Netflix just released the third season of You, and it is raking in views with an audience of around 111 million people. Dethroning Squid Game’s long reign as number one on Netflix, You is one of the most popular shows on the app, bringing in over 40 million people since its debut in 2018. People can’t wait to tune in to Joe Goldberg’s (Penn Badgley) chaotic antics, stalking women he once met across metropolitan areas, killing anyone who gets in his way. For a long time, Joe operated alone, flying under the radar by moving from New York to L.A after killing his first girlfriend Beck. For a while, everything seemed to be working out for Joe and his new California life.
Then he met Love.
At the end of season two, audiences thought Joe had finally met his match. Love Quinn (Victoria Pedretti), daughter of extremely wealthy parents Dottie and Ray Quinn, is an aspiring chef working in the high-end grocery store Anavrin when she meets Joe and subsequently falls in love with him over the course of season two. Upon season three’s opening, Joe and Love are trying to make it work as newlyweds in a soulless wealthy suburb outside San Francisco. The season follows all its usual twists and turns (sex, lies and murder) in a new setting. But the plot takes on an unsettling age-old trope and centers this season on Love as a predator sexually exploiting a young man. And unfortunately, this trope is hardly rare in film and television.
I’m talking about the Mrs. Robinson stereotype.
Coined after the 1967 movie The Graduate, Mrs. Robinson has become synonymous with older women seducing younger men. Set in the late 1960s, The Graduate follows recent college alumn Benjamin Braddock sifting through the trials and tribulations of young adulthood. He is feeling aimless and scared about his future, and falls into an affair with Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), an older woman stuck in a loveless marriage. Seeing as the 60s was considered to be a sexual revolution, a bored housewife gaining autonomy to pursue a younger gentleman was viewed as empowering and liberating, despite the moral ambiguity of the situation. Evolving with time, this harmful depiction of romance still has an impact today.
You’s Love is our latest example of this toxic characterization. Striking up an affair with her next-door neighbor Theo (Dylan Arnold), Love carries on a romance behind Joe’s back. After having sex with Theo, Love pulls away saying she shouldn’t see him, later going back on her word to continue the affair regardless. Love acknowledges her position of power, pointing out in one episode that she is wrong for having sex with a 19-year-old, yet she continues to abuse her power anyway, indicating to Theo that his feelings are valid only when she is manipulating them.
Knowing the relationship is wrong, Love continues to toy with Theo anyway, playing hot and cold games with a young man desperate for love. Here, the Mrs. Robinson stereotype is in play. Love provides emotional dependence for a teenager, who by the way, has just lost his stepmother, which is a dynamic she later weaponizes to fulfill her own sexual desire. What is more, Love is motivated by the suspicion that Theo’s father has video footage proving that she and Joe are complicit in the murder of said stepmother. Love is using Theo for her own self-preservation, fully aware that he is in his most vulnerable state. Unlike Theo, Love is not in the relationship for human connection at all—she’s in it to keep herself and her husband out of prison.
(No spoilers but I’ll just say the relationship doesn’t end great for Theo.)
Age is an arbitrary number and often, that is used as an excuse to take advantage of young people. Though Theo is 19, above the legal age of consent, scientifically the teenage brain does not stop maturing until age 25. Neuroscientists and psychological evidence confirms that teens can make cognitively rational choices when facing minimal pressure, but in situations like sexual encounters, teenagers cannot make decisions the same way adults can, leaving them vulnerable to dangerous situations.
The Mrs. Robinson trope has been resurfacing in television lately. Before You, there was A Teacher, the Hulu show no one could stop talking about last fall. Premiering November 2020, the show followed a predatory relationship between English teacher Claire Wilson (Kate Mara) and her 18-year-old student Eric Walker (Nick Robinson). Despite not being picked up for another season, the miniseries quickly became FX’s most watched show on Hulu. Despite the fact that the relationship is predatory (not to mention, very illegal), users on Tiktok sensationalized the affair for how “hot” it was, going as far as saying they should “change career paths” to better model Claire’s lifestyle. Of course, the show’s intention was to highlight how an event like this can take over someone’s life, but the fact some people hoped Nick and Claire end up together sheds light on how portraying toxic relationships can sometimes backfire, despite best intentions.
Nobody should be looking to You for relationship goals, but when accounts of older women abusing their power pop up consistently over time, in real life and in Hollywood, it is important to highlight why harmful relationships between older women and younger men should not be sensationalized. As a new generation grows alongside television, subjecting themselves to popular media featuring romance centered around imbalances of power, it’s important to avoid romanticizing these kinds of relationships and overlooking the toxicity and danger they pose.
Image: John P. Fleenor / Netflix
From the moment Sex/Life dropped to Netflix on June 25, horny people everywhere have been blind to the fact that it’s problematic because, you know, there’s a lot of sex in it. Pool sex! Car sex! Elevator (almost) sex! Even though you can see nipples and giant penises in every porn on the internet (seriously, what was going on with Brad’s huge d*ck in episode 3?), seeing it on Netflix is shocking, I guess?
Quick recap, in case you were too busy clicking through speeds on your vibrator to follow the “storyline”: Billie (Sarah Shahi) is married to Cooper (Mike Vogel), and the couple has two children (one of whom is a very annoying little kid who honestly needs to learn boundaries). Since having children, Cooper seems uninterested in sex, so Billie starts writing in her journal (which is just a Word doc on her unlocked computer) about her past relationship with bad boy Brad (Adam Demos).
While the plot itself is not great (so not great, in fact, that it’s actually kinda f*cked-up), there are a lot of other really strange things going on that make absolutely no sense. You might not have caught them because you were too busy orgasming on your couch, but luckily, I’m a fantastic multi-tasker. Cartoonishly big schlongs aside, here are a few Sex/Life elements I quite literally cannot wrap my head around.
1. Billie Doesn’t Use Lube
Now I’m not lube-free-sex-shaming, but the sheer lack of lube in the show is sus. I’m not even 30, and I’ve never had kids, but I basically use a whole bottle before even thinking about penetration. Blame it on hormone-zapping birth control or just plain getting older, but I’ve been on the lube train for quite a while. Maybe Billie is the wettest b*tch there ever was (which like, respect). But come on… for someone so apparently sex-positive, it just seems kinda ridic that she’s having amazing penetration after about five seconds of foreplay without a little help.
2. Billie Gets Turned On By A Random FaceTime Of Brad’s D*ck
Personally, I find few things to be less arousing than opening my phone and randomly being greeted by a surprise penis. I’d quite literally rather have a yeast infection than have to unexpectedly see a picture or video of a peen and then have to respond to whichever insecure guy thought this was a good idea. It’s exhausting to even think about. First of all, just to be the party police, unsolicited d*ck pics are considered harassment (and illegal, in some states), not to mention they’re just awkward. I’ve never seen an image of a d*ck and thought, “Wow, I really want to get me some of that.” Ever. Ever! Not even on a good day, and not even with a good d*ck.
Granted, in Billie’s situation, she accepted Brad’s FaceTime, but when he started revealing his junk, she wasn’t like, “Woah man, I’m married” or even like, “Oh my God, are we gonna get flirty?” Instead, she literally GOT TURNED ON by unexpectedly seeing her ex’s pubes on her iPhone. He’s just sitting there flashing his penis and expecting you to fawn over it? No, girl. I’m calling bullsh*t.
3. And She Watched Her Friend F*ck Brad via FaceTime
Speaking of nonconsensual sexting, how about that time Brad FaceTimed Billie and propped up the phone so she could secretly watch him and her best friend, Sasha (Margaret Odette), have sex against a doorframe? And after Billie watched and masturbated, she told Sasha, who acted like it was NBD that, not only did the guy she was hooking up with film her having sex without her knowledge, but her best friend watched it live — and jerked it — again, without her knowledge. Who are these people? Does no one have boundaries or sh*tty wifi? If I told my bestie I watched her f*ck my ex without her knowledge, I’m sure I would be the proud new recipient of a restraining order and a lawsuit, friendship aside.
