Binge or No?: Netflix’s Original Series: Easy

(The following post will eventually be cross-posted at Agony Booth.com.  Please check out all the cool movie reviews and TV recaps they have there!)

Easy

Given the company’s recent decision to shift their business model away from previously-released films, and toward more original programming, I suspect we will be seeing a lot more “television series” like Easy on Netflix, in the near future. The show itself — an eight-episode compilation of VERY loosely related stories, each involving some aspect of sex and romantic relationships in the 21st century — struck me more as a slyly disguised abbreviated pilot season for the entertainment platform, than an actual comprehensive Season 1 of an ongoing television series.

easy-again

Each episode features an attractive, more or less likeable, cast of B minus / C+ list Hollywood actors going about the sexy business of their respective upper middle-class lives. Orlando Bloom, New Girl’s Jake Johnson, and Dave Franco are probably the most recognizable faces you will see in Easy, which should give you an idea of the level of “star power” you will find here. Though there are definitely other faces and voices you will recognize. In fact, I think most of the fun of Easy is trying to pinpoint the failed television series or supporting role in a romantic comedy that has caused you to remember the visage of a particular Easy cast mate.

easy-series-2

That being said, you’ve got to imagine that the good folks at Netflix created Easy under the assumption that one or more of the episodes would receive a more favorable review by critics than the others, and that cast and storyline can get its own show. (One cast of characters finds themselves at the forefront of two episodes in the series, while the rest of the work-a-day schlubs only get one a-piece). And hey, if none of the episodes end up being well-reviewed, well there is always the option for an Easy: Season 2, with an entirely different cast and story lines.

easy-series-3

As for the individual episodes themselves, I found most of them, if not particularly memorable, at least pleasant and inoffensive enough (except for one episode, in particular, which featured, WAY too much female body hair for my liking. But I think that’s just a matter of personal preference. Maybe y’all really like looking at body hair, while sitting on your couch eating your Saturday morning cereal breakfast!) I certainly didn’t despise any of the characters featured in Easy. And there definitely wasn’t an episode of the series I watched, where I found myself saying, “Wow, this is so awful. I have to turn this off.”

If anything, part of me wishes some of the episodes were MORE controversial. I didn’t particularly feel like Easy had anything new and groundbreaking to say about sex and romance in the 21st century. In fact, in a post- Sex and the City age, I feel like most sex-related topics, including many of the topics covered in this series, have become part of the television mainstream.

easy-series-4

So what sex topics are covered in Easy? You may be wondering. Well, in one episode, a forty-something husband and father struggles with the fact that his wife has recently become the breadwinner in the family, and that makes him feel sexually emasculated. In another, a lesbian couple tries to navigate a budding sexual relationship, despite the fact that the two lovers have vastly different recreational interests. In a third episode, a happily married couple attempts to spice up their relationship, by using a Tinder-type dating app to find themselves a companion for experimentation with menage a trois. In a fourth tale, a middle-aged graphic novelist famed for detailing his sexual escapades in his works is nonplussed, when his most recent, millennial, lover documents her rendezvous with him in a slightly more modern, and definitely more invasive, form of media. In still a fifth story, one half of a Spanish couple –who speak mainly in subtitles throughout the episode– (GASP!) has an extramarital affair with an old flame.

easy-series-6

These are all topics that, had they been featured in a television series, say ten, or maybe even five years ago, may have seemed taboo, or at least titillating, but now, come across as commonplace, at best, and a bit ho-hum, at worst.

Ironically, probably the best story of the bunch, which also happens to be the one featured twice in the series, is also the most chaste, sexually speaking. It’s the one about two brothers, one straight-laced, the other a stoner, who decide to open a bootleg bar and brewery together, much to the dismay of the more conservative brother’s very pregnant wife.

Easy

Easy

In sum, while I wouldn’t recommend you drop everything this instant, and binge-watch Easy in its entirety (I’m sure you have much more exciting things to do with your Saturday nights, like laundry or toilet bowl cleaning, for example.), it may be worth a try, if for no other reason than to brush up on your character actor recognition skills, and to try and predict which of the eight of the episodes is destined to become Netflix’s next original series . . .

4 Comments

Filed under Easy, Uncategorized

4 responses to “Binge or No?: Netflix’s Original Series: Easy

  1. Did you see The Mary Sue’s article covering the unexplored rape scenes in Easy? I’d started watching the brewery episode, but that read completely turned me off to the show.

