Hey “Californication,” there’s a difference between rape and sex

I have a new post up at Global Comment


“Californication” stars the Golden Globe award-winning actor David Duchovny as bad boy writer Hank Moody. It has just begun its third season and has been a hit for Showtime. The central drama focuses on his inability to maintain a relationship with the mother of his child, Karen van der Beek, played by Natascha McElhone. The supporting characters include Evan Handler as Charlie Runkle, Pamela Adlon as Marcy Runkle, and Madeline Martin as Becca Moody.

The show has pushed boundaries from the very beginning. It has featured a scene with Moody, a middle-aged man, having sex with an underage teenage girl. There have been scenes of BDSM, drunkenness, drugs and lesbian sex. The relationship between Moody and Karen functions as a slight cover to legitimize the outrageous juvenile behaviour of the male characters, which is wrapped in a thin layer of satire. Even as the male characters profess to love the women in their lives, their antics imply that women are actually disposable the moment an orgasm is achieved. On “Californication,” masculinity is ultimately sardonic and puerile.

image Hank Moody is a man-child who claims to love women, but at the same time, he is ready to reduce them to parts in order to satisfy his sexual inclinations. At one time, his best friend Charlie Runkle acted as the voice of reason, but as the series has progressed, Runkle has displayed his own desire to privilege his sexual needs over his wife and even his job. Not satisfied with being humiliated when his actions lead to disaster, Runkle even financed a pornographic movie. When he could sink no lower, he began to desire the comfort of the familiar and once again sought out his wife. Unfortunately for Runkle, Marcy had moved on.

In the second episode of the third season, we find Marcy and Charlie sharing their home while pursuing a divorce. Marcy has made it very clear that, despite the wishes of Charlie, their relationship is over. In what is obviously a form of rebellion, Marcy begins dating a Black man. Charlie refers to him as his Nubian brother, thus indicating that it is his color which we, the viewers, are directed to focus upon. The big Black penis, though unspoken, is meant to be conceptualized as invading the sanctity of whiteness.

As the evening progress, Charlie shares a drink with Moody and upon his return home, he hears Marcy and the Nubian brother engaged in sex, which he immediately perceives as rape:

“Marcy: Oh Jesus, you’re going to rape me, aren’t you?

Nubian Brother: You bet your sweet-ass, rich White lady.

Marcy: I’m not rich.

Nubian Brother: You own a spa. Don’t lie to me.

Marcy: Oh, oh my God. Put that thing away. That big thick purple thing.

Nubian Brother: That’s right, you better recognize. This thing is a one-eyed, one lord, purple White woman eater.”

When Charlie bursts into the room, he finds the Nubian brother penetrating Marcy from behind. Even as he jumps on top of the man, attempting to pull him off of Marcy, the Nubian brother continues to thrust. When questioned on his actions, Charlie professes to be saving Marcy. Naturally, a pure White woman could never desire sex with a Black man. This is further legitimized when Marcy admits that they were “role playing” and that she and her lover were engaging in a rape fantasy.

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