ads without products

act naturally

leave a comment »

I’ve seen the first three episodes of HBO’s new series Tell Me You Love Me. It’s a show about hyperconscious sex, or the lack of sex under the conditions of hyperconsciousness. True to form, I can’t stop thinking while I watch it – it is almost as if the entertainment value that has always been present with the HBO shows has shrunk to zero – this one exists exclusively as a conversation piece, grist for the critical mill, etc. For now, a few scattered notes, though I’m going to try to say something more cohesive about it soon.

1) The much-discussed full-frontalism, and the anti-eroticness of it, incessantly calls to my mind the bit toward the beginning of Women in Love when Birkin freaks out at Hermione…

‘Spontaneous!’ he cried. ‘You and spontaneity! You, the most deliberate thing that ever walked or crawled! You’d be verily deliberately spontaneous–that’s you. Because you want to have everything in your own volition, your deliberate voluntary consciousness. You want it all in that loathsome little skull of yours, that ought to be cracked like a nut. For you’ll be the same till it is cracked, like an insect in its skin. If one cracked your skull perhaps one might get a spontaneous, passionate woman out of you, with real sensuality. As it is, what you want is pornography–looking at yourself in mirrors, watching your naked animal actions in mirrors, so that you can have it all in your consciousness, make it all mental.’

Not an easy passage to teach, for obvious reasons – but it probably is the start of the social story of which Tell Me You Love Me is a contination, the deathtrap of sex after the failure of repression. But on the other hand, one starts to wonder if what we’re witnessing with this show isn’t the birthpangs of a new paradigm of pornographic convention / cliché. For the barely legal, see now couples struggling to get pregnant, anything but lost in the moment, pleasure the last thing on their minds. Where oral and the money shot were, from here on out will have awkward sexual avoidance by exhausted forty-somethings. For girl on girl on guy action, we now offer only awkward, issueless attempts at masturbation in the bathroom before she gives up and goes back to checking the mommyblogs. For jouissance, we will pick up numbing, boring anxiety, the shrink’s office, and people who wear sweat-pants to bed.

Could happen. Keep me posted, porn-fans.

2) Like therapy itself, the show can handle what happens or doesn’t happen in the bedroom, but completely sidesteps the role that work might have in provoking all of this dysfunction in the real world. The sex-avoiding middle aged guy and his (assuredly) stalled career, the question of what the baby-desperate lawyer woman will do if she and he Cruisey husband succeed in bringing his totally motile sperm to her healthy eggs, the anxieties settling into a career path and all that that means today that surely should accompany the worries about stapling yourself to one person sexually for the rest of your life – all this is held off screen, at least three episodes in. That is not what the show is about, not because, I believe, these things are any less interesting, but because they just plain don’t give themselves to a properly dramatic arc anymore, as they did in the high period of the Bildungsroman. A good dollop of therapy with the late-boomer lady isn’t going to clear up the rationalization of the sex-fearing guy’s shitty life at the office.

3) And this relates to both 1 and 2: reentering the bourgeois home this late in the game and on these terms urges upon us the sense that the mythemes that organize Freud’s work on this household need updating, for they are drawn from a period of repressive self-distraction and euphemism (we wanted to do what we could not even say) whereas we live in an era of hyperconscious anxiety (we don’t want to do what everyone constantly does or at least talks about incessantly). Instead of Oedipus and all his pals, we live in the shadow of the law of diminishing sexual returns, the parable of the “feminization” of culture and the accompanying sperm death, the golden rule of the incompatibility of pleasure and planning, ecstasy and anticipation. The shift is at root a shift in temporalities – where the unmastered past was the former antagonist, now it is the present that has flattened and emptied itself once and for all.

4) It is a show, in the end, about people who don’t want to have sex, though society expects them to want it. This is interesting. It is like peeking in on the affective state of someone suffering from a migraine, someone in the hot and sexless minutes after a terrible spousal fight about sex. It feels strange – and meaningful – to observe yourself getting pleasure out of the watching of it.

More to come…

Written by adswithoutproducts

September 24, 2007 at 10:52 pm

Posted in consciousness

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: