Trite & Outlandish: Why The Girlfriend Experience Fails to Arouse Viewers

 

TGE

Christine Reade is an enigma.

In many ways, we learn a lot about her over the 13 episodes of The Girlfriend Experience but we still never get to truly know her. We meet her as an ambitious law student who lands a very competitive internship in Chicago.

But by the season finale, we’re left asking ourselves ‘why?’ That’s usually not a bad element of a television show. How in The Girlfriend Experiences‘ case, it means that people are as confused as they were after the Dexter series finale. Like what was that? The Girlfriend Experience is the creation of Lodge Kerrigan and Amy Seimetz and executive produced by Steven Soderbergh.

Like Starz’ other limited series Flesh & Bone The Girlfriend Experience will lure you into an all day binge session.

But there’s nothing about Christine that would make me understand her being so successful as an escort. There’s a belief amongst many that being a high end escort is more glamorous than prostitution.

However, would we be calling this show the best of the year if it starred a Black woman? Picture this: A Black law student decides to moonlight as an escort in Chicago. I can see the think pieces already. I also can’t picture this show having the same hype surrounding this show if it was.

The show has enormous ups and downs. The finale episode might as well have been a Cinemax soft porn film.

Critics are in love with The Girlfriend Experience because it appears to be a new source of female empowerment: an educated young girl taking her future by subsidizing her income through escorting. The problem is this courtesy isn’t offered to actual sex workers in real life. Real sex workers aren’t afforded the opportunity to be understood. Most are thrown in jail without the option of the benefit of the doubt.

Vulture described The Girlfriend Experience as one of the Best Shows of the year. I’m assuming the writer isn’t a fan of The Walking Dead, black~ish, and plenty of other shows that run circles around this series.

Even more unrealistic is the sex that Christine has with the clients. She not particularly extra sexy or even engaging. She looks dry as hell. To put it mildly, if I paid for sex with Christine, I’d probably ask for a refund right after.

You mean to tell me that she enjoys sleeping with all of these old men and she has an orgasm every time? Please. Even Samantha Jones didn’t live that kind of life.

At various points in the show, you wonder if Christine is purposely sabotaging her life. The who done it aspect of the corporate storyline makes it difficult to understand if you should be rooting for or against Christine.

I enjoyed The Girlfriend Experience. It was a great way to pass a lazy Sunday.

But this show definitely isn’t the game-changer it’s being lauded as.

Why This Season of Being Mary Jane Was Everything We Needed

Being-Mary-Jane

‘Beautifully flawed’ is the tagline of BET’s one hour drama Being Mary Jane and there aren’t any other words needed when describing Mary Jane Paul and this amazing show.

For the first 2 seasons, Mary Jane Paul was insufferable.

She was quite literally the absolute worst person. It was easy to initially write of Being Mary Jane as just another show about a Black woman sleeping with a married man but Being Mary Jane proved time and time again that it was more than that. This season we were able to understand what makes her the person she is.

Season 3 picked up following Mary Jane’s horrific car accident after she overheard that her longtime friend Lisa and the ex love of her life David had engaged in a sexual act together. Mary Jane spent the first few episodes of the season getting her life back together. This season also ushered in Loretta Devine as we had never seen her: an opportunistic, conniving extortionist but also wise as she gave Mary Jane some of the best knowledge she didn’t know she needed.

This season explored the important stories of the supporting characters in Mary Jane’s life.  These stories hit nearly every taboo topic in the Black community and we needed to see them on television.

  • Black suicide and depression

Being Mary Jane made us confront the elephant in the room that is Black suicide. Mary Jane’s longtime friend Lisa Hudson was a doctor who suffered from depression.  We never really understood Lisa until her suicide when we learned she was molested by her stepfather for a number of years. Although suicide rates for Black women are statistically very low, often many Black women suffer silently from depression.

  • Mary Jane is Black woman with an AMAZING sex life

Before this show, I had never truly seen a free Black woman on TV. The best parts of the show have been watching Mary Jane engage in the most carefree sex of her life. Mary Jane has some of the steamiest sex scenes on television and the best part is no one is labeling her as loose, fast or a hoe. She’s grown!

It’s carefree but not irresponsible. The December 1 episode showed Mary Jane and her lover taking home HIV tests. My only gripe is that we never see her taking the tests only him. Now that she’s here, I want to see more characters like her. The audience is demanding more characters like her.

  • A real look at police brutality

The explosive season finale was like watching a clip from the police dash cam videos we’ve gotten use to seeing. Mary Jane’s niece Niecy had a violent confrontation with police reminiscent to that of Sandra Bland and viewers held their breaths as they didn’t know what would happen next. It seems that Niecy survived the ordeal but we’ll have to wait until next season to really understand how it affects her character.

BMJ has consistently shown us a free Black woman unafraid (mostly) to live her life unapologetically. You cannot find that anywhere else in the entertainment landscape- not on network television, Netflix, Hulu, cable and definitely not in films.

Every Tuesday, Black twitter gathered to watch Mary Jane Paul juggle a career as a mainstream journalist with her love life and family responsibilities. I’ve even found that men enjoy live tweeting the show. Sure we love Scandal and How to get away with murder but this season of BMJ was revolutionary.

We can’t name a show that has successfully tackled Black depression, drug abuse, interracial dating, and the plight of the overworked mom, teen pregnancy and Black families mixed with relevant political news all in one. That type of show never existed before Being Mary Jane.

