My wife and I are different in very specific ways. I like to read about politics; she likes to read about policy. I like to think I’m smart; she’s intelligent. I run a website; she could run a think tank. Her favorite comedy is Transparent; mine is Scrubs. I like to think that we are complementary, but I’m pretty sure I’m just my wife’s guilty pleasure. Some people watch Real Housewives; my wife marries a hick from Arkansas.
Last week, Mrs. Pajiba-hyphenate watched Amazon’s new eight-episode series, I Love Dick, over the course of one night, and kept turning to me and saying how much she liked it. “You have to watch this!” she exclaimed. “You’ll hate it, but I want to know what you think.”
I was skeptical that I could hate anything starring Kathryn Hahn, because I love Kathryn Hahn, but my wife was mostly right: I didn’t care for I Love Dick, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good series. It just appeals to a different part of the brain. I love a good story. My wife is all about theme. She thinks I Love Dick is a profound series about the female gaze and masculinity. I think it’s about an obsessive woman named Chris (Kathryn Hahn) who stalks a man named Dick (Kevin Bacon) because she’s unhappy in her marriage.
Actually, the stalking/bad marriage through line in the series was OK; Hahn is fantastic in everything she’s in, and it is thrilling to watch her upend her marriage by, first, convincing her husband (Griffin Dunne) to role play as Dick, and then later destroying both her and her husband’s life in pursuit of Dick. Bacon is mostly a nothing character here; he’s a sexual object, something only to be desired, and that’s kind of the point. He wears a cowboy hat, rides a horse, and says very little. He’s basically the Marlboro Man, and Chris’s obsession with him is mostly because of his mysterious nature, and the fact that he is completely indifferent to her. She makes a complete and total ass of herself tripping over all of her attempts to sleep with him. It’s a fascinating role reversal.
Notably, Kathryn Hahn’s storyline is what my wife liked the least. She was more interested in the artistic nature of the show; the abstract ideas; the woman (India Menuez) writing her dissertation on hard-core porn who turned herself into an art installation; and the lesbian (Roberta Colindrez) who developed a possessive obsession with her; or the art director’s futile attempts to gain Dick’s approval. There’s an entire episode where the various female characters narrate their origins story with Dick. I found that episode to be excruciating; it was my wife’s favorite.
Based on Chris Kraus’s semi-autobiographical novel, I Love Dick is definitely a Jill Solloway joint, but it sort of feels like a situation where Amazon was like, “OK. You have put us on the map with Transparent, so you can go out and make whatever you want now!” It’s a show that really explores sex, and porn, and art, and what makes women tick, what fuels a woman’s desires, and while there are certainly some interesting insights to be gained from it, it gets buried under a lot of philosophical blah blah blah and experimental filmmaking (also a lot of archival footage from old porn movies). It’s not that it’s inaccessible; it’s just more interested in ideas than it is character. Some people may love it; others may find it a little boring. Either way, it’s a good series, just one that appeals to a specific type of person.