New on the menu this summer – wait for it – is yet another reality TV show about young hot drama-riddled scenesters cruising around LA. But this time, they’re lesbians. In an effort to expand on gay culture’s long overdue explosion into the mainstream media, MTV and Logo came together to piggy-back off the success of shows like The L Word and Queer as Folk and are offering the world a picture of the "real" West Hollywood lesbian club scene, Gimme Sugar. The premise: Five culturally diverse club-hopping girls in their twenties, struggling with their relationships and the desire to start their own Saturday night gay club, which, after much strenuous thought, they call Sugar.
The show is shot, edited and narrated following the MTV Real World template. The theme song could have easily been written by Cleopatra (Comin’ Atcha!). The central conflict of the show occurs when Alex, an almost 21-year-old bisexual, throws a monumental hissy fit after being carded at the The Truck Stop, the local lesbian hot spot, where the narrator Charlene works as a promoter. Furious, she insists that they start their own club. Circuitous arguments ensue, interrupting their perpetual partying. The girls cruise from one chic, expensive location to another to heatedly discuss the non-issue dramas that inexplicably devour their lives (there are repeated conversations about whether or not the name "Sugar" is sexy, or sounds forbidden to non-dieters). And yet we never see them show any concern for going to work.
Charlene, the number one MC on the club scene is shown MCing for a matter of seconds, but her job seems to consist mostly of sitting on couches sipping drinks with her girls. Devonee, the aggressive jock player of the bunch, is a babysitter. Alex the youngster is a stand-up comedian. It doesn’t matter. In the Garden of Eden that is West Hollywood, sex, love, money and hotties are in constant supply. In fact, the transitions between one event and another often consist of a noisy pan across the asses of booze-drenched bar top go-go dancers gyrating ala Coyote Ugly. During a random beach volleyball game, scenes of the girls bumping chests in bikinis inexplicably go into slow motion to showcase their tan slick sandy bods.
Variations on the line "With my friends, every day is another drama," are peppered across each scene. They all feel the constant, mind-numbing urge to remind us of just how crazy and dramatic and hardcore their lush lesbian lives are. This is 2008 – considering the degree of our Reality TV drama saturation, the payoffs for all this build up are ludicrously disappointing. Other than the girls’ immature, possessive, jealous and insecure reactions to every minor glitch, there’s really no conflict at all. The girls themselves don’t seem to take each other that seriously. In fact, they consciously stir the drama pot and inflame each other for their amusement. (A harshly interrogated newcomer to the scene is thrust into the arms of a friend’s ex for the sake of a predictably ridiculous reaction.) Sorry girls, as legitimately young, hot, and gay as you may be, grown ups don’t play nerve-tag and giggle about it with their best friends twenty-four hours a day. Most of us got tired of that in middle school.
In spite of its vapidity and scripted feel, Gimme Sugar does constitute an important shift in representations of gay women on the small screen. The hard but emotional, trash-talking jock girl, Devonee, is an angular Asian-American from Laos in a buzz cut and Converse. Party girl and runway model Bathilda is an immigrant from Taiwan. Voice of reason and narrator Charlene was born in the Philippines. They are amongst the first Asian American lesbians on television. Gay girls come in all shapes, colors and sizes, they remind us. Not everyone looks like Portia de Rossi. Given that, there is still more emphasis on being femme than one would expect. The one truly butch, I dare say dyke, appears momentarily bumping volleyball and laughing holding a beer in fleeting scenes. They don’t even grace her with a name. Regardless of how these girls look, common struggles in lesbian culture do crop up. Alex the bisexual is harassed for liking boys, pressured to choose. The girls cannot seem to stay out of each other’s personal lives, making judgments and often pushing each other to the edge. There is a constant game of approval and disapproval. Other than a few places on a few nights, even in a town like LA, the girls have nowhere to go and are hungry for more options friendly to their lifestyles. Gimme Sugar does deserve its props for staying true to some fundamental issues. The fact remains however, that we’ll still be sitting back watching girls in bikinis bounce in the sand and slather soapy water over cars, and themselves. "Real" lesbians may not be so thrilled at the need for tearing a page out of Jessica Simpson’s book.
The show premiers on Monday, June 9 at 10:00 PM ET. Clips, interviews and photos can be found on LOGOonline.com.