“Mary + Jane” recap (1.2): Burnout

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Wow. Just, wow. You know, I started this episode expecting to write a recap that shot down the haters, but now I feel like I need to apologize to them. I watched Mary + Jane’s pilot with an open mind, and what I saw was a show with a borrowed premise but with plenty of potential, that simply needed some time to grow into itself and find its own voice. But if episode two is any indication, they may not have much longer to find it, since that was one of the more shrilly obnoxious half hours of my life.

I blame Los Angeles (I usually do, when it is reasonably possible to do so). Whereas Broad City (oh yeah, we’re gonna keep on with that comparison. You can have your Breaking Bad comparison when you EARN IT) draws charm from its leads traipsing around New York in all its messy glory,  M + J basically confirms every stereotype it’s possible to believe about LA and its trendy emptiness. This episode doubles (or even triples) down on jokes about themed restaurants and idiotic app developers. And Broad City is built around a warm core of affection for all its characters; even Trey and Beevers have recognizable human flaws and fears and charm. I felt some of that, or at the possibility of it, for Jordan and Paige in the first episode, as a loveable goofball and hopeless romantic, respectively. But I found no trace of that this week, as the show drew hipsters, polyamorous people, and feminists as such broad caricatures it was impossible to want anything more than for them to go away.

That being the case, I’m not going to waste any more of your time or mine on this episode than is strictly necessary, but we will take a minute to discuss how the show dealt with queerness.

First up, we have Jordan who has been carrying on a threesome relationship with a married couple (he builds poop-powered rockets, she’s a former Olympian). From the outset, it’s clear this situation will last no longer than one episode, which really belongs to a much older sitcom tradition where characters have love-interests-of-the-week. (Pro tip: If you want to earn your comparisons to beloved long-arc dramas, you have to actually give your characters emotionally credible storylines.) Jordan is in heaven sharing her bed with both of them, which I’m sure cemented the idea many people have that bisexuals are incapable of monogamy with a single gender or person. However, things get messy when the married couple each decide they want Jordan all to themselves and launch a charm offensive of gifts, flowers, sexual favors, and free home remodeling.

mj2.1THE ONLY DEPICTION OF LA QUEERNESS LESS REALISTIC THAN “THE L WORD.”

Jordan is put off by all the free stuff (relatable millennial problems, amirite?) and breaks it off with both of them. They each show up at her house with Say Anything boomboxes and beg for her to take them back. But: psych! It’s really all just a psychosexual game they play with each other, since competing for hot young things to seduce is their favorite form of foreplay. Rather than being reassured that no actual feelings are developing (feelings are uncool in this show), Jordan is stung that she was only ever their pawn, and promises that she gave them both a madeup STD. Is this storyline “offensive,” per se? No. There’s nothing wrong with threesomes or polyamory or even weird sexual mind games, but it’s the sheer sloppy artlessness with which they are delivered that offends. If this relationship were drawn out over several episodes, so we had a chance to get invested in it at all, it might be different. Instead we are left feeling equally disgusted with all parties.

Is this storyline “offensive,” per se? No. There’s nothing wrong with threesomes or polyamory or even weird sexual mind games, but it’s the sheer sloppy artlessness with which they are delivered that offends. If this relationship were drawn out over several episodes, so we had a chance to get invested in it at all, it might be different. Instead, we are left feeling equally disgusted with all parties.

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