4. Billie Consistently Gets Off In Missionary
The last I checked, it’s hard for most women to get off by penetration alone. In fact, only 18% find it sufficient to warrant an orgasm. It seems, however, Billie is part of that lucky group. Sure, in her defense, she credits this to Brad’s proficiency in the Coital Alignment Technique (CAT). “There are whole books written on the subject, which either Brad read or never needed to,” Billie says. “But when done right, it provides the ultimate connection, both physical and emotional. I felt closer to him than I had to anyone.”
In reality, the CAT is just a modified version of missionary where the guy is positioned higher up so the base of his penis rubs against her clitoris. But that’s not the only type of missionary sex they’re having. So, even when Brad’s not practicing the (very hard to master) technique, Billie still gets off in mere seconds from penetration? Checks out.
5. Billie’s Husband Goes On A Double Date With Brad
Going on a double date with most people is torture (the small talk, the discussion of splitting the check, the awkward seating arrangements), but going on one with your wife’s ex who she keeps fantasizing about, and her best friend who’s now f*cking said ex? In what world? It’s honestly sadistic. Out of four adults, one person would have to be like, “Yeah, this isn’t going to go well, let’s not do this” and put their foot down. But no! Everyone goes, and surprise! Things don’t go well. Honestly, I’d love to fake invite my husband to that dinner, just to see his reaction. Or maybe I wouldn’t, because that’s grounds for divorce IMO.
6. The Subway Track Scene
I don’t care how hot someone is, if they pulled me down onto a train track, as a train is coming toward me, I would 1000% be seeing their ass in court. I don’t know what for, but I would sue that MFer. What if a piece of metal was jutting out of the side? What if Billie didn’t get to the little nook in time? What if they stumbled while making out as the speeding train whizzed by? While I get there’s a level of hotness to danger, that’s reserved for like, riding a Vespa or wearing white on your period, not for nearly getting squashed by a train to make out with a guy who will literally have sex with you anytime, anywhere.
7. Billie And Cooper Didn’t Discuss Rules Before Going To The Sex Club
At first, it seemed like their friends sprung the whole sex party thing on Billie and Cooper, but during a later fight, it’s brought up that they both agreed to go. What it doesn’t sound like, however, is that they had any sort of conversation before stepping into the new situation. 101 for that kind of thing is talking before attending. It’s obvious they didn’t have any rules laid out and then just didn’t communicate while they were there. I’m sorry, having sex in front of people in that situation is pretty standard, but not wanting to do that is cool. Getting sucked off by your wife’s friend while she watches and cries isn’t as standard.
Also! The show making it seem like that’s what happens at sex clubs is low-key f*cked-up. For 99% of people, it’s something they choose to do together, but go on, Netflix! Let’s add another layer of insecurities for people who are having normal and consensual non-monogamous sex. Le sigh.
8. Cooper Just Keeps Reading Billie’s Journal
Sure, fool me twice, shame on me. But like, not really, because Brad is literally violating his wife’s privacy. Regardless, after reading Billie’s
Word doc journal, he freaks TF and plays the victim, even though uh, you snooped, sir. Yes, it’s unsettling to see your wife is writing about her old relationship, but she actually didn’t do anything wrong in that regard.
That aside, whatever. People snoop, that’s not so far-fetched. What is unrealistic, however, is the fact that Cooper not only reads Billie’s journal, but she knows he’s reading it, and he knows she knows he’s reading it, and he just keeps reading it, and she just keeps writing in it. This is just straight-up masochistic. Yes, he should be cut loose for snooping, but I’d also maybe stop writing scandy things (at least in the same place) if I knew my S.O. was being a little lurking b*tch, but that’s just me.
9. Billie Doesn’t Have A F*cking Lock On Her Computer
Cooper’s snooping brings me to the most unrealistic, absurd element of the entire show: Billie’s “journal.” This smart woman is writing her feelings down in a simple word document she leaves up on her computer. Her computer that doesn’t have a lock screen. And the same computer she just leaves lying on the counter for anyone to open and use.
Billie’s a professional. What professional doesn’t have a lock on their computer? What non-professional doesn’t? You have sensitive emails and bank statements and in her case, musings about your ex on there! And after her hubs snooped, you’d think she’d spend one second to go into settings and whip up a password based on her childhood pet, but nope! Billie just keeps writing in her little doc on her computer that she leaves out and expects her insecure husband not to snoop. WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE AND HOW IS SHE GIVING LECTURES?
What it all comes down to is this: Sex/Life is no Bridgerton, and if these people lived in the world of Lady Whistledown, it wouldn’t have taken an entire season for their relationship to crumble. And honestly? They’d probably be having a hell of a lot better sex, too.
Images: COURTESY OF NETFLIX (2)
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At this point, it’s not a hot take to complain that there are too many streaming services, but I’ll just say it anyway: there are TOO MANY streaming services. Every time I feel like I’m caught up on whichever shows we’re all watching at any given time, I get hit with DMs asking why I haven’t posted about on . It’s too much!
Honestly, I kind of miss the days when all we had was Netflix. Remember that? Netflix and chill was a cultural reset, and they only had like, two original shows that you actually cared about watching. Simpler times. While I love having options, sometimes I just want to open up Netflix and watch whatever is presented to me first. So, in the spirit of simplicity, here’s a breakdown of the best sh*t coming to Netflix this month.
‘Downton Abbey’ – 6/1
If you’re looking for an emotional show to sink your teeth into, it is my pleasure to report that all six seasons of Downton Abbey are now on Netflix. If you’ve never watched, the show follows the family and the servants at an English manor house in the early 1900s. You might be unsure about a show where people wear ball gowns to dinner, but don’t worry, there’s no shortage of messy drama here. Also, you’ll cry… a lot.
‘Happy Endings’ – 6/1
Ever since it ended in 2013, I’ve constantly heard people talk about how Happy Endings is underrated, which makes me wonder if it’s actually underrated, but whatever. This sitcom about a group of twenty- and thirty-something friends living in Chicago is hilarious, and you should watch it whether it’s appropriately rated or not. The only downside is that there are only three seasons, so you’ll be miserable when you finish all the episodes in a week and a half.
‘The Big Lebowski’ – 6/1
Father’s Day is right around the corner, and Netflix really came through this year by adding The Big Lebowski. If this isn’t one of your dad’s favorite movies, it probably actually is, and he just doesn’t remember what it’s called. This one isn’t exactly my cup of tea (don’t @ me), but it’s a cult classic, and everyone should see Jeff Bridges as The Dude at least once.
‘Dirty John’ Season 2 – 6/1
True crime fans, listen up. The second season of Dirty John is finally on Netflix, but it’s a completely new story from season one. Season two tells the true story of Betty Broderick, a New York woman who was convicted of murdering her ex-husband in San Diego in 1989. The case got a ton of media attention at the time, so this is the kind of show you can watch in one sitting, then go on a Reddit deep dive about all the details they inevitably left out or fictionalized.
‘Awake’ – 6/9
Netflix drops original movies these days faster than I dropped my dating standards post-quarantine, but this one looks like it could be worth watching. In Awake, a ~mysterious global event~ wipes out all electronic devices, and makes it so that humans are unable to sleep. As the entire world spirals out of control, one woman (played by Gina Rodriguez) realizes that her daughter may be the answer to whatever the f*ck is going on. Looks creepy, I’m in.
‘Lupin’ Part 2 – 6/11
Lupin, the French show about a professional thief, was one of Netflix’s biggest international hits when it first dropped in January, but they did that obnoxious thing where they split the season in half and only gave us five episodes. Well, now we’re finally getting part two, which is sadly still only five more episodes. Whatever, we’ll take it.
