Ilene Chaiken: Speaking for the lesbian community
With the announcement of Showtime that they would be coming out with a sequel to our favorite lesbian TV series, The L Word, we have acknowledge the person who created it, namely, Ilene Chaiken.
Thanks to Chaiken, we got a TV series about a group of lesbian living in West Hollywood. This series not only gave a good representation of the LGBT community on TV, it also left a lasting mark in the mainstream zeitgeist.
Ilene Chaiken behind the scenes
Born on 30 June 1957, Chaiken was raised in in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. In 1979, she finished Rhode Island School of Design with an undergraduate degree in graphic design.
However, instead of doing design, she became an agent trainee at the Creative Artists Agency, before moving on to become an executive for Aaron Spelling and Quincy Jones Entertainment.
She was involved as associate producer for Satisfaction (1988) and as a coordinating producer for the TV show The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (1991-1992).
Likewise, she wrote the screenplay for the movie Barb Wire (1996), and the TV film Dirty Pictures (2000) and Damaged Care (2002).
But it was with The L Word that her career really took off.
Ilene Chaiken and The L Word
We’ve already mentioned how much we loved The L Word and what went into the show.
Since its cancellation, Chaiken has moved onto other shows. She’s currently under an exclusive deal with 20th Century Fox TV as showrunner for the TV drama series Empire.
This means that, despite being credited as executive producer in the new The L Word TV series, she won’t be involved in it.
“The L Word will always be mine but there will be a new, probably young lesbian, who creates the new show,” Chaiken had said then. (This, of course, would be Marja Lewis Ryan.)
Ilene Chaiken and writing hard stories
Chaiken is lauded for creating stories and characters about members of marginalized communities like the LGBT (The L Word) and African-Americans (Empire) on TV.
However, she is also considered “a polarizing figure” with fans because of her “cruel and incomprehensible plot twists,” as noted by Indiewire.
For example, Chaiken told After Ellen: “If you only want us to only be able to kill and corrupt straight white men then straight white men are going to get all the good stories.”
“I don’t entirely disagree with the premise of the kill-the-lesbians trope,” she added. “I think there are a lot of straight white men running TV shows who want to tell us a shocking story and say, ‘Well, we need to kill a character now. Who can we afford to lose? Oh! The lesbian!”
“I believe that there is some legitimacy to that but I would never do it in that way. I’m of a different orientation than that,” she said.
Ilene Chaiken and her own love story
Chaiken is currently married to LouAnne Brickhouse, a former Disney executive at Disney, who she met at one of the viewing parties for The L Word.
The two were introduced to each other by the late Garry Marshall, who was known for directing romantic comedies. At that time, Brickhouse was in a relationship while Chaiken had ended her relationship with architect Miggi Wigg.
Chaiken told Advoate that Marshall had asked her: “Have you met anyone? Are you seeing anyone? Who do you like? It would be LouAnne, right? That’s the kind of person you’re looking for.”
Marshall ended up being right as Chaiken and Brickhouse dated for five years before marrying in November 2013.