Thursday 15 January 2015

Transparent - Is there anything you want to say to me?

Transparent: 1x06 The Wilderness.
Maura: This is my family. Leonard, I am so sorry. This is my fault. I should have called you. Honey, I should have taken you out for lunch, and we should have talked. And I am sorry about the Mort, and the Maura, and the he and the she. But I am just a person. And you’re just a person, and here we are. And baby, you need to get in this whirlpool, or you need to get out of it.

One of the things that is happening, now that Maura is speaking openly about herself to her children, is that they speak openly to her as well: it’s an ambiguous thing, because in part they are more honest now because they feel that her confession justifies some of their past failings and transgressions, but it is also the opening of a dialogue, the beginning of an opportunity. Josh is struggling more than the others, especially with the question of whether his father’s identity devalues everything that happened before, if the fact that Maura used to live a lie before means that nothing was genuine. He is also struggling with his own identity as the son of a transgender woman, even though he would never speak so openly about it. He has a very deeply rooted idea that Maura’s existence is only okay as long as she lives it behind closed doors, as long as nobody else becomes aware of it, while Maura, after every fight that she has been through, has a deep desire to be open and not hide any longer. She isn’t going to be apologetic about who she is, not to anyone, not to Josh. 
Josh: You guys think it’s real? So what does this mean? Everything dad’s said and done before this moment is a sham, like he was acting this whole time?
Ali: This means that we have to start over. 
Starting over is terrifying, but it is also an opportunity, and all three of them have already started to start over anyway: Josh lost his job, and is nursing a pipe dream of owning a record label of his own, even if it is just realistic if he has the proceeds from the sale of the house. Ali is thinking about going back to college for gender studies (all three of them have dreams very profoundly connected to Maura’s identity), a dream that is only possible if she has the money from her dad to fund it. Sarah, forging a new family for herself, wants the house for what it still means to her: the source of family, the nourishing place where communal dinners are being had, where true connection happens, as much as this never happened in the past (and as much as it works for some time, until Leonard comes bursting in to destroy the harmony, until Tammy’s redecorating of their shared past becomes an issue with Josh). 
Maura wants to support all three of them. She wants to support her son, who she feels is slipping away from her; she wants to support Ali, the child that reminds her of herself the most (“You know, I saw so much of myself in you, when you were just young and growing up, and experiment in your gender confusion.”), even when Ali is so insistent that this is not the case. She wants to support Sarah, because she sees that Sarah is rebuilding the idea of family on something new with a courage fuelled by the excitement of discovering yourself. 
She wants to give the house to each of them, for each of their purposes, except of course there is only one house to give, and no conversation between all of them – but there is a family table with a newly assembled family, Maura and Davina, Sarah and Tammy, the children and Bianca, attempting something new and making it work for a bit, while Josh kisses Raquel. And I think they are all trying hard, perhaps even Leonard, and the worst thing is trying hard and still failing – all the crazy stuff is blended in with the good stuff, always, that’s the definition of family. 

Random notes: 

Flashbacks that show how much Maura attempted to somehow fit this into her marriage, and how much grim unforgivable stuff probably happened, all these wounds that will never heal – and other flashbacks of Maura and her friend, dressing up in public the first few times, and the exhilarating liberating feeling of existing publicly and being seen as female. 

Ali attempts to make sense by talking up a trans man in her gender studies class (Syd used to date the teacher), Josh tries to make sense with online porn. 

Tammy: I love books. As a design element.

(Tammy is often the worst)

The title of the episode refers to Rabbi Raquel at the synagogue, speaking about how only those born into the wilderness, not into slavery, get to see the promised land – which, of course, asks all kinds of questions about Maura and her kids (Wilderness is also a Sleater-Kinney song, with the lines “All our little wishes have gone dry / Made it to the water, waded in the lies / When we felt the heat, couldn't turn it into fire / Too caught up in our own desires”.)

The hard part about the show is seeing how each of them just inevitably lets the other down, because that is also something that happens (Maura setting herself up for so much disappointment when all she asks for, in return for all her promises, is her children’s support during her performance at the LGBT centre). 

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