Without the respectably politics of The Cosby Show or the theatrics of Empire, Being Mary Jane is the show that we’ve always needed. This show excels at showing us as we are and as people we know.
It’s clear that being BMJ is more than a TV show. For many of us, it’s a place we turn to that lets us know that we’re not alone. We’re not the only people dealing with complicated family issues.

Mara Brock Akil (creator/show runner) has a knack for creating Black women characters that are complicated, 3 dimensional, unpredictable, innovative, charming, both likable and unlikable. She gave use Joan Clayton and Tasha Mack but we found ourselves in Mary Jane Paul.

I hope the shows next season doesn’t suffer with Mara Brock Akil exiting BET as show runner. But the good news is that Akil and her husband Salim are headed to primetime television so hopefully the next Mary Jane Paul will be in even more homes.

Watching Being Mary Jane has been like spending time with your family every week. Despite everyone’s problems, the family loves each other and always vows to stick together. In an age where the Black family is vilified, BMJ is proof that the Black family is alive, needed and necessary.

The New Starz Series ‘Flesh and Bone’ Cuts Deep

I am not a review writer.

Review writing is an art. A talent. It’s a talent I learned I didn’t have when I was in college and tasked with writing a review for ‘Snakes on a Plane.’ It was trash. So trash that my editor had another colleague write the review. It was a good decision.

But now I’m at it again because I simply couldn’t not write about Starz’ limited series “Flesh and Bone.” There’s something about ballet dramas that I can’t turn away from. From the ballet/hip hop drama “Save The Last Dance” to Natalie Portman’s Oscar winning performance in “Black Swan“, ballet movies and television shows make damn good dramas.

Flesh and Bone” stars Sarah Hay as Claire Robbins, a talented but troubled dancer who flees  Pittsburgh for New York City in hopes of becoming a ballet dancer at a prestigious dance company. She finds herself in the gritty, ruthless world of ballet and that isn’t even where the craziness begins.

Screenshot via tvguide.com

Screenshot via tvguide.com

By the end of the first episode you’ll understand why Claire decided to runaway and you’ll be shocked and disgusted.

The show doesn’t sugarcoat the hardships of professional dancing. From bloodied feet to diet pills and drug use, it’s as bare bones as it gets. There is a moment when a big toenail completely comes off and I literally had to turn away.

What makes ‘Flesh and Bone‘ so authentic is the formula: It isn’t a show where actors become dancers for the role but it’s dancers that are acting. It adds an authenticity to the show that would be missing if creator Moira Walley-Beckett didn’t specifically search for those dancers.

The supporting cast of Emily Tyra, Ben Daniels, Raychel Diane Weiner, Irina Dvorovenko and more are phenomenal at bringing the seedy side of the professional ballet world to light.

I did have a few gripes about the show: The homeless, mentally disabled guy that lives in the building is very unrealistic. It’s 2015. I’m almost certain there aren’t any landlords offering free housing for carrying tenants groceries and mattresses upstairs in the SoHo/East Village neighborhood Claire lives in. (If there are, please let me know.) I understand that it’s television but that was WAY too unbelievable for me.

There are a few holes in Claire’s family story that I think need to be addressed. What really happened to her mother? How did her relationship with her brother become so dysfunctional? Answers that ideally would be answered in season two.

But it looks like there isn’t going to be a second season.

Sadly, Vanity Fair reported that Starz C.E.O Chris Albrecht said the show’s production is ‘not sustainable on a seasonable basis.”

Creator Moira Walley-Beckett has said that she is fine the show as a limited series.

” I kind of feel like it is what it is. This was it’s moment, and I’m really happy with how complete the story is for better or worse.”

No.

I’m not accepting any of this. This show is TOO GOOD to not go on. Can you imagine if “The Walking Dead” only had 1 season? Or ” Breaking Bad?” We would’ve have missed out on so much good TV.

Catch “Flesh and Bone” on Starz Sunday nights at 8/7 CST. Or you can binge watch the entire season on Starz Play and On Demand.

Why I’m Not Mad At The Chi-Raq Trailer

I was going to lament for about 500 words about why I’m not mad at the trailer for Spike Lee film ‘Chi-Raq‘ but I’m not going to do it.

Why?

Because most of the people that are outraged aren’t going to see the movie anyway. Because most of the people outraged haven’t seen a Spike Lee joint since ‘Crooklyn.’ Also because Damon Young at VerySmartBros already broke it down for it to forever be broke.

Just like the outrage we saw over Ebony Magazine’s November cover that had people are up in arms without reading a single word of the piece, people have already made up their minds about the film and haven’t seen a single scene of the movie.

If anything folks should have been more upset at the ‘Welcome to Chiraq‘ documentary Noisey produced glorifying gang culture last year. I was livid but hey the streets loved it.

What did people really expect from Spike Lee? A “Boyz N The Hood“or maybe a “Menace II Society” about Chicago’s violence problem? That wasn’t going to happen.

I was initially annoyed and concerned when I learned Lee named the film ‘Chiraq.’

I have written about how much Chicagoans hate the word Chiraq and why people should stop using that word before and my feelings remain the same. But I feel strongly about the arts and believe that creators should be allowed to bring a message to the people however they see fit.

That’s why I’m not tripping on the trailer or the film.

Lee is an unconventional director but he’s the only widely known director bold enough to make a film in Englewood and Auburn Gresham. He also participated in a several peace marches and rallies during the filming of ‘Chiraq.’

When the film hits theaters, check it out.

Or cop the bootleg, which most of y’all were going to do anyway.  Then you can write you 1,000 word think piece about why it sucks.

Until then, be easy.