‘Silver Linings Playbook’ – 6/17
I loved Silver Linings Playbook when it came out (I saw it twice in theaters). Now it feels like a time capsule to a moment when Jennifer Lawrence was the most beloved person on the planet, and we were just finding out that Bradley Cooper can like, kind of act? This one still holds a special place in my heart, and if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend stocking up on SkinnyPop for a movie night with friends.
‘Elite’ Season 4 – 6/18
The hot American teens of Euphoria are taking FOREVER to come back with another season, but luckily the hot Spanish teens of Elite are here to hold us over. If you’ve never watched, it’s kind of like a Gossip Girl vibe, but way edgier than the CW would have ever allowed. Also, Netflix already renewed it for a fifth season that will be coming in 2022, so you don’t have to worry about it getting canceled.
Images: NIETE/NETFLIX; Giphy (5); Rotten Tomatoes (2), Netflix / YouTube
What’s the biggest scam you’ve fallen for lately, and why was it watching The Woman In The Window? The trailer for Netflix’s latest thriller starring Amy Adams makes it seem like a twisty thriller along the likes of The Girl on the Train (you thought I’d compare it to Gone Girl, didn’t you, but let me be clear that my expectations were not quite so high). Although the reviews were not good, I tuned in anyway, the nearly two-hour version of your S.O. handing the milk carton to you and saying, “smell this, I think it’s bad.” In any case, I hadn’t read the book, so I figured I’d at least be surprised by the ending.
While, like I said, I wasn’t expecting The Woman In The Window to be the next Gone Girl, I certainly wasn’t expecting… whatever it was. Truthfully, I started writing a listicle entitled “17 Things More Suspenseful Than ‘The Woman In The Window’” but felt that in order to do the ridiculousness of this movie justice, I needed to recap it. Yes, that means I watched this ill-conceived movie not once, but twice. They say all great artists suffer for their art, but even I found this (completely self-inflicted) punishment a bit extreme.
But, this will be good for me since I mostly texted through my first viewing (although I feel confident in stating that I didn’t miss much).
In any case, we open with Amy Adams, aka Dr. Anna Fox, waking up on the floor of what’s supposed to be a brownstone on West 121st St. in Manhattan, but, as anyone who’s ever stepped foot in a Manhattan apartment can tell you, is actually just a mansion the filmmakers have plunked into Harlem. I mean, even the main floor has multiple palatial rooms in it, and this brownstone has three floors and a basement apartment. Plus, the bedrooms can fit way more than a full-sized bed. I rest my case.
Realty deception aside, the film opens with Anna watching a family move in across the street—the Russells. She’s having a conversation with her husband and daughter, but even my first time watching this, I immediately knew they were both dead. Know how I know that? Because this woman repeatedly throughout the movie has conversations with disembodied voices. Come on. Twist one, ya blew it.
Already, we’re supposed to know that something is up with this family: Anna remarks, “who moves in after a one-day paint job?” And it’s like, um, every single renter in NYC. Most of us don’t have the luxury of waiting for the paint to dry before we can move in because we have to GTFO of our previous rentals.
Anna sees a patient, but it really seems like the patient is seeing her, since she’s updating him on her life and the neighborhood. This is giving me big Grace in The Undoing vibes, because both of them were terrible psychologists. This patient of Anna’s is very interested in the neighbors who just moved in across the street, and Anna knows from speaking to the broker that the husband is a banker and the family just moved from Boston. And again, another unrealistic plot point. I’ve lived in my apartment building for three years and couldn’t pick any of my neighbors out of a lineup. I literally just had someone move into the unit below me and the broker wouldn’t tell me sh*t about them. Anyway.
Just kidding, turns out the patient was actually Anna’s doctor making a house call. Apparently she’s not doing too great, which, yea, I could have guessed by how she’s having full conversations with dead people. Also, she’s taking a medication that you’re not supposed to drink on. But Anna treats that suggestion much like I treat any warning not to mix a medication with alcohol:
At night, the boy who just moved in across the street rings Anna’s bell to drop off a gift. She tells him she’s not letting in visitors and he says, “I’m not really a visitor, I’m more like, a neighbor.”
She lets him in, even after that criminally terrible line. Definitely not weird at all to go over to your neighbor’s in what appears to be the middle of the night…
Anna tells Ethan that she and her family are “separated”, and it’s like, yeah. Separated from this Earth. Don’t come for me, I really don’t think that’s a spoiler! Use your brain cells!
Ethan, who is supposedly just shy of 16 but looks about 25, is shocked that Anna is a child psychologist. He can’t fathom “why a kid would need a psychologist” and it’s like, dude, where have you been for the past five years? We’re de-stigmatizing mental health.
He does concede that being a child psychologist is “more interesting than like, working at Taco Bell” (bizarre observation) and automatically assumes Anna treats the kind of children who are plotting “school shootings or torturing someone,” which I feel should have been a red flag.
Already Ethan starts acting extremely weird, flinching when Anna tries to touch his shoulder and also, as I mentioned before, simply being over there at night? Then they go look over Anna’s movie collection—again, not at all a weird thing to do with a child (who is clearly an adult in a hoodie) that you just met.
After Ethan leaves, Anna falls asleep watching some old movie, cracking up on her couch. The movie in question does not seem at all funny.
The next day, we meet David, Anna’s tenant who’s apparently been living there for three months, but who we are just hearing of now. It’s also Halloween, and they fight over whether Anna will answer the door for trick-or-treaters (no) or leave a bowl of candy out (no, because “they’ll take all the candy, and then they’ll take the bowl”). Geez, what a grinch. Somebody tell this woman about disposable bowls!
Her reputation as a grinch must be preceding her, because the neighborhood kids egg her house. Anna opens her front door to confront those meddling kids, then promptly blacks out. When she comes to, Julianne Moore is in her house. At first I wondered how Julianne Moore could have seen Anna have a panic attack from insider her own home, but then I noticed it was because she was at the door right when Anna opened it to yell at the kids. See, it was worth watching twice!
Anna surmises, “you must be Jane Russell.” Julianne Moore replies, “what makes you say that?” and again, that should throw up a red flag! Like, the only reason I’d respond this way would be if I was a celebrity and trying to troll a fan. Maybe one day…
Why Anna and Jane strike up anything resembling a friendship is beyond me, because Jane acts like a huge c-word right out of the gate. When Anna reveals she’s agoraphobic, Jane replies, “You’re stuck inside this shitty house,” and then, if that weren’t clear enough, she reiterates, “Oh man. I’d hate to be stuck inside a house this shitty.” Ma’am! This is a mansion in the middle of New York City (well, not the middle—the top part. You get the point). The house is not, by any measure of the word, shitty! And also, how unbelievably rude!
Amping up the rudeness, Jane asks, “so what do you do all day? You work?” Damn, lady! Which pack of wolves taught you manners? Why Anna hasn’t kicked her out already is beyond me.
Anna again reiterates that she is separated from her husband and that her daughter Olivia is “with her father.” Ominous…
After trying to pry and ask Anna if she wants to go outside, Jane bursts into laughter when Anna curtly tells her she has a shrink of her own. I don’t know what kind of acting direction these people were given, but having taken one screenwriting course in college, I can confidently say this is not it. And next they’re talking about Anna’s pills, and what each of them do, and I can’t help but think this is all incredibly invasive. And I’m supposed to believe this is a sudden friendship these two struck up? I’ve been more polite to my enemies.
Anna tries to change the subject—again, because this woman is prying like she’s a human crowbar—and Jane goes, “oh wow. Subject change,” and then mimes a neck injury, like she’s getting whiplash. Again, weird acting direction. Would anyone ever do this IRL? It seems terribly corny.
