gives her a revenge fuck after discovering Jenny's affair with Marina, and leaves her. Marina casually mentions she is already in an open relationship, to Jenny after the fact. Issues with the production of the movie cause Jenny a significant number of problems. Yet Jenny still finds a way to maintain her character, sometimes falling into selfish behavior of a diva, but always keeping her focus on her writing, on her creativity. These conflicts lead to material for her book and ultimately, success.
She deals with the hierarchies of the publishing company. She is the backup plan for Carmen, besotted with Shane. Her childhood is a myth that she remembers in grotesque flashbacks. She orders her world with razor-blades, than with stripping, than with books. Through all this she is coupled, with her husband, her childhood, with the male gaze.
Theory of culture, her deconstruction of lesbian life at The Planet. Theory of society, the strip club atmosphere. Art, her writing, family, her mother's apology, language, her writing- it brings her to light. Yet the destruction of these pairings is necessary- her divorce from Tim, stopping her self-destructive cutting- which makes it able for her to move forward. A war loosed- the dramatic sense necessary for a television sitcom. Death is always at work- Jenny oscillates between a diva's happiness and a pessimist's suicidal thoughts.
Her relationships with authority figures
Monsieur Hallsey/ daughter
Jenny both is objectified by the male gaze as she strips at a country bar. Women existing as entertainment is something that she is familiar with, both as a writer and a performer. Her strip performance borders on performance art, differing dramatically from the pretty girl appearances of the other strippers. Her female body is a source of power that has been repressed by the masculine in her life, Tim, the literary world, and the clown figures in her childhood, by her own repressing mind and memory.
Tim, her husband, leaves her when he discovers that Jenny is bisexual. Although he wanted to hear the fantasy, when the reality was she was not centered around him, with his need to love himself he was unable to stay with her. The fantasy was ideal when it had the male as a privileged viewer, but when he finds himself excluded, as a secondary power in her life, he leaves. The give and take of the relationship was no longer in the male favor.
Jenny's stripping in the bar, gives her the choice of how the male gaze views her. It helps her remember childhood traumas and vague nightmare memories. By using the male gaze she finds a voice to her fears and distrust of people. She speaks with her body, with the cold clinical manner her body language says as she takes her clothes off, and with her eyes. This confusion of body and exhibitionism is a performance that speaks what she herself cannot.
When she can no longer speak with the tongue she expresses herself again with her body, with blood and razors. This is a final cry for help that gets her to a place where she can heal, when Shane discovers her in the bathroom. She deconstructs her flesh, in an attempt to construct her memory.
Jenny does the objectifying herself, as she writes a book about her friends and the lesbian life around her. As they have no input into her book, only discovering it with publication, Jenny's point of view becomes the truth, like the male voice often has. By taking control of her situation, she uses both the masculine and the feminine as a source of power through weakness, exemplifying the bisexual. The title of her book, Sum of her Parts, speaks to Cixous' 'self proper.' Jenny's book is about becoming a whole out of circumstance, out of events and memories, out of the drama and betrayal, out of her life, centering herself like the sun in the world of The Planet. Jenny writes with red ink, and then white, as she holds her friends under a critical eye and absolves herself. Her story becomes constructed with her history.
Jenny's writing is a work that transforms. When Adele appears at The Planet, the book Sum of her Parts is the motivating factor. Both the book and Adele are moments that start small and end up having huge repercussions, in the story line of the Les Girls movie within The L Word television show. The pieces that began small end up having exponential impact.
Shane, as a masculine androgynous character, is her best friend and a source of strength for Jenny. When Shane betrays her by cheating on her, Jenny again finds herself at the mercy of the masculine. She says, "you've broken my heart," speaking from her heart, as the one excluded. Jenny speaks onstage, to a gathering, people who are not her followers but follow the direction she set out for them, that she is madly in love, casting her voice and body out to be heard, only to find that she is the only one there. She sets herself loose only to find herself alone. It is the second torture of speaking aloud.
Jenny, as the director for her movie Les Girls, becomes the male voice telling the woman how to be sexual, a role played by the male. While shooting a scene for Les Girls, she directs , "It might be nice if you looked like you were, you know, actually giving her pleasure rather than moving furniture... That looks like you're sewing up a hole in her jeans." The woman of The L Word know how to use their bodies to give pleasure to themselves and to their lovers, something that the straight woman does not , evidenced by the straight actresses. As sex with woman is not centered around the phallus, woman who live centered around the phallus find themselves at a loss to do anything with a body that is like their own.
Jenny is also on the other side of the coin. When it comes to her own love life, it is the producers who are trying to direct her. They send Nikki to her premier without Jenny. When she no longer has a say in what is happening in her relationship, again her body speaks for her with tears and angry gestures. Her girlfriend sleeps with a man, and Jenny finds that her relationship is threatened by the male phallus, the 'dumb-shit actor boy' who shows off Nikki at the premier. Jenny gives Nikki a second chance, she gives without reservation. But there is never something given for nothing, and this affects the relationship later on, when Nikki again cheats on Jenny.
Nikki is a bisexual, who, regrettably, is required by her agent and her contract to be heterosexual, or to be portrayed as heterosexual. Despite the fact she was chosen to play the bisexual lead in Les Girls, the heat behind her stardom is driven by her centerfold appearance, catering to the male audience, instead of being allowed to speak honestly with her body and her choices. Again, the gender of the couple playing a role in the dynamic of the relationship, dictated by cultural norms and expectations. On one hand it is empowering for Nikki and Jenny, on the other, it causes them both to loose credibility.
When Jenny rejects the perspective of the mainstream for the end of her movie, she looses her voice as her movie is taken over by her assistant, Adele, who is more than willing to sell out for a major distributor. By returning the character Jesse to her male lover, Adele allows the male power to dominate, and in return Adele is able to gain more power, breaking into the film industry. She functions within man's discourse, while Jenny's ending choice functioned apart from it- making it 'too gay.'
But ultimately, "too gay" is simply when the female/male balance becomes tipped in the feminine favour. Jennifer Schecter is a bisexual who struggles through the opposition of a male-dominated society to find her voice to speak with her words and her body, a struggle that she wins and, at time, fails in a heartbreaking way. She is a complex character embodying the sum of the female and the masculine in the thread of her life that she writes in her book and bodily expressed in the movie within the television show The L Word.