Monday 1 December 2014

Transparent – You really don’t wanna be alone, do you?

Transparent: 1x04 Moppa.

There are two moments in this episode in which somebody else names Maura – the first instance is her newfound friend, Mark/Marcy, in 1994, deciding that the name she chose for herself sounds too “strippery”, and going with Maura instead – in the second, her daughter, who has just seen her dad as her authentic self for the first time, choosing “Moppa”. In one instance, it’s someone trying to provide an elegant name for someone they admire, a name that fits – it’s a generous donation to Maura’s process of finding herself. In the second instance, it’s a child trying to make sense of someone she has known all her life who has just revealed something that changes everything she thought she knew. Both things come from the heart and are honest, deeply felt, but they connect an episode that brings many difficult moments for Maura. It’s the first time we truly see her struggling with how the outer world perceives her – she is safe and sound when she tries out make-up with Sarah and Ali, at the mall, but not so much when she chooses to go into the female bathroom later on – and her choice to move into Shangri La seemed good before, a step towards herself and away from what her family home signified, but in this episode, it’s made clear that it’s not quite as unproblematic, since she isn’t entirely part of the community that she finds there. 
The hostility is new. It’s not just her stories now, of being brave, it’s portrayed – the other women in the bathroom, fighting what they perceive as an intruder and therefore denying Maura’s very identity. Sarah’s stands up for her, fiercely, because that’s who Sarah is (and also, Maura’s choices reflect her own to chase that happiness against all odds), but it’s not quite enough to make Maura feel safe. She’s not okay, but maybe she will be, later (except later she has to content with a party next door that she isn’t invited to, that intrudes, that makes her feel not at home in her new home). 

Elsewhere, something else is set into motion. We find out that Josh is sleeping with Ali’s best friend Syd, and probably has been, for a while. Syd begs him never to tell Ali, because she is aware of how weird it is (and it is weird, in light of what we will realize about her feelings for Ali later on). She is also the first one that Josh takes seriously when she points out to him how screwed up his babysitter’s behaviour was, all those years ago, and how wrong his parents were in not intervening in what they considered an affair, but what would be more realistically have been rape (as Syd points out, if the genders had been reversed, nobody would even question it, and Josh’s argument that it was every 15-year-olds wet dream fades in the background). It’s the first time that he really confronts that babysitter about it, all those years later. He has never really worked through what it meant for him to be in that relationship, to have it be such a formative experience in his life, and he still can’t walk away from it, or really make his point. His parents were so wrapped up in their own misery (all the children keep asking if “mum knows”, but the thing is that she does and did know, and it affected her entire behaviour throughout their childhoods) to take care of their children, and that included Josh. Nobody intervened, so here he is now, incapable of being in a healthy relationship, not knowing what he really wants from one, constantly returning to the only thing he knows how to navigate. 
He doesn’t want to be alone with these thoughts because they scare him, and finally having to listen to them means maybe having to change things. It seems clear cut from the outside: the babysitter was 25, he was 15. It’s more complicated within that relationship, within the intimacy that they share, the amount of knowledge they have of each other. They can’t talk to each other like strangers, because they are not strangers, regardless of what happened, what the power dynamics were. 

And Sarah keeps asking Tammy to tell Barb, keeps trying to explain to the one person she loves that she can’t do this half-heartedly and can’t have Tammy do this if she’s not in it completely. The show bothers to portray both sides (even if Tammy continues to be hard to empathize with) – Tammy is worried about her wife and her struggle, while Sarah doesn’t seem to be worried about Len at all, he is an afterthought in this entire process because the chase for what she knows are her authentic feelings is just too important. It’s selfish, but it’s also completely unavoidably true, and she demands that Tammy follow her to prove that she is just as serious about this as she is. It’s messy, as life always is. 
Sarah: I fucking left my husband for you.
Tammy: I never told you to do that.
Sarah: You said that you wanted to spend the rest of my life with me. You said, I wanna fuck you every day for the rest of my life.
Tammy: When we were fucking
Sarah: So?
Tammy: People say shit, when they’re fucking, it doesn’t mean that their entire lives are changing.
Sarah: I love you, and I feel so ready and open and honest right now, but I’m afraid that I’m making this shit up in my head and that you’re not coming with me, and I feel like you’re just gonna delay and delay and delay. I have doped out every fucking piece of my life, and I need you to tell her the truth.
Random notes: 

“No one’s ever seen me except me.”
Sarah: Outing a trans person, it’s like an act of violence. It’s like stripping someone naked in the middle of a cafeteria and making them eat alone.

It works perfectly: Maura AND Ali have no idea about “femininity”, or the whole process of going to a mall and having free make-up applied but being expected to buy everything – Sarah does, because it’s what she’s known all her life. It’s an interesting parallel between Maura and her daughter, and in the process of dealing with what she now knows about her dad, Ali goes from trying to embrace that femininity to getting a very short haircut and eventually dressing up herself. 

Sarah’s “Why? Why did he wait so long” in response to Ali complaining that Maura is doing this at all is beautiful. It’s all about her, of course – why did she wait so long, why did she waste so much time in an unhappy marriage – but in defending her own right to being happy, Sarah is also always defending her father’s. 

Lovely moment at the end of the episode, with Ali and Josh dancing. The show is very good at portraying how characters connect with each other, what they share, why they are close.  

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