Masters of Sex Review

I normally don’t read reviews of a show before I watch it.

I’ve tried it before and I found myself looking for reasons to agree with the reviewer.  If the reviewer had nothing but sneers, I wanted to sneer along.  If the reviewer loved it, I kept looking for the gold.

I read Flavorwire‘s review of Masters of Sex before I ever watched it, and I actually found myself looking for reasons to disagree with their distaste for this show.  I guess I felt bad for it.  When I first heard the concept, I desperately wanted the show to be good, to be (as Flavorwire perfectly put it) Mad Men from Peggy’s perspective.

No such luck.

This show leaves nothing to like.  The show’s namesake is a flat, dry man who seems to hate everything and everyone he comes across–his lack of charisma is possibly supposed to be humorous or humanizing, but it just feels like more jerk behavior.  The heroine, Virginia Johnson (played by a continually wide-eyed and tight-lipped Lizzy Caplan) seems so determined to be a part of the sex study (for reasons unclear) that she seems to be willfully ignorant of Masters’ awfulness. As for the other characters?  They’re either flat or woefully under-explored.

And the plotlines.  Will the study be at the hospital or won’t it (does it matter?)  Masters is (gasp) a lying asshole who treats his wife for fertility problems she doesn’t have, just to put off having a baby.  Virginia is some sort of magical sex nymph that beguiles all men she comes across.  We’re to believe that Masters is obsessed with her, as evidenced by the fact that he asks her to be a part of the study with him (ya know, do it.)   So very dull, so very flat.  Even the style of the show doesn’t feel complete the way Mad Men does.

Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan are so much better than this.  They can act the part they need to be acting; he can be dry but lovable, she could handle being grounded, determined, adaptable and fierce.

I don’t get the sense that Masters or Johnson are discovering anything.  The research itself feels like an aside, a necessary device to allow the writers to create unrelated contrived events.  Even when people are naked onscreen and miming sex acts, nothing feels risque or particularly exciting for the viewer.  I get that it’s not really supposed to titillate, but what these people are doing is revolutionary for the time period; there should be some feeling created for the viewer that what’s happening is new, exciting and thrilling.  Instead, you’re just mourning what could’ve been.

My Fair Wedding, Unfair

My latest obsession?

“My Fair Wedding” with David Tutera.

For those not familiar with the show, here’s a synopsis: famous wedding planner David Tutera shows up at a couple’s house and uncomfortably listens as the bride explains the random concept for her wedding and shows off the bargain party store accessories she’s purchased for her trainwreck. While David tries not to look baffled or about to vomit, he has two bridesmaids show off their (inevitably WRONG) dresses, then sees the bride in her (WRONG) dress. He travels with the bride to survey her (WRONG) wedding venue. He then takes the bride to buy a new dress, new bridesmaid dresses, new accessories and begins the process of setting up her over-the-top wedding. In the end, the wedding is always an overpriced, very-different trainwreck with some sort of weird circus performer/busker troupe.
Forgive my judgy language, but I assure you, it’s no mistake that these weddings were chosen to be featured. Themes for these brides’ weddings are things like “purple princess”, “winter wonderland with aces and Indonesian stuff”, “pink” or “swamp”.
There are parts of me that really like the show, aside from the trainwrecky marvel-ness (like a bride making Dorothy picnic baskets with Easter grass and fake poppies for her Wizard of Oz bridesmaids.) It’s David Tutera taking a bride’s often strange (mini trucks as a theme?) wedding and making it less poorly-constructed. And often, the brides really do need the help–lots of “I’m not worth it” talk with the pricey bridal gown, or general delusion about whether 150 people can phsyically fit in this person’s back yard wedding “venue”.
But there’s the money thing.
In order for a wedding to be elegant, you apparently have to have a team of lighting techs, whole nurseries full of flowers, enormous cakes and bridal gowns not yet worn by another bride anywhere in the entire world. Because discount party store goods can never be elegant, because they’re mass-manufactured and someone else has already done that. And you’re the bride, and this is the most important day of your life, and you’ll never wear another dress more important than this one, and don’t you deserve to become a woman in these borrowed jewels?
I was discussing with my boyfriend… I really think this is the show they were trying to shop from Offbeat Bride. To show brides that they CAN be different, but that they still need to spend a ton of money and get shamed a little for wanting to be weird.
I studied rhetoric in college. You may be familiar with the concept of Dramatism, developed by Kenneth Burke. Essentially, Burke believes that speakers speak to rid themselves of guilt. They do so by creating a victim, themselves or someone else. The victim is a villain for having violated the ideal social order or norms. By taking action against the victim, you become the hero. The speaker can also get rid of guilt by cobfessing and requesting forgiveness. Burke set this up as a cycle, suggesting that it’s a process speakers participate in continually.
What’s the connection?
Think about the program from a number of angles. The network speaks through Tutera to expose the “sins” of these brides, exposing their guilt as people operating outside of the bridal norm. Tutera is a hero because he wants to correct these sins, and the audience tends to side with him. The brides, realizing their folly, confesses again and again that they’ve been wrong about wedding planning, that Tutera is right, that they want to be the ideal bride.
And the network reaps all the advertising profit. Because the network has again shown brides that they can’t be trusted to plan a wedding on their own. That they need a hero to show them the way. And wedding vendors can do that.
And again, the wedding industry has shamed us all into falling in line and spending big bucks to continue the cycle.