Anna compliments Jane’s earrings, and Jane remarks that they were from an old boyfriend. Anna asks if her husband knows, and like, why is that information your husband would need to know? He keeps track of where every single one of your belongings comes from? You’ve never heard of just saying they’re from TJ Maxx? I mean, I just claim most of my clothing and accessories are from Macy’s because there’s a 99% chance that’s true. Anyway, Jane says her husband has trust issues and they both laugh about it, and I’m sitting here, not a psychologist, but even I know that if your husband is so jealous that he can’t stand you wearing earrings you got from an ex, that’s a problem!!
Anna asks, “why is your family complicated?” and Jane plops down a sketch she apparently just drew of Anna, even though she’s had the notepad in her hand for approximately three seconds. Oh what, so only you can be invasive, rude, and call out when people are trying to change the subject? Ok, Jane. Ok.
After Jane leaves, Alistair Russell is at Anna’s door to ask “if any of my family has come around to see you this evening.” What a weirdly vague way of putting that. Also, have these people never heard of a phone? Anna says no, for reasons unknown, which catches Alistair off-guard. Probably because he knows she’s lying. But then why not just ask directly…
After he leaves, Anna hears some movement in her kitchen and immediately calls 911 to tell them she thinks there’s someone in her house. Except it’s just her tenant, rummaging around in the kitchen he pays to use. Why would that be your first reaction when you know someone else lives in your house…?
David is another asshole, because after he pokes around on Anna’s skylight when he notices there’s mold on it and Anna yells at him to come back inside (because it’s not sturdy, this will be important later), he scares her by jumping out of a corner and yelling “Boo!” you did it, bro. You cured her agoraphobia with your sick prank.
Maybe the next night, or later that night (I can’t tell because time elapses like molasses in this movie), someone apparently screams at the apartment across the street. I say “apparently” because this is a main plot driver, yet I did not hear the scream when my TV volume was on loud; I’m only aware of it because my closed captions said . This woman has got to have some bionic ears for knowing precisely which apartment the screams are coming from. When I hear people scream or make a noise from my apartment, I can barely tell if it’s coming from the apartments to my front or the ones behind me. And yet, she’s located the precise building and unit from whence these screams originated? Ok.
So naturally Anna calls Ethan to ask if everything is ok. She then sees Jane leave the apartment, looking over her shoulder. Alistair calls back Anna’s number being like, “hello, you just called here?” which is another thing that would never happen because Ethan picked up the phone; it wasn’t like there was a missed call. Who goes through their call log to call back every number you accepted a call from??
Anna then calls David out of his room to ask if he heard the scream across the street. Damn, this lady is an annoying landlord. It’s New York City, who isn’t screaming?
Then she grabs a camera just in time to see Ethan headed over to her place. He basically says that his dad is abusing him, and Anna gives him her number and assures him her house is a safe place. And yet, does she call CPS? No. She justifies it by saying that it’s just her word against the dad’s, but I’m sorry, is this woman not a mandated reporter? Isn’t this literally her job to call CPS?? Nah, just gonna call the police on my tenant for being in his kitchen instead.
Well, that ethical dilemma is not met with another thought, as we next see Anna learning French for some reason. An apple twirls on the screen while she repeats the French word for apple. This Duolingo lesson is not significant to the plot in any way. I want to personally ask why this was kept in instead of, oh I don’t know, any character development or detail.
Anna falls asleep in front of the TV again, this time, to some 1940s-era doctor being like, “I’m going to freeze your face” and honestly I know it’s supposed to be scary, but it just feels like when Derek Zoolander went to that Daiye Spa. Anna wakes up in a panic because she can’t find her phone and keeps repeating to herself, “backtrack.” Like, ma’am, backtrack to what? I know it’s a big brownstone, but you don’t leave the house. Just search your home. It’s not like when I lose my credit card and I have to backtrack to brunch, then the after-brunch bar, then my ex’s apartment…
Anyway, at this moment Anna notices something strange happening across the street, so she grabs her DSLR camera. She sees Jane getting shoved backward, then stumbling forward with a knife in her stomach and falling over. And what does this woman do? She snaps a picture of it with the camera she’s holding in her hands for something exactly like this moment. Just kidding! She fucking drops the camera and rushes to the landline, which is mysteriously not working. Useless. Useless.
Then she goes bothering David again, and finds her phone under his bed.
Anna calls 911 and tells the operator that she watched her neighbor get stabbed. The 911 operator is extremely unhelpful and just asks if she stabbed her neighbor. Um, is that how 911 calls go? We’re going by the “whoever smelt it, dealt it” rule?
Anna tries to rush across the street to help Jane and falls on her way down the steps, ultimately not making it. At least she tried!
When Anna gets back, there’s an NYPD detective INSIDE HER HOUSE, which has got to be illegal. She didn’t give them permission to enter, and last I checked, she called to report a crime in progress across the street. Where’s the probable cause?? Alistair is also there. Again, that’s gotta be breaking all kinds of laws. Finally, a realistic portrayal of life in New York!
Alistair is only there to insist that Anna has never met his wife. The cops are extremely antagonistic, insisting that nothing happened and berating Anna for not having taken a picture. Helpful.
Anna then asks what we’re all thinking: then where’s Jane? Enter, a totally different woman, insisting she is Jane Russell. Ethan, too, insists Anna has never met his mother. Rather than asking a single follow-up question about what Anna did see, the cops just inform her that making a false police report is a crime. Solid police work, boys, thank you for your service!
The next morning, Anna tries to stalk Jane Russell online. She comes up empty-handed, but she does find Alistair’s LinkedIn. She starts calling up his workplace (totally normal) and learns that he no longer works at his old company. She finds this strange, but like, people change jobs all the time? Especially considering they just moved from out of state?
In her Facebook stalking, Anna also comes across a woman named Pam Nazin, who worked with Alistair. Pam died. A Google search brings up the headline, “Woman Found Dead In Brookline” which is really not as ominous as the over-the-top suspenseful music wants us to believe it is. People can be found dead for all sorts of reasons. The fact that she was an exec at Alistair’s company at the time seems like a tenuous thread.
She calls up the New York office and finds out that Pamela was not an executive, but Alistair’s executive assistant. And then she immediately tips her hand by asking suspicious questions to which she already knows the answers. Yikes, she is not good at this. Apparently Pam fell off a balcony. Still not really seeing the connection.
Then this lady goes to bother David AGAIN (however below market value the rent she’s charging may be, it’s still too high). When she doesn’t hear an answer, she goes to his room and starts looking at his mail. Not a good look, considering David opens the door right at that moment, and he is pissed.
Literally no one:
Seriously, I did not notice this even though they zoomed in on his mail:
David: Ok yeah! You caught me! I’m in violation of my parole! I’m supposed to be in Springfield, Massachusetts.
David: NO! NOT OK! It was a stupid bar fight, I got jumped and I reacted.
Uhh dude, she was saying it’s fine that you’re violating parole by living in her apartment. Maybe just take the W and shut up?
Anna continues taking photos of the Russells’ apartment and manages to capture an argument at the dinner table, only to get a voicemail from the real Jane Russell saying, “stop watching our house or I’ll call the police.”
The next morning, Anna can’t find her cat (probably went the way of the mysterious missing cell phone). Damn, I’m literally right because the cat is also under David’s bed. These two need to draw up some serious boundaries, because this is getting creepy on both sides.
Just then, Anna notices something: Jane (first Jane)’s earring on David’s nightstand. That’s odd.
While having another conversation with her dead husband in her head, Anna breaks a glass in her sink. Then she spots Ethan walking across the street, and opens out her window and yells, “Ethan, where’s your mother!” So then Ethan runs over, understandably, to be like “ummm you can’t just yell at me while I’m on the street!” they get into an argument that goes like this:
Anna: I know what I saw!
Ethan: You don’t, you’re just wrong!
Anna: But I know what I saw!
Ethan: You don’t, you’re just wrong!
