Monthly Archives: August 2014

Let’s Talk About Sex

The first time I saw Masters of Sex was when I visited my sister in Miami last fall semester. I really wanted to watch The Real Housewives of New Jersey reunion- but hey, her apartment, her rules. The episode we watched was mid-season, so I basically had no idea what was going on and instead spent the hour pretending I was busy texting, but I was really just stalking my own Instagram account.

The following semester, I took an “Introduction to Sexuality” class and absolutely loved it. Once we started discussing Masters & Johnson’s research, I decided to give Masters of Sex another chance.

First

I binge watched the entire first season and instantly understood why people love it so much. It portrays Dr. William Masters (played by Michael Sheen) and his secretary/ research assistant Virginia Johnson’s (played by Janice Ian, Dyke… AKA Lizzy Caplan) study that would eventually challenge society’s concept of human sexuality and ignite the sexual revolution of the 1960’s. There are supporting characters’ entertaining story lines to add to the hour-long drama, but primarily the season focuses on Masters and Johnson’s execution of their study and how their personal/ romantic relationship flourishes as a result. Beau Bridges’ story line as Barton Scully- the Provost of Washington University and Masters’ longtime friend and mentor- is particularly heartbreaking. In the show, he harbors a long-held secret that he is gay, and the show’s portrayal of his personal struggle and his wife’s unhappiness (played by the brilliant Allison Janney) is poignant and beautifully depicted.

Second

I had high expectations for the second season. Usually when the first season of a show is so fantastic, it is hard to believe that the following season won’t measure up. Unfortunately, the second season has really disappointed me so far. First of all, I have no idea where this season is even going. Season one ended with Dr. Masters being fired from Washington University because his presentation of the study was too vulgar and outrageous (I mean, he did show a video of a girl masturbating to a group of older men in the 1950’s).

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Then, season two begins with Dr. Masters at another hospital, but he punches his boss in the face and is fired again. Now he is at an African-American hospital, and suddenly the show shifts from focusing on the sexual revolution to exploring segregation and civil rights. The show extends that focus to Masters’ wife, Libby’s, (played by that annoying actress who was Meryl Streep’s daughter in It’s Complicated. I don’t care enough to look up her real name) relationship with her nanny, a black girl named Coral (Keke Palmer). She forces Coral to wash her hair (even though she can only afford to get her hair done once a week) because she believes Coral gave her son, Johnny, lice. In actuality, Libby is just a hater because Coral has demonstrated to Bill that she is better with the baby than Libby is. I wonder if Coral nurses Baby Johnny and repeats, “You is kind, you is smart, you is important”. God knows that kid needs it.

Fourth

Most of the supporting characters from season one are gone, except for Betty, the former prostitute who helped Masters with his study early on. Betty is now married to a rich businessman and discovers that her husband met her at a brothel years before they formally met in church, but still married her despite her sordid past… proving the story of Pretty Woman is timeless. Then her former lesbian lover, Helen, (played by Sarah Silverman- who is only on the show because she is sleeping with Michael Sheen) reappears to start dating Betty’s husband’s best friend. Talk about random. Oh, and Virginia is now selling diet pills (Regina did predict that Janice Ian was on crack).

Fifth

I really hope this show can pull itself together, and start appearing less scattered, because it does hold so much potential. If it stopped deviating so much from what the premise of Masters of Sex fundamentally is- a depiction of the research that triggered the sexual revolution- it would still be great. But, by the looks of it, it might be pulling a Dexter/ True Blood: fantastic in the beginning, but a parody of itself in the end.

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Knowledge is the New Black

I, like many of you that are probably reading this, have been obsessed with Orange is the New Black from the moment I went on Netflix and pressed play. For those of you who haven’t watched (and you really should), it is an adaptation of Piper Kerman’s memoir of the same name, detailing the 13 months she spent in Federal Prison due to a 10 year old drug offense.

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I have been obsessed with the show for a while now, and am not ashamed to admit I watched the entire second season in a day and a half. While there are certainly other television shows focused on women, Orange is the New Black is unique in that it doesn’t portray the female protagonist as a mother, a daughter, a wife, a friend, or a sister. But rather, it simply illustrates Piper’s relationship with herself, in addition to the personal struggles of her fellow inmates. It is common to see men portrayed as stoic, introspective, tenacious characters, but rarely do we see women that way. This show is remarkable for “going there”.

