I binge watched the second season of Transparent. All the while my husband snored next to me – he has no interest at all in this show. I was riveted. Vive la difference.
Soft porn, a soap opera story line, dramatic twists, and lots and lots of sexual experimentation kept me glued. I’m sure a lot of what I watched in the comfort of my bed — was taboo on TV just 10 years ago– but no longer. My guess is the majority of viewers have not experimented or been exposed to the gender and sexual issues that are raised in this show – but that doesn’t seem to diminish its popularity.
My personal experience with this show was a mix of voyeurism and fascination with an alternative life style. The characters are dealing with sexuality issues that I don’t come across as a 50-something woman who has raised her family in a traditional heterosexual suburban home. Nevertheless, I was not totally turned off – and maybe a little turned on.
Although every character in this show was different than those in “my world” — none of them felt “deviant” to me – in fact they were relatable. This is what is so fascinating to me about this show.
The show gives us a full dose of sexual experimentation, gender confusion/resolutions and full frontal lesbianism. What I watched surely brought me up to date on sexual “options” that our kids are exposed to regularly. Although this is not my world, I am fascinated.
After I graduated college, I lived in a group house just outside of Georgetown and I was in the minority on 2 fronts – cultural backgrounds and sexual preferences. My roommates were all American but none were Caucasian. We resembled a “model UN”: 1 Korean woman, 1 Black woman, 2 Cuban males and moi (white, Jewish American).
We had the best music, the best parties, the best food and the most heated debates. I loved living there. My eyes were wide open and I lived in our multi-cultural commune with comfort. One of the women was in a committed lesbian relationship and I believe one of the guys may have been gay. It really didn’t matter much to me. I was happy to have my boyfriend and that was that. We all hung together in our living room – the women embracing and the guys flirting a bit and my guy and me cozy on the couch.
Gender identity issues were not a topic for my friends or for their parents that I knew of. This 20-something living room world was the full extent of my “out of the box” exposure to non-traditional coupling.
I would venture to guess if gender issues had been part of our dialogue – this too would have felt “normal” as well to my 20-something brain– but that was not the case. Transgender, cross-dressing – heterosexual women experimenting with homosexuality –- these are new topics for many of us who are over 50 years of age.
It seems all the “gender” lines are blending in a way that has zero shock value anymore and we 50-somethings are getting an education.
My lens of what I had traditionally viewed as “odd” or graphically uncomfortable – was no longer an issue after a two-day marathon viewing of Transparent’s second season.
The show explores lesbian sexual discovery, adultery, experimentation and an inability to commit to relationships in the context of family and partnerships. The Pfefferman family is well educated, privileged and unhappy. At the center of this saga are the parents who have clearly damaged their late 30-something “kids” as their own issues are always more important than the impact they have on their progeny. They are selfish and narcissistic (this is not a new topic for some of us.)
Each family member is blessed with the gift of gab and reflection but none are balanced role models for one another and their journey toward self-understanding doesn’t appear to ever “stick”. They tend to drag each other down and enable each other’s narcissism and are tragically connected to one another’s dysfunction.
The father, Morton, now Maura, played by Jeffrey Tambor, already came-out as a transgender in Season 1, and I watched this process with curiosity although that entire experience felt totally un-relatable.
But Season 2 had so many elements that hit home for me that I had a slightly anxious heartbeat making me fidget as I stayed transfixed from episode to episode.
Maura is a narcissist and nothing his kids say or do matters more than him. In his process of self-discovery he has left a wake of broken hearts: his wife who is lonely and tense, his 2 daughters and son who are unable to commit to any relationship as they have watched their dad discard his entire family in search of his true self. And when we meet these “kids” who are in their 30’s and appear lost in their search of self and sexuality and commitment, we are invited into their humbling personal journeys.
At risk of being a spoiler I won’t go into each discovery but it is safe to say, that no sexual experimentation in this show feels out of the norm. Lesbianism after an episode or two is the norm. Transgenderism is no longer shocking and “coming out” feels almost too dramatic a term.
I had so much empathy for these characters that I began cheerleading their sexual experimentation in their desperate search for happiness. I wanted something to work out for them — for each one to find some semblance of comfort.
But alas — Season 2 ended – and sadly, there’s a lot more work to be done before happiness or joy is in their grasp. What could the writers do that could possibly “shock” me in Season 3. Will these characters ever be happy?