‘The L Word’ stats: Did Helena Peabody grow on you over the course of the seasons?


Helena Peabody (Rachel Shelley) over the course of the seasons of Showtime’s The L Word

When Rachel Shelley was asked in the The L Word season 3 podcast to finish the sentence, “I wish my character was more…” she responded, “[…] liked, maybe?!”

Well, that seems to have happened as the seasons progressed, according to the 62 people/IP addresses who participated in the little poll I did with Twtpoll and promoted through my Twitter account:

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And since there are a few missing values here, as not everyone who participated has seen every season yet, here is a graph of the sample means with the missings excluded:

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So you did indeed like her a little more every season…judging by the sample means…and not taking into account that we might be dealing with one of every researcher’s good “friends” the dreaded recall bias here because you might have watched some of the seasons a while ago…

[START INFERENTIAL STATISTICS ALERT]

Any researcher out there will ask for predictions for the entire group of people this poll represents, let’s call this population “Rachel Shelley admirers”, since this is the target audience of my Twitter account according to the description, even though there seems to be a diverse crowd around. ;)
One example for these predictions for the population is the 95% confidence interval for the means which implies that the data is very likely to only show differences for all Rachel Shelley admirers in “liking” between season 2 and all other seasons as well as between season 3 and seasons 5 and 6, since the confidence intervals that the population mean might fall into do not overlap for these seasons. Any other difference could very likely have happened by chance in this sample. Check it out:

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Even though a little less clearly, these population mean estimates do show an increase in “liking” over the course of the seasons.

[/END INFERENTIAL STATISTICS ALERT]

To wrap this up, here is a table of stats if you don’t believe in graphs:

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Not one of you chose the “worst” category in the 3rd season. Hmm… Let me hear ya say Dylena!

Even though Twtpoll is a nice website for creating polls, it didn’t let me see how each of you voted individually for every season, so I have no way of checking potentially interesting subgroup statistics – how people who “disliked her in season 2” voted in season 3 for example.

I need to stop complaining since I should have checked stuff like that in advance? Yeah, got me there… *makes mental note*


So, what might have made Helena Peabody more likable for you over the course of the seasons?

Here is my short take on the subject:

Helena was introduced as both a threat to one of the show’s most loved couples* and a powerful Alpha female. Most definitely one of the best combinations for high likability ratings… ;)

As she became more comfortable with the TLW ladies, she adapted a different social role in response to the circumstances/showed a different side of her character – her gentle, generous, kind, and able-to-be-deeply-hurt-by-someone-she-loves side – and became a more well-rounded and likable character along the way.

Helena in season 4 was a mixture of the traits she showed in the seasons before that, she had become accustomed to be less controlling than she was in season 2 but could not live without the amenities that come with a privileged lifestyle, so she accepted the shortcomings of a life with Catherine – until she didn’t any more…

I see season 5 and 6 as a continuation of her struggle to combine these two defining characteristics: there’s the kind and gentle Helena that loved Dylan so much that she was ready to forgive her for the things she did, and then there’s the Alpha that would rather leave life as she knows it behind than be forced to succumb to her mother’s wishes.

Helena also profited from retaining her “gentle” characteristics as the seasons progressed: Helena turning into an “unlikable Alpha” again became gradually less likely in the viewer’s mind and that might have boosted her ratings.

I want to end with the caveat that this show is written by writer human beings, then interpreted by actor human beings, and their interpretation is interpreted by this human being, so there might be some flaws along the way when it comes to implied character traits or whatever, therefore feel free to disagree with me – or agree for that matter…

*I absolutely understand that this made her unlikeable to many. Nonetheless, I do consider Helena and Tina’s relationship to be very beneficial for both of them, even though not entirely healthy in a well-rounded sense: Helena made Tina feel beautiful and wanted again, something that was very important after Bette had cheated on her. Helena needed emotional stability after moving to LA as well as some old-fashioned practice in “the workings of a relationship”. They might have used each other subconsciously, but it was for both their benefit in the long term IMHO.


This post was last updated on 08/11/10.

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2 responses to “‘The L Word’ stats: Did Helena Peabody grow on you over the course of the seasons?

  1. Totally agree with almost everything said here, esp. about Bette and Tina’s relationship. It’s not like Helena split them up, they were already over, but Helena’s relationship with Tina made her and Bette grow up a bit (Bette in how she dealt with her jealousy/possesiveness). Plus Helena and Tina did have a couple of really cute moments.

    • I find it interesting to see (on Twitter etc.) how people who newly discover The L Word are approaching the, let’s diplomatically say, “controversial” Helena+Tina topic these days, and from what I gather there the, um, “level of emotional distress” hasn’t changed much over the years – surprise! ;)

      But that’s one of the things The L Word does very well, its pairings have always triggered the emotional roller coaster in people – and I hope the show will continue to move people, and change them, and make them think about themselves and others, and all that other good stuff! :)

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