  2. Hello NegrQ. I did read the Mary Sue article, and do agree that some of the episodes of Easy, particularly the first one, featuring the married couple coping with a so-called reversal of “traditional gender roles,” are open to interpretation, and blur the lines a bit as to what constitutes consensual sex.

    Interestingly enough, what bothered me most about that episode, was not what I saw on screen, but the fact that so many commenters about the episode actually believed the wife to be enjoying herself during the encounter, when every nonverbal cue she was giving off during that awkward scene indicated that she was most certainly not.

    I do think it’s a bit dangerous, however, to unilaterally classify every act of sexual initiation by one partner toward another as rape. Sex can be messy. It can be awkward. And it’s not always equally enjoyed by both partners, for one reason or another.

    Here’s how I interpreted the first episode. The husband was clearly feeling emasculated by his no longer functioning as the breadwinner in the family. And that feeling of emasculation had found its way into the married couple’s bedroom. To remedy this, the wife gamely attempted to engage the husband in a series of role playing exercises, in which he could “play the part” of the “Manly Man” in a sexual encounter. She tried playing dress up, with her as the happy housewife, and him as the construction worker (pictured above). She tried to mimic the young lusty star of pornographic film she caught her husband watching late at night. But none of these things worked. And they didn’t work, precisely because they didn’t feel real to the husband. In fact, they made him feel mocked and even less manly than before.

    So, at the end of the episode, the husband aggressively initiates sex with his wife, because he sees this as the “real masculine” thing to do. She’s clearly not in the mood, having put on her retainer, and already washed up for bed. But when her husband persists, the wife submits to anal sex with her husband, because she sees, on some level, that this is what he needed all along.

    She doesn’t enjoy it. She finds it painful. He’s not even attempting to satisfy her sexually. You see all this on her face.

    And yet she pretends to enjoy it for his benefit, making sounds of pleasure, and feigning orgasm. Then, the next day, she wakes up early to cook her husband breakfast, something she doesn’t usually do, because she feels like that too will make her husband feel more manly.

    So was it rape? From the wife’s perspective, I think she feels like she’s compromising for her husband . . . doing things that she knows will make him feel better, even if she doesn’t enjoy them, because she believes it will help her marriage in the long run. It’s something people do in relationships all the time, but when sex comes into play, the situation and interpretation gets a bit messy.

    The other episode referenced in the article, the Spanish spoken episode, well, I found the scene in question on YouTube, and I’ll let you decide for yourself . . .

  3. I scanned the article again to see what was said about the episodes. I think The Mary Sue was wise in its noting how the show plays into rape culture… which isn’t a definitive proclamation that there was rape, but that she show delved into that territory. I don’t like that type of “entertainment”

    The first episode was described as ending “with a sex scene that feels uncomfortable and gross at best and trauma-triggering at worst.” Trauma and sex are rarely a good combination in fictionalized storytelling. Later, episode four was described as having a “similarly cringeworthy encounter.” Again, not necessarily rape, but not exactly kosher. But the author’s main issue was one close to my heart:

    “The issue I have with Easy is not with its portrayal of perhaps true-to-life relationships, including rape. The issue I have is that it is aestheticizing rape for its viewers, and perpetuating a dangerous culture where these facets of relationships aren’t discussed. As with most shows, it’s not the content but the presentation of that content that matters.”

    A number of the shows I watch, particularly soaps, tend to do this strange thing when it comes to presenting gay male relationships. Men are shown to be violent to one another… Often physically… sometimes sexually… right before they fall in love. And the previous abuse typically goes unspoken, because: love.

    The author summed up my frustration with those types of portrayal in a solid paragraph:

    “And this is where the danger lies: in sexuality without commentary, in violence without consequences. You cannot write about rape culture without also commenting on it, and by a lack of portrayal of after-effects, Swanberg is writing a damaging show.”

    I noticed that you’d noted a slight wish that the shows were more controversial. I’m fine with that, if writers of the show *speak* to the controversy, in a way that resonates. Does that make sense?

    • It does make sense. And you raise a fair point, while bringing up an interesting issue, the problematic portrayal of love-hate relationships in media, and the way in which they could potentially glamorize sexual violence. And THIS would be a controversial, meaty, and novel issue that COULD have been portrayed in a series like Easy, which would have actually had something new to say about 21st relationships. Maybe there is hope for season 2 of this series yet . . .

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