No, I did not hit ctrl+V too many times. They literally repeat the same lines of dialogue. And by “repeat” I mean scream, because nobody actually acts in this movie, they just yell. I feel like I could have auditioned.
Anna yells, “why are you lying for him?” Ethan whispers, “I can’t tell you” (ooh, range) and Alistair then storms in, clocking Ethan in the face and then yelling at Anna. He calls their relationship inappropriate (true) since Ethan’s 15-and-a-half and Anna is a mature woman (I don’t know about mature, but, true).
Alistair gets all up in Anna’s face like he’s going to kiss her but instead hollers, “Stay away from my son! Please!” while Anna snivels in between his arms. God, this acting. Put me out of my misery.
The next day, Anna witnesses Ethan walk out of the apartment and get into a black van. Not at all sketch. She then decides to go through her photos on her computer and an email comes in from the cleverly named address, [email protected]. Inside the email is a picture of Anna sleeping, which seems to have been taken from inside the house.
Anna freaks out and calls the cops, who’d look about as thrilled to undergo a colonoscopy as they do to respond to this report. Actually, they would much rather prefer the colonoscopy, you can just tell. These cops are so actively mean to her that, again, it’s almost a satire. Maybe this whole movie is meant to be a scathing indictment on the NYPD?
Take this exchange, for example.
Anna: Can you track it?
Cop Played By Paper Boi From Atlanta: Track it?
Anna: Or… trace it?
Paper Boi: You can’t track a Gmail account.
First of all, bro, you knew what she meant. We all knew she meant trace. It’s the same thing. We know you know she didn’t mean track as in an Amazon shipment. Second of all, one Google search told me that you can find someone’s IP address even if they use Gmail. Then again, cops being too lazy to click one link in Gmail? Sounds about right. Instead, the lady cop just victim-blames, telling Anna, “you could’ve sent this to yourself.” They really don’t even try to hide their disdain.
And just then, Alistair comes storming in, clamoring on about how Anna called his office and how she’s a drunk and a drug addict. Again… who gave this man permission to enter her home?
Anna pulls out what she thinks is a trump card, the drawing “Jane” drew at her apartment. I’m sorry, but this doodle doesn’t prove shit. Just then, David walks in (this is a clusterfuck) and Anna snitches on him! Talk about disloyal. She knows full well why David would want to lay low around the police right now, and when the cops ask David if he has a last name, he tries to be slick like, “no. It’s just David. Like Sting.” And this narc goes, “It’s Winters. David Winters.” Anna! Why would you do that?
Even worse is that she doesn’t even get his last name right, it’s apparently Winter, singular. Nosy and wrong, name a worse combination.
David says he’s never met Jane Russell, and Anna says, in front of everybody, “her earring was on your nightstand.” Instead of being like, “oh damn, this is a revelation,” the lady cop immediately goes, “what were you doing in your tenant’s bedroom?” I’m sorry, is that illegal? She could have been fixing something…
David reveals the earring belongs to a woman named Katherine who “spent the night” with him the other week. Then Anna goes FULL RAT on David and tells the cops that he borrowed a box cutter from her (not sure what that has to do with anything, we all saw the woman get stabbed with a knife) and then tells the cops that he’s violating his parole by being in New York!! You really should get that boxcutter back, Anna, because we all know what happens to snitches.
Now Anna’s just taking shots at everybody, literally pointing fingers: “he’s been to prison and borrowed a knife from me (way to be prejudicial, and also, a box cutter ≠ a knife); he’s abusive and was fired from his job and his assistant died; I saw Alistair slap Ethan in my home yesterday.”
She’s spiraling on a monologue about how someone needs to help Ethan, and let me say this is poorly written and also bizarre. “If my husband were here,” she says, “he would help.”
“Dr. Fox, your family is dead,” the lady cop says. Again, this is like, apparently supposed to be some huge twist but seemed very clear to me from the get-go. Know how I know? She was having conversations with her husband the whole movie, but they weren’t in person… or on the phone… so there really was only one explanation.
Anna says, “I don’t know how you can live with yourself if you let something happen to a child,” and then we cut to: Christmas, the year prior, and Anna and her family are driving somewhere. They’re getting into an argument because they’re sick of pretending, because (gasp) Anna cheated and guess who happens to be calling her cell phone at that moment! Yep, her side bro. Mister? IDK what you call a male affair partner. Anna drops her phone and tries to reach for it, then ends up swerving off the road and crashing into a tree, killing her husband and daughter.
Damn. The lady doth project too much.
Anyway, this was supposed to be a bombshell but was about as explosive as a fart.
So then this woman comes to in a That’s So Raven-esque way:
And everyone is staring at her like bitch, you good?
She’s clearly not good, because she looks out into the other room where her car is bottoms-up in the snow and then we’re back at the accident scene. God, I hate the way they did just about everything with this movie.
At this moment, Anna thinks maybe she’s just hallucinating from her meds and apologizes to the Russells.
The next day, she has a talk with her psychiatrist in what might be the only good scene in the movie. It’s a frank discussion about how badly Anna’s mental health has deteriorated. Although I didn’t love the psychiatrist laughing at her when Anna remarked that the Elevan might not be good for her. He chuckled like, “no shit, not if you’re hallucinating.” Felt a little dickish. But whatever!
Then, Anna’s crushing up all her pills into a powder and starts filming a suicide note. Damn, this took a dark turn. Does this woman even have any living relatives at all? The purpose of the video seems to just be so that David isn’t implicated in her death, which is nice of her now that she likely got the guy sent back to jail.
But then, as she does a pre-death scroll through her photos (don’t we all?) Anna notices something: the reflection of the woman she thought was Jane in her wine glass, in a picture she took. It’s then that she hears some thumping around in the basement, and David is back.
This bitch is literally giddy, showing David the face in the wine glass. He’s really not amused. He’s just like… “yes, the woman I told you I slept with does, in fact, exist. So?” This is kind of sad.
David explains that the woman’s name is Katie, she’s Ethan’s birth mother, and they had a one-night stand on Wednesday. He says she was basically, completely insane, and “I spent a night on a couch in Astoria just so I could get away from her.” I mean, ouch, no need to bring Astoria into this. What did our Greek food ever do to you?
Apparently Katie ran away when she was 8 months pregnant and Alistair found her in some meth commune and she went to jail. (Are meth communes… a thing?) Then she got out and stalked the family, basically. This is a pretty wild story, and yet Anna is treating it with as much surprise as you would when you realize the grocery store is out of the brand of yogurt you prefer to buy. Hello??? Meth commune??? Prison??? Why is nobody reacting to this??? Twist 3, ya botched it.
Even though David does acknowledge that yes, Katie is a real person, he has no desire to find out if this woman is alive or dead. I know she was a stage 5, but damn that’s harsh. The woman was maybe stabbed!
And while she’s yelling at David to go to the police with her (when will she learn that the police actively do not want to help her), this fool drops her laptop and shatters the screen. I’m sure that pic is still up on the iCloud, but still.
And then from a corner, someone sneezes. ACHOO! It’s Ethan, since he’s allergic to cats! (Sorry, seemed like a random detail earlier). And he’s holding a knife! Note, Anna, how different it looks from a box cutter! He evil villain monologues about how he has an alibi since everyone thinks he’s in New Hampshire in a “wilderness program” which is really a juvenile prison facility. He also monologues that he killed David with Anna’s knife and intends to frame her for the murder, and implies that he set a fire to the prison before escaping. Is this really the same guy who couldn’t fathom why a child would need to see a psychiatrist?
He then reveals that he watched Anna make the suicide video and that he’s been in the house all week and continues to evil villain monologue about how he’s a budding serial killer whose M.O. is to kill unfit mothers, he just doesn’t have a method of choice nailed down yet. He literally says, “I don’t have a pattern yet. There’s so many choices. Who do I wanna be when I grow up?” this line of dialogue sounds like it’s ripped from the career counseling office of a liberal arts college, not a pre-murder speech.
