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Casual finale.jpg

'Casual' Finale: We Need To Talk About That Horrible Thing Valerie Did

By Emily Cutler | TV | December 8, 2015 |

By Emily Cutler | TV | December 8, 2015 |

When I wrote about Casual back in October, I said it would need to introduce something to the plot in order to avoid being overshadowed by the similarly themed Transparent. They introduced something alright, but maybe to the show’s detriment. But before we go any further:

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As it turns out, Casual’s first season was remarkably good. By introducing Alex and Valerie’s mom (Frances Conroy) and dad (Fred Melamed) and their tumultuous relationship, we started to figure out why Alex and Valerie were as broken as they were. The short answer is that their parents totally fucked them up. It was an inadvertent act, partly to blame on the fact that Fred and Dawn believed in their alternative parenting style, and partly because they were too self-absorbed to properly care for their kids. They wanted to maintain their lifestyle, and believed if they just introduced Alex and Dawn to those alternative ideas, the kids would be fine with it. They were not fine with it. Fred and Dawn felt that their all-night, free-love orgies were no big deal. The fact that Alex found it a big deal is overlooked and mocked. That selfish, self-centered style can be directly tied to the horrible thing Valerie did later.

And I don’t mean sleeping with Alex’s girlfriend Emmy. That was a destructive, selfish act perpetrated by a woman who felt alone and vulnerable. Mostly it happened because Valerie considers Alex “hers.” It was an unforgivable act that hopefully will be dealt with in greater detail next season. Valerie understanding and acknowledging that she was trying to sabotage Alex’s relationship in order to keep him close to her is a good first step, but in no way should repair all of the damage that was done. Even if Alex’s relationship with Emmy was bound to end horribly for him (and it totally was), it was the only time Alex felt he’d connected with someone honestly. Having that ripped from him shouldn’t be dismissed with an apology.

No, I’m talking about the terrible thing Valerie did to her daughter Laura, and again I don’t mean the sex Valerie had. I mean completely neglecting to set Laura straight on any of the many severe mistake she made with her teacher Michael. In the aftermath of Laura intruding on Valerie and Michael, Valerie was so concerned with making sure Laura wasn’t upset she neglected to explain to Laura why she should be upset. Or how it’s sometimes referred to as “parenting.” Valerie didn’t want Laura to be mad at her so she ignored the four or so pretty serious life mistakes Laura made in the matter of about five minutes. And she then missed the opportunity to teach her daughter things like:

1.) You can’t have sex with your teacher.
Sex between a child and an adult is always a crime and always the fault of the adult involved. Full stop. The child cannot legally give consent, and no amount of “willingness” makes it OK. So in this case, Laura, you can’t fuck your grown up teacher because you don’t know what you’re talking about. Having a crush on your teacher is a pretty normal thing. Expecting that that teacher is open and ready to commit a felony because you don’t think statutory rape is a big deal is fucked up. Texting inappropriately with your teacher is fucked up, leaking a sex tape in order to get the attention of that teacher is fucked up, expecting that if you show up at your teacher’s house, he is going to fuck you is fucked up. Adults that have sex with children are criminals. Don’t believe that people are completely willing to become criminals just to get into your pants. And speaking of showing up at his house …

2.) Don’t show up at people’s houses uninvited.
Not only is it rude to drop by unannounced, it’s completely uncalled for. You have a mobile communication device in your pocket at all times. If he wanted you to come to his house, he would have asked you. If you wanted to go to his house, you should have asked him. Showing up out of nowhere isn’t romantic, it’s stalking. And if you show up unannounced at someone’s house and they don’t come to the door, do not let yourself in. You just upped the ante from stalking to breaking and entering. Why aren’t you more concerned with all of the felonies this relationship seems to entail?

3.) Start respecting people’s boundaries.
So after you showed up unannounced and broke into your teacher’s house believing that would cause him to have sex with you, you realized he actually was having sex with your mother. Which caused you to bust into his bedroom in order to catch him in the act of having sex with your mother.

What. The. Fuck.

There is nothing about that that’s cool. Unless you are busting in on your exclusive sexual partner, you never have a right to go barging into someone else’s bedroom. Neither of the people having sex in that bedroom owed you an explanation. Unlike yourself, they’re both consenting adults. Meaning they don’t have to justify themselves to you.

4.) Don’t expect people to read your mind.
Your mom didn’t know you liked your teacher. So, no, she didn’t stab you in the back. That might be all there is to this one. If you expect that people will know exactly what you want and need, you will constantly be disappointed by them. If you treat people as if they should know exactly what you want and need, they will start to think you’re crazy. If you’re unwilling to voice your needs, you’ve only got yourself to be angry with.

And while everything on this list should have been alarming to Valerie, it’s the last one that might actually be the biggest implication of her parenting. Yes, you want your children to be happy and healthy and to have most of their needs fulfilled. But when your child is throwing a temper tantrum, you don’t give in to them. You explain gently and kindly that they’re being fucking crazy. If a three- year- old breaks down in the store because they’re out of strawberry ice cream, parents don’t make strawberry ice cream show up. And they sure as hell don’t blame themselves for not having strawberry ice cream. Laura’s anger at Valerie was irrational, and she should have told her so. Valerie didn’t do anything wrong when she slept with Michael and she shouldn’t have let Laura’s misplaced blame convince her of otherwise.

The really ironic part, and hopefully one they’ll address in the second season, is the way in which Valerie is making the same mistake her parents did for an opposite reason. Valerie’s parents disregarded what their children needed (a stable home life) so that they could have what they wanted (a varied and experimental sex life). Valerie is disregarding what Laura needs (a mother) so that Valerie can have what she wants (a daughter who likes her). It might mean that Laura doesn’t feel as harmed by the mistake Valerie is making, but it doesn’t mean they’ll be any less long lasting. And in a season of Valerie making mistakes, it might be her worst one.