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I recently read Piper Kerman’s book and was surprised at how different the tone of her book is from that of Jenji Kohan’s show. While the television show is touching, hilarious, entertaining, and at times heartbreaking, the book is full of revelations and is incredibly enlightening. Here are some parts of Piper’s book I found particularly thought provoking:

  • “It’s hard to conceive of any relationship between two adults in America being less equal than that of prisoner and prison guard. The formal relationship, enforced by the institution, is that one person’s word means everything, and the other’s means almost nothing; one person can command the other to do just about anything, and refusal can result in total restraint. That fact is like a slap in the face. Even in relation to the people who are anointed with power in the outside world- cops, elected officials, soldiers- we have rights within our interactions. We have a right to speak to power, though we may not exercise it. But when you step behind the walls of a prison as an inmate, you lose that right. It evaporates, and it’s terrifying.”

 

  • “A lengthy term of community service working with addicts on the outside would have probably driven the same truth home and been a hell of a lot more productive for the community. But our criminal justice system has no provision for restorative justice, in which an offender confronts the damage they have done and tries to make it right to the people they have harmed. Instead, our system of ‘corrections’ is about arm’s-length revenge and retribution, all day and all night. Then its overseers wonder why people leave prison more broken than when they went in.”

 

  • “I would seem to have been ready-made for prison time then, as a familiar jailhouse trope says ‘you come in alone and you walk out alone,’ and common counsel is to keep to oneself and mind your own business. But that’s not what I learned in prison. What I discovered was that I am emphatically not alone…I realized that I was not alone in the world because of the women I lived with for over a year, who gave me a dawning recognition of what I shared with them. We shared overcrowded Dorms and lack of privacy. We shared eight numbers instead of names, prison khakis, cheap food and hygiene items. Most important, we shared a deep reserve for humor, creativity in adverse circumstances, and the will to protect and maintain our own humanity despite the prison system’s imperative to crush it. I don’t think any of us could have managed those survival techniques alone; I know I couldn’t- we needed each other.”

 

  • “In my third prison (she was transferred twice in order to testify in Chicago), I perceived an odd truth that held for each: no one ran them. Of course, somewhere in those buildings, some person with a nameplate on their desk or door was called the warden and nominally ran the place, and below them in the food chain there were captains and lieutenants. But for all practical purposes, the people who lived in those prisons day in and day out, the captain’s chair was vacant, and the wheel was spinning while the sails flapped…Great institutions have leaders who are proud of what they do, and who engage with everyone who makes up those institutions, so each person understands their role. But our jailers are generally granted near-total anonymity, like the cartoon executioner who wears a hood to conceal his identity. What is the point, what is the reason, to lock people away for years, when it seems to mean so very little, even to the jailers who hold the key?”

Visit Piper Kerman’s website to learn more about the organizations that are helping to make our justice system work properly for all of us.

Thoughts on Robin Williams

I am definitely not one of those people who posts my opinions all over social media. For example, I don’t think just because I am Jewish I am obligated to comment about Israel, or just because I go to Emory I should share articles about the Ebola virus being treated there. I usually scroll through these types of updates on my Facebook with nothing more than mild irritation, and move on with my day. But in the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide, social media has really pissed me off.

I have battled depression for many years. I have witnessed first hand that the majority of people have no idea what clinical depression really is. Sadness is an emotion, which everyone experiences and usually doesn’t last that long. Depression is a mood, and you can’t just think positive thoughts or meditate to get rid of it.

People are talking about Robin Williams as if being funny and being depressed are mutually exclusive. This just proves society’s ignorance about what depression really is, especially bipolar depression. Depression is not a personality trait, it doesn’t define who you are. Robin Williams was not a depressed person “masking” it with humor. He was a talented comedian who happened to suffer from a mental illness he had no control over.

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If you really want to raise awareness about mental illness, tweeting about it or writing a status update isn’t the way to do it. Next time you want to say someone is sad, don’t say they are depressed. Next time you want to say someone is moody, don’t label them bipolar. Next time you want to say someone is a neat freak, don’t say they have OCD. Trivializing mental illness only makes it that much harder for people who are suffering to come forward and seek help. Oh, and it also makes you look ignorant.

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