Ethan says, “I just wanna watch you go” as if he simply enjoys seeing people die and not the act of murdering them. I just feel like there are a few lines of work you could go into if you simply are desensitized to death. You obviously like the killing part, so just say it! So Anna dumps all her crushed-up meds into her wine and is like, “fine, you wanna watch me die? Watch me.” Then at the last second she hits him over the face with her wine bottle.
Thus begins a mad and drawn-out chase all around the house (ugh, why is this house so big?). First Ethan stabs David (who was, up until that point, still alive). Then Ethan and Anna end up on the roof (yes, Anna actually went outside! To probably the worst location possible, because now she’s trapped on a roof with a murderer instead of just being trapped in a house with a murderer!), and of course it’s raining. It’s always raining in these things.
Ethan yells, “STOP FIGHTING ME!” and keeps reiterating shit like, “you don’t even want to live anymore!” like this is supposed to be some kindness, brutally stabbing someone in their own home with a rake to the face because they were struggling with their mental health. What a little asshole.
Obviously, at the last minute, Anna maneuvers Ethan on top of the skylight and sends him crashing through it, killing him. See, I told you that would be important.
Afterwards, the same fucking cops show up to the hospital where Anna’s at (they have some nerve). The first thing out of Paper Boi’s mouth? “Don’t stay on the painkillers too long because that shit feels good.” Oh, NOWWW you’re concerned about this woman’s mental health? GTFO. The SECOND thing is “I’m sorry.” Way to have your priorities on straight.
Then Paper Boi reveals he saw her video and does the one nice thing he’s done this whole movie and covers so she can delete the video before her phone goes into evidence and everyone else sees it.
She’s like, “really?” and he’s like, “look I messed up this case so badly i don’t think one more thing’s gonna hurt me, alright?” He’s not wrong.
His last words are, “I’m not gonna have to worry about you, right?” and he doesn’t even wait for an answer, just a faint smile, before he walks out of the room. Hahah tell me you don’t give a shit without actually telling me.
Nine months later, Anna is selling the brownstone. She says one last goodbye to the spirit of her dead husband in a scene that lasts like five full minutes, and we all get the point. I still don’t really get what was with the dead assistant. I guess Ethan killed her, but why? Was she having an affair with his dad? I suppose it doesn’t matter. Anna gets into a cab and drives off, and that’s the end.
All in all, this movie was really not worth my hour and a half. For a thriller, the one moment that made me jump was a fake-out when, right before Anna bent down to pick up David’s mail, a piece of clothing fell down from the ceiling (which, by the way, was never explained). None of the twists were dramatic or altogether surprising. And for all the yelling the characters did, none of them acted surprised in any way when the twists were revealed. I can’t believe I got through this movie once, let alone twice. If you endured it even once, I hope you enjoyed this recap.
Images: Melinda Sue Gordon / Netflix; Giphy (3)
Presented by SkinnyPop
As we move into the spring, and life starts to get closer and closer to pre-pandemic normalcy, it seems like we’re all realizing something very important: having free time with no plans and no place to be is really nice! Over the last year (and then some), I’ve come to cherish my lazy weekends on the couch, with nothing to do except decide what to eat (easy, the answer is SkinnyPop) and what to watch (less easy).
Sure, it’s nice to be able to hug your loved ones again, and I’m all for making plans, but luckily there are plenty of new shows coming down the pipeline for those days you just can’t be bothered to put on real pants and leave the house. Here are nine shows to look out for this spring.
‘The Nevers’ – 4/11 (HBO)
If you love a show with a historical setting, but don’t want to vibe out to the History Channel, The Nevers is right up your alley. In Victorian England, a mysterious supernatural happening leaves a bunch of women with various special powers and abilities, and the main characters set out to protect these people from those who seek to destroy them. It’s kind of like X-Men, but with fun costumes and accents.
‘Dad Stop Embarrassing Me!’ – 4/14 (Netflix)
Is there anyone in the world who doesn’t like Jamie Foxx? I doubt it! Foxx stars in this comedy based on his relationship with his daughter Corinne, who is also a producer on the show. Based on the trailer, this is going to be one of those family shows that sort of makes you cringe in the best way possible, and it’s definitely going to be a binge-in-one-sitting type of thing. Grab the SkinnyPop, and get comfy.
‘Big Shot’ – 4/16 (Disney+)
John Stamos has a new show coming out, so there’s finally something you and your mom can both be excited about. In Big Shot, Stamos plays a disgraced college basketball coach who ends up coaching the team at an all-girls high school. Despite some initial speed bumps, Coach Korn and the girls on the team work together to achieve something bigger than anyone expected. Think Ted Lasso meets High School Musical.
‘Rutherford Falls’ – 4/22 (Peacock)
Ed Helms stars in this new comedy about people from a historic small town and the neighboring Native American reservation who are brought together in a fight to preserve the legacies of their ancestors. The trailer definitely gives off charming Parks and Recreation vibes, and the show has an indigenous showrunner and cast members, as well as the largest indigenous writing staff on any American show. We love to see this representation.
‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ – 4/28 (Hulu)
If you’re still going strong into the fourth season of The Handmaid’s Tale, congratulations, you’re better at handling stress than I am. As June’s journey to be reunited with her child (and casually topple an oppressive government), things are as bleak as ever. Season 3 ended up with our main character being shot by a soldier, but something tells me she won’t stay down for long.
‘The Mosquito Coast’ – 4/30 (Apple TV+)
Anyone in your life who loved The Leftovers is about to be very excited, because Justin Theroux is finally coming back to TV. The Mosquito Coast is a tense AF adaptation of the novel of the same name, which was actually written by Justin Theroux’s uncle. The plot centers on a man who uproots his family and moves to the Mosquito Coast of Honduras to avoid the corruption of society—but you already know there’s some darker sh*t going on under the surface here.
‘Pose’ – 5/2 (FX/Hulu)
After taking a lengthy hiatus, Ryan Murphy’s best show (and no, that’s not up for debate) is back for one last season. So far, details about season 3 are being kept under wraps, but the second season brought us into the ‘90s and the height of the AIDS epidemic in New York’s queer community. Pose has always brought the heartbreaking moments right alongside the showstopping ballroom looks and performances, and the finale is sure to be more extravagant than ever.
‘The Real Housewives of New York City’ – 5/4 (Bravo)
RHONY is back for a 13th season, and let’s be honest, these ladies never disappoint. This season, the returning cast will be joined by attorney and TV host Eboni K. Williams, who is coming in hot as the franchise’s first Black housewife. She’ll be entering the friend group alongside Bershan Shaw, who joins the cast as a friend of. It’s about time that the New York housewives start looking a little more like the actual New York.
‘Girls5eva’ – 5/9 (Peacock)
You can never have too much ’90s nostalgia content, and Peacock’s new comedy from Tina Fey and Co. is exactly what we need right now. Sara Bareilles, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Busy Philipps, and Paula Pell star as the members of a long-dormant girl group who decides to attempt a comeback after 20 years. They’ve changed a lot, and so has the music industry, but whether they pull it off or not, it looks like it’s going to be hilarious.
Images: Jasper Savage / Hulu; HBO, Netflix, Disney+, Peacock, Hulu, Apple TV+, FX Networks, Bravo / YouTube
I’m an avid Jane Austen adaptation fan. I love Keira Knightley in Pride and Prejudice and also enjoy the book, plus Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and its offshoots. I swoon for the Emma Thompson version of Sense and Sensibility. Before the end of the world, the last play I saw in a real, live theatre was Christmas at Pemberley, basically a fan fic play about life post-Pride and Prejudice. So you can bet I binge watched Bridgerton, the “inclusive Regency” based on the best-selling novels by Julia Quinn and executive produced by Shonda Rhimes. Now that the show has been renewed for a second season, I’m considering why I—along with every woman I know—am so enamored with the show and why women are drawn to Regency dramas.
