“'Generation Q’ is a nod to the generation who defines themselves as queer, which doesn’t really subscribe to labels beyond that,” says showrunner Marja-Lewis Ryan. “It was just meant to be a more inclusive sort of tag out to the original generation ‘L,’ which were mostly lesbians.”
“We’re bringing an authenticity to ‘Generation Q’ that maybe wasn’t present in” the original series, says Regina Hicks, co-executive producer of the show. “Our fresh take is, you know, be real.”
To keep it real, Ryan and Hicks acknowledged that the show needed to evolve with the community it portrayed as it grows both in numbers and language.
In a 2017 Gallup poll, approximately 4.5 percent of the U.S. population identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender, though Americans tend to overestimate that number. (Five years before, the percentage was recorded at 3.5 percent.)
The shift in the queer population has also been represented on the small screen. According to GLAAD’s annual “Where We Are on TV” report, there has been an increase from 126 queer regular and recurring characters in 2009 — a television season that featured shows such as “Glee,” “Skins” and “Modern Family” — to 433 a decade later with series such as “Pose,” “Steven Universe” and “Special.”
In GLAAD’s analysis, during the 2018-2019 television schedule on broadcast television — which includes ABC, CBS, CW, Fox and NBC — 8.8 percent of the regular and recurring characters were queer, which is nearly double the U.S. population of LGBTQ people. In 2019-2020, that number jumps to a projection of 10.2 percent.
It’s a change that has been reflected across the spectrum of the acronym.
“In last year’s report, we had counted 26 transgender characters across all of broadcast, cable and streaming. This year we counted 38,” says Megan Townsend, principal author of the report and director of entertainment research and analysis at GLAAD. “And one thing that was really exciting was that we more than doubled the number of transgender men that we found on television.”
But not all representation is good representation, a fact of which Ryan and Hicks are more than aware. They both acknowledge that the original “L Word” series was the first of its kind, though it had missteps in its casting and portrayals of people of color.
Ryan is adamant about avoiding tokenism and using “rainbow casting” — which she describes as having “one of each” person — both on- and off-screen.
“It is very, very, very rare that you get a bunch of queer people in a room that are not the queer in the room,” she says. “We kind of get to strip that label away and then show up as ourselves, which is what it feels like in real life. I don’t wake up every morning and say, ‘What am I going to do with my lesbian self today?’”
“No one has to stand alone at the top of the mountain [and] speak to America about an experience because there’s always somebody on the show that can share the experience with them,” says Hicks.
The L Word: Generation Q premieres Sunday, Dec. 8, at 10 p.m. on Showtime.