The Romanticism of Californication

Some may say the humor in Californication is crass, low brow, raunchy, and dirty. To those people, I say you’re missing the point. Sure, it’s a sex comedy, similar to HBO’s Dream On that aired in the 90s, but with a lot more unsavory scenes when it comes to sex. However, Californication is a show deeply rooted in romanticism—exhibited in the theme of unrequited love and the setting of Los Angeles.

As a writer, I’m envious of Hank Moody to an extent. Though he finds himself in a high order of drama, I can respect the love he harbors for Karen, his baby momma and muse. He’s the tortured artist who got lucky and found his other half; then, riding that wave of love was incredibly prolific, and when it ended he couldn’t write. It’s a hell of a thing when writer’s block comes on and if it’s attributed to loss or heartbreak, it’s even worse. And that’s essentially the dilemma of Hank; a man trying to find his way after the ‘end of everything’. He delves into sex, alcohol and drugs, and rock n’ roll; and though I don’t condone his methods of self medication, as a writer I can understand them. When you find your other half, that perfect someone and things just click, you can’t imagine losing it. When it’s gone, you numb the pain in whatever way you can.

Hank is a tragic romantic looking to get back what he lost and punishing himself in the process. Los Angeles provides the perfect landscape for it—a city of glitz and under the surface, horrifically rotten. I believe it was LA historian, Mike Davis, who said “Los Angeles is a sunlit mortuary where you can rot without feeling it”. There have been times in my life where I could definitely relate. But as a writer and human being, you can’t wallow forever. You have to rise out of the murk, which Hank never really does in the series—kind of my major gripe with the writing. And though the series has various short-comings, I think it delivers as a strong depiction of what it’s like to be a hopeless romantic in a city where romance may very well be dead. In the end, we all want a Karen–a muse, a lover, a savior–our other half.

Good luck out there! As Hank would say, “It’s a big bad world.”

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You Scare Me To Death (Working through “Gone Girl”) (Spoiler Alert)

I recently saw David Fincher’s “Gone Girl” which resonated on a few levels. It’s a slick film based on the novel by Gillian Flynn, with an underlying metaphor about the futility of marriage. The female protagonist is Amy, a scorned woman who is also a psychopath. She constructs a revenge scenario of biblical proportions and sets out to make her husband suffer in unimaginable ways.

The film treats marriage as some type of shared psychosis. It’s emotional but also very mental. What exactly happens to a person’s brain when they get married, or better yet, fall deeply in love? Things change upstairs–chemicals and neurons, an altered psychosis.

Amy’s mission is to make her husband feel as bad as she did–worse. She recognizes that at some point, early on, she did love her husband but that love turns to hate upon discovering his infidelity. I understand that Amy is a murderous psychopath, but how she sees marriage may not be that far-fetched. Her philosophy is that when we meet someone and begin to build a relationship, we enter into a social contract. Who you say you are or pretend to be, is who we accept as the truth. It’s like both parties are agreeing to this lie or revision of who they both are–sure, things will come out later but they shouldn’t be earth-shaking shockers.

Where the overall theme becomes apparent, is within the last 15 minutes that leads to the climax and resolution. Amy attempts to restore the contract she had with her husband and in the process she kills. She reclaims her marriage and renegotiates the terms of their agreement. This time with a trump card–pregnancy. The fear of Amy having a child and raising it is what propels her husband to stay. And their marriage becomes an even bigger production. Most marriages are just that–a production. There’s the public version, the private version, and then the version that exists in silence. It’s what isn’t said in the moments at the dinner table. There are people who have been married for years and quietly resent each other, but they don’t divorce. It’s that shared psychosis–a mental illness. Yes, Amy is insane but marriage isn’t for the sane. And they aren’t always about happiness for some. There are those who take comfort in knowing the devil they sleep with. Once you understand the nature of a thing, you know what it’s capable of. It can be much more frightening starting something new and having to get to know the ends and outs of that person. What if they’re worse than the person you left? What if they hurt you again and you can’t recover? These are frightening thoughts for most. 

In marriages people hurt each other–some hurt big, some small. Some go out of their way to hurt, and some just make horrible mistakes. Meeting someone sets unknown events into motion. It’s the unknown that we crave and that’s healthy. However, when venturing into the unknown, always be sure you can see a light at the end of the tunnel or at least a good exit route.