I assume you’ve watched the first season, but, if not, SPOILERS AHEAD.
The magic of the show is not only its gorgeous cast and production values, its twist on the “traditional” (read: white and straight) love story, and its 90s teen movie plot, it’s also that the story doesn’t end at happily ever married. In order to appease we who may be a little sex-starved this quarantine, Bridgerton treats us to Daphne and Simon’s honeymoon and beyond. Cue love scenes.
But, as someone who recently left a toxic relationship, what I thought would be a whole new universe of Regency love turned out to be more triggering and heartbreaking than anything. Because of my strong emotional reaction to the show’s depiction of marriage in the Regency Era, I began to analyze and research why it is that we love the toxic couples populating the books, movies, and now television programs we consume so fervently.
Time to break out my English major. Finally.
The anxiety of sexual tension and ignorance is why we love Regency dramas. Like Ross and Rachel, with the “will-they-won’t-they”, followed by the “they did”, followed by the breakup, followed by the resolution, followed by the baby and the happy family unit plot, Regency dramas are all about the pleasure in antici (wait for it) pation.
Hotness aside, objectively, Daphne and Simon are a terrible couple! Their affection for each other was based on a lie. Their betrothal was forced. Simon lies to Daphne about “not being able to have children,” banking on her naivete about sex. Then, Daphne straight-up rapes Simon to prove his “seed is strong.” I can’t believe it, but we are all still rooting for the couple and are happy to see them happily ever after with a baby in the final scene. WHAT IS WRONG WITH US?! (*rewatches entire season*)
It’s not only the tension of the timeline. Lovers of the Regency drama are attracted to Mr. Darcy, the dark, brooding, mysterious but sexy love interest of Pride and Prejudice (and Bridget Jones). The too-fancy, snooty, mean man really gets us bookish girls going. We want someone who is independently wealthy and aloof. We want someone withholding so that when he finally, finally tells us that he burns for us, we have a bigger, ahem, release of tension. Mr. Big from Sex in the City would be another cultural example of a Mr. Darcy type, and we all know in our heart of hearts Carrie should have married Aidan and never would have.
The men in Regency dramas know more about the world than the women, something Bridgerton uses as a plot device. Did anyone else squirm with the impropriety of Simon telling Daphne she should masturbate? The Duke of Hastings is amused by and attracted to Daphne’s virginity. As we watch these shows and read these books, we’re given the message that, if we’re good girls, we will be rewarded with a rich, loving spouse—but the Duke’s behavior in Bridgerton is not loving. Sexy af, but also… he’s gaslighting Daphne. He makes her believe he cannot have children when he actually doesn’t want children and is assured she won’t challenge him because she does not know the mechanics of the male orgasm. Guys, it’s okay not to want children, but you have to lead with that. Daphne broke my heart and called Simon out after the rape scene and the confrontation afterward when she says, “I do not know many things, as you have made abundantly clear, but I do know this: That is not love.”
Here’s the thing: I think these two crazy kids do love each other. In the end, we are happy for them because they learn to communicate after a wet and wild resolution in the rain. Mr. Darcy eventually stops moping around, shows himself to be a hero to the Bennett family, and is bewitched by Elizabeth’s body and soul (misquote for emphasis). We want to be loved as completely as these heroines of Regency dramas. We’re willing to suffer for that love.
Too many women, sadly myself included, fall for the guy with secrets. We like a man who isn’t too into us at first. We like the chase. Much has been said about men wanting the chase as well. The problem we run into on both sides is that we like the chase too much and cannot be content with the happily ever after. Like the Duke and Duchess of Hastings, we bring the drama into the consummated relationship. We bring the lies. We withhold. And then we fall apart.
The sex appeal of the Regency drama lies not in the happy resolution, but in the pain and anxiety of unresolved sexual tension, something lovers have been using against their romantic partners for all of time. As much as I’d love to say that relationships are moving more toward open communication, mutual respect, and, dare I say it, unconditional love, Bridgerton and the like show that, when it comes to matters of the heart, we all love the anticipation.
I can’t wait for season two.
Images: LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX
This weekend, Bling Empire, a glitzy, designer clothing-fueled reality TV show, premiered on Netflix. The show follows a group of (my brain: don’t say crazy rich, don’t say crazy rich, don’t say crazy rich) insanely wealthy Asian friends living in Los Angeles. They attend and throw lavish parties, spend more money on jewelry than I make in a year (at least, I assume — they are so rich they don’t even discuss prices), and fly on private jets. While the show actually does have plenty of heart and shows the cast going through difficult moments such as debating surrogacy, locating biological parents, and having children before marriage, Bling Empire’s arguably central conflict revolves around a penis pump, and for that, it deserves an Emmy.
Before analyzing this conflict, I must first explain the cast of characters involved. First is Anna, the older sort of matriarch of the group, and Bling Empire’s own Karen Huger. Though Anna would never be so gauche as to call herself the Grand Dame of Los Angeles, she’s probably thought it a few times and definitely would not object if you called her that. (You can just tell by the way she showers her friends with gifts.) Then there’s Kim, world-famous DJ. Not really central to the conflict but worth mentioning nonetheless is Kevin, the dopey but lovable (and supremely hot) model who is not wealthy and thinks Hermès starts with an E, much to the delight and condescension of his friends. Finally, we have Guy, who is just kind of there to help instigate.
Additionally, I must also explain what a penis pump is, because, based on the conversations I had with my straight female friends, it sounds like something that should be pretty self-explanatory, so it feels embarrassing to not actually know what it does. No shame here, because I had to look it up and then was asked why I was shopping for penis pumps when I opened up my phone to show my friend a meme. (Later on in the episode, cast member and socialite Christine Chiu feigns understanding of the mechanisms of the very same penis pump, so again, don’t be embarrassed.) Anyway, according to the Mayo Clinic, a penis pump is used to help get or maintain an erection. It’s a more temporary fix than, say, taking Viagra, and it cannot enlarge the penis.
So there we go! The drama starts when Anna invites the group over to her house for a spa day. We don’t find out until the massages start that they are not getting regular massages, but face massages — the kind popularized by the likes of Meghan Markle. Très chic.
While half the group are getting face massages, Kim decides that she wants to go sage Anna’s house. This is another subplot of the show: the supernatural. At one point, Cherie (former pop star and current baby mama to a guy who is dragging his feet about marrying her) hires Tyler Henry, the celebrity medium, to contact her mother from beyond the grave. Later on, the group meets with a Shaman over a bonfire. But for now, we start small, with Kim barging into Anna’s house under the guise of saging it, when in reality, she just wants to nose around.
She and Guy make a beeline for the bathroom (because, ya know, that’s where all the ghosts hang out), where Guy immediately notices Anna has a penis pump in her shower. (Guy knows because he has the same penis pump, but specifies he keeps it in his bedside drawer.) They both giggle so loudly that everyone getting massages in the yard can apparently hear. Guy and Kim laugh when they pick up the penis pump, grossed out that it’s wet, even though we just established that the penis pump is, in fact, in the shower.
Kim’s solution is not to do what most of us would, and put it back where it came from and pretend she never saw anything, but as she puts it, “throw it outside, that sh*t’s disgusting.” When Guy points out that throwing someone’s belongings out the window is rude, Kim replies, “that’s not rude, it’s disgusting,” adding, “That sh*t’s illegal.” Owning a penis pump is not, in fact, illegal.
Guy, with his hand wrapped in a paper towel, picks up the penis pump (which is surprisingly big) and chucks it out the window. It lands on the lawn, and everyone immediately knows what it is, a fact that surprises me, since I would not have been able to identify that object under threat of execution.
Just as any of us would be, Anna is not pleased to see the penis pump land on the grass near her feet. She later tells the camera in an interview, “this is not a screw you situation, this is a f*ck you situation,” I guess because “screw you” is slightly less scathing of an insult than its expletive counterpart? In any case, she is pissed with a capital P.
