The Circumstantial Exile
by James Killough
Tomorrow will be the season finale of Californication, after which I shall willingly slip into watching Nurse Jackie and less willingly United States of Tara; I find most of Tara’s personas to be more annoying than she does, and I don’t believe her husband loves her so much to put up with that. I’m really psyched about The Borgias. Jeremy Irons’ voice makes me regret I don’t smoke any more. He sounds like a total industrial accident. So glamorous.
I’m going to discuss Californication and its plot, so if you don’t want to read further, please don’t make me say SPOILER ALERT, a term that is equally as annoying as “blog” or “hater.”
The basic story line over four seasons so far: a sexy, rakish writer, Hank Moody (David Duchovny), moved with his girlfriend, Karen (Natascha McElhone), and their daughter, Becca, from New York to Venice Beach in Los Angeles because they were adapting a book of his for the screen. Hank is deeply in love with Karen, but can’t stay out of trouble much less out of other women’s pussies. Many, many other women’s pussies. Snatch is thrown at him like roses at an opera singer. Hank is basically the wet dream/pet project of almost every male producer in LA I have ever met: the Casanova character: talented, louche, up to his eyeballs in cooch despite himself, chased by the law for things he did but weren’t really his fault. This is the reason 90% of these guys get into film to begin with: to get laid. A lot. And all they end up with is three simultaneous alimonies and a litany of crap on their filmographies.
Duchovny is good at this because he is entirely believable and sympathetic; apparently he checked himself into sex addiction rehab a couple of years ago, so the role of Hank isn’t a stretch for him. Even better than Duchovny, and someone I would give a molar or two to work with, is Natascha McElhone. What a revelation she is, and so beautiful to look at.
The thread running through all of this is that after they moved to LA, Karen left Hank for a staid architect, who had a daughter from another marriage, Mia. Hank, who had never met Mia previously, is seduced by her one night after they run into each other in a bookshop. But it turns out she’s only sixteen. In a bizarre but believable twist, Mia manages to steal the only copy of Hank’s new book, which is apparently better than anything he’s ever written, a sort of Lolita about an older man and a teen chick called Fucking and Punching, and publishes it under her own name. If Hank says anything, she’ll scream statutory rape, even though she seduced him (he assumed she was nineteen, which is understandable seeing as the actress who plays her, Madeline Zima, was actually twenty years old during the first season).
What has happened now is the truth about the authorship and real-life inspiration for the book, i.e., Hank bangin’ underaged Mia by accident, has come out and Hank has gone to trial for statutory rape; Mia’s father, who was left at the altar (okay, wedding reception) by Karen for Hank, has a couple of bones to pick with Hank. Regardless of the fact Mia took the stand in his defense, Hank was still found guilty. Tomorrow night we find out the sentencing.
If it were me, I wouldn’t have thought twice. I would have pulled a Polanski. I would be blogging from a beach in Goa right now using the pages of my American passport as rolling papers.
Regarding sex with very young people. It doesn’t turn me on personally, but I am extremely thankful to those adults who were brave enough to have it with me when I was still in high school, especially after I left the more permissive Rome and moved to New York when I was sixteen. I really didn’t know anyone was risking anything for those two years until I turned eighteen, when ironically the exploding AIDS crisis put a stop to my philandering anyway. I went to my first bathhouse when I was sixteen. Scary experience, but I loved it.
I do think Hank Moody has been wronged to have been found guilty of statutory rape after having had sex with a consenting sixteen-year-old, who also punched him, twice . Sixteen is plenty old to know what you’re doing, and even though Mia was really a twenty-year-old actress, I for one looked much older when I was sixteen and fooled all of them. Now that I think about it, I used to love telling them how old I was while I put my clothes back on. Now I see the expression on their faces differently. I thought they were impressed by how precocious I was. No. They were getting flashes of Rikers Island. Bwahahahahaha.
