We didn’t get too many scenes of Rachel Shelley naked in The L Word, but one of the ones we did get is absolutely amazing. I’m talking about the brief story arc that opens Season 5 during which Helena Peabody is in prison. For those who didn’t follow The L Word, the arc covered the first three episodes of the fifth season. It is pure women-in-prison magic, but with an interesting twist in that, off the top of my head, I cannot think of any major women-in-prison features other than Orange Is the New Black that are told from a female perspective. Yes, obviously, the main characters are all women, but the writers and directors tend to be greaseball men like the God-Emperor of Sleaze Jess Franco – or as he came to be known after his ascension, Jesús Franco.
If I say that the three episodes we are looking at in The L Word were all written and directed by women, I would likely surprise no one. After all, the whole point of the show was that it was a “groundbreaking take on gay women’s lives” and “focused primarily on the stories of lesbian and bisexual women”, and naturally, it was created, written, and directed by a team of women. Seeing a story arc about a women’s prison and all of the trappings of the genre from that perspective has been both illuminating and satisfying.
We actually don’t see Rachel Shelley nude in the first episode of the season. The appropriately titled LGB Tease includes one of the critical elements of the genre, which is the prisoner intake. We have Rachel Shelley naked in it – well, technically naked but covering her boobs with a handbra – while a corrections officer wearing a pair of blue latex gloves leers menacingly from behind her. The shot ends with Helena Peabody bending forward to get her ass and vagina thoroughly fingered, but alas, none of this is captured on camera. In fact, the episode ends with no further nudity from the Swindon native, living up to its title.
The tease doesn’t last long because we do see Rachel Shelley topless in the very next episode, titled Look Out, Here They Come!, which may or may not have been a reference to the tsunami of orgasms from all aficionados of women-in-prison flicks. The context is, of course, a prison shower. You know how these kinds of scenes go, don’t you? Big open shower rooms with droves of completely nude female prisoners, soaped up and wet, getting into fights, the works. We do indeed see Rachel Shelley nude here for the first (and sadly last) time in the story arc, but what we are not given in quantity, we get plenty of in quality.
If you thought Showtime did well with the women-in-prison nude scene in this episode, you’re probably going to be quite enraged when you find out that there was a spin-off of The L Word planned that was going to take place entirely within a women’s prison, but it never saw the light of day. It was to be called The Farm, and apparently the pilot was filmed and everything, but alas, no biters at Showtime. Sad. Incidentally, this nude scene here also includes full frontal nudity from former Canadian Member of Parliament Lenore Zann, but more on that later. For now, enjoy Rachel Shelley naked in the prison story arc from The L Word.