This would all be a weird, likely producer-manufactured one-off event, if Kim would have apologized for doing something so obviously rude. Instead, she refuses to acknowledge that barging into someone’s bathroom and throwing their belongings out the window — even if Anna did later clarify to the LA Times that it was the guest bathroom, not hers — is objectively poor guest behavior, no matter whose house you’re in. She tries to shift the blame onto Guy, telling Anna, “I’m not the one who found that thing,” and insisting she’s not blaming Guy as she, in the same breath, continues to blame Guy.
The drama continues later in the episode at Kelly’s moon festival celebration, where Kim doubles down on her behavior. Kevin asks, “who raised you, wolves?” and Kim throws a drink on his outfit with not a single flicker of emotion crossing her face. She does it almost not as a reaction, but as an automatic response — a pre-planned reflex that she was preparing to activate no matter what Kevin said.
On other TV shows, throwing a drink in someone’s face would immediately spark an all-out brawl (any Bravo program comes to mind). But in Bling Empire, it only results in Kevin standing up from the table, muttering to Kim about sending her the dry cleaning bill (while the rest of them hem and haw over Kevin’s now-ruined outfit, which costs $100,000), and leaving the party.
And somehow, this penis pump plot that could have been quashed with one simple apology manages to pump out (pun intended) enough drama to fuel a significant portion of the show. Kim doesn’t even apologize to Anna until the end of the final episode! It is really the gift that keeps giving.
None of this is to say the show is not worth watching — on the contrary, I think everyone should binge it right now (so we can talk about it). It’s frivolous and fun, yet there is a lot of heaviness in the subplots (such as: Andrew’s displays of emotional abuse, Kevin and Kane’s decision to locate Kim’s biological father without asking her first, etc.). If this were The Real Housewives and there were three fewer cast members and 14 more episodes, I’m sure we would have spent a lot more time diving deep into the darker plot lines. But we don’t; we get as much designer name-dropping and sex toy squabbles as we get discussion of cultural taboos. And I’m cool with that! The show is called Bling Empire, and damn it, we get an empire of bling: attractive, shiny, not overly preoccupied with what’s going on underneath.
Perhaps pumping up the penis pumper was a deliberate choice by the cast, who seem savvy enough about how reality TV show production works, to intentionally avoid substantive conflict with each other. (Personally, if someone robbed me of my moment to find out for myself what happened to my biological parent because they wanted to play detective, I wouldn’t thank them, I’d have a hard time speaking to them again.) Or maybe it’s because without the penis pump disagreement, most of the cast seems to get along just fine, save Anna and Christine, who feud half-heartedly over owning the same necklace. Whatever the reason, the penis pump provided conflict, it provided laughs, and it provided education. And for that, I thank it. It, more than any cast member, deserves a contract renewal for season 2.
Images: Bling Empire Production; Netflix (2)
Netflix’s Bling Empire is the latest new show to whet our ravenous pandemic streaming appetites, and for good reason. The show follows the delightful antics of IRL Crazy Rich Asians Kevin, Kane, Cherie, Kelly, Kim, Christine, and of course, Anna Shay, as they throw parties and solve mysteries like “where are Kevin’s parents?” and “Is Cherie’s baby actually her reincarnated mom?” Everything would be fine if it weren’t for one individual: Andrew Gray, an actor best known for playing the role of Red Power Ranger from 2013-2014. I’m not kidding. In Bling Empire, Andrew plays the role of Kelly’s f*ckboyish boyfriend, but instead of just being kind of a tool we all hope she breaks up with, he displays a number of legitimately alarming behaviors that at times makes the show hard to watch. Watching their relationship unfold, I couldn’t help but think back to emotionally abusive or harmful partners I’ve dated or seen others date in the past. Throughout the season, Drew throws up red flag after red flag, and the internet definitely took notice. Here are just a few of the concerning behaviors Drew displayed throughout the season.
Do I even need to explain this one? I presume we were all as shocked as Anna Shay when we heard Drew screaming at Kelly over the phone in the very first episode. Not only was this behavior shocking, it’s also textbook abuse. Screaming or shouting is a common form of abuse and potential precursor to violent behavior. Sure, we all get heated with our partners from time to time, but we all know the difference between that and full-volume screeching at them over the phone the moment they pick up over a misunderstanding that could have been solved with a slightly salty text. From the moment Andrew came on screen, this dude’s flag was blood red.
Another disturbing Drew moment came when he realized Kelly had discussed his freakout and their subsequent couples counseling session with Anna and Kim (despite the fact that Anna literally heard him screaming at the time). Drew tries to guilt trip Kelly for discussing their relationship with her friends (a very normal behavior that should be allowed in every relationship) in an attempt to keep her quiet about his outbursts in the future. By pushing Kelly to agree to never discuss their relationship with others, he’s protecting himself from anyone finding out about his abusive behavior in the future.
At the apex of his creepiness, Drew accompanies Kelly to a couple’s counseling session in which she finally reveals the relationship has to end. Throughout the session, Drew continually gaslights Kelly about her version of their relationship, instead categorizing it as “perfect” in an attempt to get her to stay. Luckily, the therapist is having none of it and makes Drew confront the disparity between his version of events and Kelly’s. Also, did you notice how that therapist separated him from Kelly so they could make a plan to get her out of the house? My guess is that therapist was a lot more alarmed by Drew’s behavior than she let on.
After making it clear to Kelly he did not want her to discuss their relationship, and after his abuse became more widely known in the group (thank you Anna Shay), the season ends with Kelly and Drew reigniting their relationship secretly because she doesn’t want to “deal with the drama.” Isolation puts Kelly in an even more vulnerable situation, because her friends aren’t even aware that she’s in an abusive relationship to keep an eye out for her.
Drew only just found out that Kelly went on a date with Kevin while they were broken up, but I don’t think it’s the last we’ll be hearing about that issue, especially since it was the first thing Drew wanted to know when they got back together. Sure, none of us want to hear about the people our partners dated when we weren’t together, but extreme jealousy is a form of controlling behavior that I could definitely see becoming an issue with Drew in season two. Unless of course, he doesn’t come back for season two, which I think we’d all be fine with.
As you can probably imagine, Drew’s behavior did not go unnoticed among Bling Empire fans, with people on Twitter calling him a “living breathing red flag.” Social media lit up after the show’s debut with posts from users concerned about Drew and Kelly’s relationship.
Drew from Bling Empire is frightening. If the show is close to an accurate portrayal then Kelly should run and never look back. That level of emotional abuse and manipulation is dangerous. He may want to change and heal but he needs to do that alone.
— theycallmecater (@theycallmecater) January 17, 2021
Personally, I found Andrew’s presence on the show distracting from what was otherwise a very fun watch. Bling Empire simply doesn’t need someone like Andrew in the cast. There’s enough drama and intrigue between Anna, Kim, and Anna’s penis pump to make up for anything the Drew/Kelly storyline is bringing to the table. And more importantly, does Netflix really need to be elevating this kind of abusive behavior? While Drew’s red flags are anything but charming to someone who knows how to recognize them, young women and girls might see that kind of behavior normalized—or worse yet, romanticized—on a show like Bling Empire and go on to tolerate it in their own relationships. I know that when I was younger I tolerated a lot of abusive, toxic behaviors because they reminded me of relationships I’d seen on TV. These relationships seem sexy and fun when you’re watching them, but when you’re in them they are anything but, and no one should be left believing screaming, jealousy, and gaslighting are okay. Here’s hoping Kelly and the rest of the Bling Empire franchise leave Andrew where he belongs next season: in the trash.
If you or someone you know are the victim of abuse, check out the National Domestic Violence Hotline here.
Images: Netflix; Giphy; theycallmecater / Twitter