I got into trouble once in an online gay chat room, which is understandable seeing as they are mainly populated with “demented old queens,” as my friend Barney calls them. And they are exactly that, usually: trolls sitting there clacking prissy opinions together like knitting needles. I wrote something like, “I miss Paris. You know, a few dozen oysters in a brasserie in the Marais, a couple of bottles of champagne, then fucking a fifteen-year-old before the opera.” I said this not because I’d ever actually done that, but because the age of consent in France is fifteen, the most liberal in the world, bien sur. Incest is legal, too, I believe. I was just being provocative, and my provocation exceeded my wildest expectations: the “aunties” in the chat room went ballistic, their tea cups could be heard clattering against chipped saucers all over the internet. From then on I was the unrepentant pedophile of gay.com, where virtual reality is reality.
There are many aspects I love about Californication, most of all that Hank is unrepentant, which is not to say he doesn’t suffer, and suffer mightily. But he’s a good guy to whom bad things tend to happen, and then just as he’s about to extricate himself, even more bad things happen. As an unrepentant, erstwhile dissolute writer myself, I understand him completely. And like Hank, who is forever being banished from home or family, I too am in circumstantial exile, celebrating two years of it this week, in fact. I could also say I have been known to be a philanderer, but being a gay Casanova is what many gheys are, pretty much, if you consider how many partners we tend to have. It’s redundant.
A couple of things do irritate me about Californication, and they are Hank’s bff-slash-agent, Runkle (I like the actor, not the character), and his daughter, Becca. It would appear that David Duchovny and Natascha McElhone, both “Viggles” (my term for VGLs), managed to give birth to a piglet. True, Duchovny is more of a VSG (very sexy guy) than a Viggle, but I just don’t buy that Madeleine Martin is the product of that union. It’s not that two Viggles can’t have a ugly duckling, it’s just that an ugly duckling of theirs would look more like a plucked chicken than a piglet.
Aw, look, I’ve brought the farm into this. Quack, quack.
If they had adopted Becca, I would be okay with it. But this is just not Natascha’s child, especially. They’ve tried to cover up this casting disaster by giving mother and daughter similar vocal tonalities and facial expressions, but this is a mistake that happened back in the first season. Now that this teen is growing up, the genetic discrepancy is so glaring you wonder what this girl is doing in this show. She’s a hobbitess who belongs on a sitcom, surely. She needs a laugh track. I dread her coming on screen because she’s going to kill the flow.
As I’ve said, there’s nothing wrong with Viggles giving birth to non-Viggles. In fact, the pathos of this poor girl hitting her teens, with two gorgeous parents whom the whole world wants to have sex with and does, and she can’t even get anyone to kiss her, is dramatically compelling and heartbreaking. It’s just the ugly ducking would have been more real cast with someone like the girl who plays Lady Emily on Downton Abbey (can a single blog post go by without my mentioning that show?). You know, a geek with a beak, not a dwarf with a snout.
Yes, Hank and I are unwilling exiles. I’m not sure there is such a thing as a willing exile; that would be an immigrant.
I was moaning to my friend Yvonne in London on the phone yesterday about how much I miss the UK. “But I was happy there,” I said. “Apparently you don’t miss a place unless you were happy there, and I don’t miss New York, and if I leave LA tomorrow I won’t think twice about it.”
“Trust me, James,” she said with a sigh, for she has had to say this many times already. “If you saw Soho now, it’s empty. The cost of food is up 40%. Nobody has any money. And the rich just get richer.” The food was already insanely expensive when I lived there, I can’t imagine a 40% hike. What are they eating? Oh, beans on toast. Right.
Then I woke up this morning and saw that London was looking a bit like Cairo a couple of months ago. Half a million protestors is a lot of disgruntled people. And there was a video clip online of the ATM across the street from my old apartment, the place I left two years ago this week, being smashed to pieces by anarchists. Not that I have more than about thirty pounds in my London HSBC account right now, anyway.
Maybe there is such a thing as willing exiles. Take the Mormons, for instance. Happily, Trey Stone and Matt Parker’s The Book of Mormon opened on Broadway to rave reviews. I don’t think I’ve ever read a Ben Brantley review so ecstatic. I normally despise musicals, but this is one I shall definitely see next time I’m in New York. Now that Big Love is over, I’m going to need my fix of Angel Moroni and other crunchy Mormon oddities. I hope Stone and Parker do a sequel, Dianetics. Now, that would be a treat.