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November 19, 2013

Traditional Morality - the New Transgressiveness

Interesting idea embedded in this review of Masters of Sex (a show the Editorial Staff have assiduously avoided watching):

Sometimes, the most satisfying surprises happen when the 1950s don’t seem so old, or seem to be winking at the present: Bill Masters, for example, gets schooled by a handful of women about faking orgasms as if When Harry Met Sally were old news. But the most compelling moments in Masters of Sex aren’t when the show portrays what’s now common knowledge as a myth-busting breakthrough. Rather, they happen when the show presents ideas about society and sex that we might today consider laughably backwards as legitimate—and makes viewers sympathize with attitudes many have since villainized.

Masters of Sex’s treatment of its female characters, for instance, illustrates why “outdated” ideas about women’s roles once made sense, and perhaps still do to some people. For much of the season, Virginia has struggled to balance her work and home lives, juggling two young kids and her sex research while considering going back to school. But after her young son, fed up with her late nights, briefly runs away, she breaks down after her former fling Dr. Ethan Haas recovers him.

“[Children] want both parents,” she tearfully confesses to Ethan. “It orders a kid’s universe to have both parents there. It orders adults’ universes too. I’m not meant to do this alone.”

Virginia’s relationship status isn’t the real reason she’s struggling to make it on her own—instead, it's probably a combined result of a lack of childcare resources limited job prospects and educational opportunities.

Yet it’s easy to empathize, especially when Ethan manages to be sincerely charming as he offers to act as a part-time, surrogate father for her kids—a role he’s a natural at (despite the fact that he smacks Virginia in the pilot). Virginia turns down his offer, given their history, but it’s clear his support would be a big help. Entertaining the idea that a relationship with Ethan could be an asset, however, raises questions about where society assigns blame for why women “still can’t have it all”: Is having a spouse a prerequisite for a work-life balance? If it’s so easy to think women like Virginia can’t succeed unattached, does that belief linger today?

Masters of Sex has pulled this trick elsewhere. As things heat up between Ethan and the provost’s precocious teenage daughter, Vivian, he discovers their first sexual encounter together was also her first time ever. He’s visibly horrified, not just by the blood on his bed, but by the thought of his casual-rendezvous partner becoming too attached. After the deflowering deed is done, his colleague Jane asks if guys like being a girl’s first sexual partner. “Are you crazy?” Ethan answers. "It’s too much responsibility. Suddenly you’re everything! They want your love, time and devotion. They’re basically glued to you … it’s like those signs you see in thrift shops: ‘You break it, you buy it.’”

Instead of proving him wrong, however, Masters of Sex makes his prediction come true. Later, Vivian corners him outside a party and tells him, “I only seemed grown-up because that’s how you wanted me to seem. I guess now that I really am a grown-up, I brought you out here to tell you … you have my love and devotion, because you and I were meant to be together.” Ethan wonders what he’s gotten himself into—and so does the audience. While Sunday's episode finds him half-heartedly proposing, it seems clear the relationship won’t end well: He’s still pining for Virginia, and Vivian wants to settle down sooner than later.

When you've relentlessly pushed the envelope as far as it can go, the only remaining way to shock people is to suggest that your parents and grandparents might not be as stupid and ignorant as you like to tell yourself they are.

How positively edgy of them :p

Posted by Cassandra at November 19, 2013 07:26 AM

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I haven't seen the show, but it's interesting they think of it as a "trick."

Posted by: Grim at November 19, 2013 10:59 AM

It's pretty much a given that we will always have posterity's relentless condescension toward generational parochialism to deal with. This is, and has been forever, greatly remedied by 'growing up'. As the young seem to be putting off that unkind and ungenerous event for as long they can, and life is less likely to make demands the government will not make provision for – quid pro quo of course – we find ourselves in Peter Pan's world.

I recall as a teenager having much the same attitude though not so militantly as it presently appears. It was then I came across Mark Twain's observation that at the age of sixteen he was confounded by his father's stupidity but by the time he'd reached twenty was greatly impressed by how much the old man had learned in four years. I noticed much the same early on.

As things go, or even stand, childishness and adolescence seems to have become less a journey and more a destination. I don't think this is what the explorers were looking for when they sought the Fountain of Youth. Needless to say I think Masters of Sex is far too little, far too late.

As for the sex – I'm not going there. Not in the mood. Besides, once I get started...

Posted by: George Pal at November 19, 2013 02:43 PM

As for the sex – I'm not going there. Not in the mood. Besides, once I get started...

NOSSIR! Not going there... wouldn't be prudent :p

Posted by: George HW Bush at November 19, 2013 02:59 PM

I haven't seen the show, but it's interesting they think of it as a "trick."

I have noticed over the eons that progressives seem to regard reality as some sort of cruel trick :p


Posted by: Cassandra at November 19, 2013 03:01 PM

"I have noticed over the eons that progressives seem to regard reality as some sort of cruel trick :p"

Or the lack of good drugs. It's getting to where a goodly named city such as Weed, CA can't even compete anymore.

Posted by: Snarkammando at November 20, 2013 04:39 PM