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Trauma Carnival

A retrospective on Jenny, from The L Word

By Melissa IngoldsbyPublished 25 days ago Updated 6 days ago 3 min read
Top Story - May 2024

I have unpopular opinions on one of my old favorites, The L Word. First is: Jenny is my favorite character. Second: The show was originally about Jenny, her trauma, her broken identity and the way her sexuality was explored as an awakening that brought up many memories of childhood abuse.

There are many polarized views on her character as many feel she is a character everyone, “loves to hate,” and her prima donna ways are off-putting. However, New York magazine summed up her character as being integral to the whole shebang: "Jenny Schecter is The L Word, and the death of her is the death of the show."

It showcases her in the first season, naive and shy, moving from Illinois to be with her boyfriend, Tim, in California. She gives off country-girl, Midwestern vibes, a fish out of water in eclectic LA.

Generational Trauma

The topic of generational trauma is touched on through Jenny’s Jewish heritage. Her grandmother was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp during the Halocaust. This truly traumatic experience, which included a Nazi Unterscharführer that branded her grandmother’s arm with a tattoo, was a deeply ingrained fear and sadness for Jenny. Her family had a Jewish household that believed homosexuality was wrong, and Jenny grew up speaking Hebrew and learning Jewish customs and faith.

They touch on this generational trauma as Jenny speaks in Hebrew, mapping out her family’s journey from the concentration camps to now in a huge media project she had been working on for what seems like years.

Another truly disconcerting event was Jenny's Zayde, or grandfather, being committed to an insane asylum. This was, in part, possibly due to the fact that her grandfather was transcribing the Torah by hand. Jenny’s seems to be deeply affected by both of these events against her family.

I feel this is an important part of identity that's explored here with such a titular Jewish character.

Childhood Abuse and Assault

The pathology that follows Jenny, a sort of narcissistic mix of pathological lying and self-hatred, stems from a deeply traumatic event as a young girl.

As an older woman, she asserts her independence and need to separate herself from gender-roles that entrap and ensnare:

“Oh, fuck off, Mark. It's not my job to make you a better man, and I don't give a shit if I've made you a better man. It's not a fucking woman's job to be consumed and invaded and spat out so that some fucking man can evolve.” -Jenny

I remember when I first watched that episode and felt so utterly cathartic hearing Jenny say those words. In my experience, the abuser tends to victim blame and use excuses, even going so far as to say the abuse they inflicted made them learn how to be a better person. The assertion that women, or men, could be used in such a shameful way, was a fallacy that I am grateful to hear put into words by Jenny.

The childhood memory that is more of a deep chasm, a spiraling black hole, is of a terrifying gang rape that was perpetrated by three older teenage boys, something that placed a cracked psyche within Jenny. In her mind, growing up without her parents acknowledging this assualt or comforting her, she found a deep resentment and turmoil in her family and in her memory.

The memory of the assault was blacked out. It was more of an old nightmare than a true event in her life. One of the boys that assaulted her was wearing a clown shirt. This, in congruence with the assault taking place by a carnival, created hallucinations and terror of such places in the future.

This truly terrible and tragic event was a sinister point in her poetic musings, writings and short stories. The monster turned into the carnival tent nearby, her parents enjoying themselves inside as she was assaulted outside. The beast was the twisted carnival she invented inside of herself.

I feel that her deeply poetic and visceral written expressions of trauma, fear, sadness, abuse and assault are highly significant to healing and overcoming such a deeply conflicting identity crisis and depression.

Last Thoughts

I feel Jenny did not get the praise or understanding she deserved in this series and I truly wish her character got redemption in the end instead of the shit-show they presented to us.

I won't go too much into her sexuality as I feel that's the least important part of who she was. Tying into her generational and childhood trauma, it was difficult for her to retain long term, healthy relationships without self-destructive tendencies. I think she desired safety over romance, but it was clouded over by her severe trauma and pain.


About the Creator

Melissa Ingoldsby

I am a published author on Patheos,

I am Bexley by Resurgence Novels

The Half Paper Moon on Golden Storyline Books for Kindle.

My novella The Job and Atonement will be published this year by JMS Books

Carnivorous published by Eukalypto

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Comments (19)

  • Jane Katt8 days ago

    I love how you expressed this, it really resonated with me.

  • Anu Mehjabin18 days ago

    Beautifully written! And congrats on your top story🎉

  • Brenda Fluharty18 days ago

    Not an easy subject to write about. I give you a lot of credit for writing about it and trying to help.

  • Fantastic writing.

  • Sweileh 88821 days ago

    Interesting and delicious content, keep posting more.

  • The Dani Writer22 days ago

    This story was DEFINITELY the deep dive! Thank you for writing and sharing and congrats on being top-storied!

  • So glad you wrote this, Melissa. I’m writing a braided essay for a magazine about this very topic. My opinion is even more unpopular: not only is Jenny my favorite character, but also she was the only character in the entire series that I truly enjoyed. Most of them were awful people. They turned on Jenny because she wrote about them, and they didn’t enjoy having a mirror turned on them. As for why the general public turned on Jenny, causing the creator of the show to write the most cringe worthy final season to ever exist where Jenny became a caricature instead of a person? I have no idea. I think a lot of them just enjoyed the soft core porn aspect of the show, so they loved Shane, who was a disgusting womanizer, because they loved all her sex scenes. Jenny was too raw and real for their girl porn.

  • Denelsia Walker22 days ago

    Exceptional Write! 💫💫💫💫💫

  • Denelsia Walker22 days ago

    The L Word was one of my favorite series. My personal favorite was Shane. 😊 Jenny Schecter's story is a testament to the show's willingness to tackle difficult and often uncomfortable subjects. Her character arc is a compelling exploration of the long-term effects of trauma and the complexities of human behavior, making her a significant and unforgettable part of "The L Word."

  • That picture looks like she's serving time on death row.

  • I don't know the show but your story is difficult but enlightening and I am glad it is getting the exposure it deserves Sis

  • Ughhhhh Jenny 😂 Like a part of me agrees with you and Jenny’s purpose but also like ughhhhhhhhh 😂

  • JBaz22 days ago

    Never watched this but that line about ‘not there to make him a better man’ That alone makes it seem worthy to watch Congratulations

  • Congrats for your TS.

  • shanmuga priya22 days ago

    Congratulations for your wonderful work .

  • Back to say congratulations on your Top Story! 🎉💖🎊🎉💖🎊

  • I've not watched this show but from what you've said here about Jenny, I think she would have been my favourite character too. I'm usually drawn towards these kinda characters. I hate that her parents were so shitty. My heart goes out to her 🥺❤️

  • Novel Allen25 days ago

    I never saw this so I am not an expert on the comments which should follow. But abuse is such a horrible thing. Yet it keeps happening everywhere. Very well written.

Melissa IngoldsbyWritten by Melissa Ingoldsby

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