Saturday, July 05, 2008

What Would Oscar Wilde Think of Californication?

My husband doesn't usually go for serial TV programs--with the exception of Joss Whedon's Firefly and more recently, though at first reluctantly, Angel. Recently we discovered Californication. Za is attracted to the main character Hank Moody for the same reasons that he revered Spike from Buffy and Angel and Jayne from Firefly. I won't say that there is an obvious connection between these three characters. But, what Za sees, I think, is the unrestrained id. These characters flout convention, act on their impulses, and all with a grumpy wit. I guess Za admires them because they reflect parts of himself--or anyone for that matter--that he is forbidden to be if he wants to be an upright, kind, moral citizen.

I am attracted to Hank Moody, however, for very different reasons and it has bugged me enough that I thought I would write about it here and see what others think. Moody strikes me as a classic Oscar Wilde character--someone like Lord Goring from An Ideal Husband. That is, Moody appears to be a rogue, a real scoundrel and yet, he turns out to be morally consistent and thereby admirable; Lord Goring and Moody have in common a distaste for behaving in accord with convention and good manners in favor of being authentic.

Moody seems like a drunken womanizing bastard from the outset, and yet the more you get to know this character, the more you admire his devotion to his daughter, his ex-girlfriend, his friends, and frankly, to women in general. I particularly liked the scene in episode two (Hell-A Woman) with "Sonja" (played by Paula Marshall from the beloved short-lived show, Cupid) where she asks him to evaluate her naked body. (Remember: this is in the land of fake boobs, vaginal rejuvenation, the worship of youth and particularly youthful bodies, and lots-o-plastic surgery). After making clear that Sonja has real boobs and none of the other marks of L.A. plastic, he says something like "you might be the most beautiful woman that I have seen in a long time." She follows up with something like, "I would really liked to be fucked stupid by a guy who actually loves women." This, then becomes his trademark: he loves women, all women.

*I* was over last night and watched a few episodes with us and she found Hank Moody and the entire show appalling. She asked: what possible redeeming qualities does this guy have? We all scrambled to come up with some: he is only an asshole to people who deserve it, he is devoted to his daugther, underneath it all he is a good guy . . . nothing convinced her. Not even my comparison between Moody and Lord Goring. I was at a loss to explain to *I* why I liked him and the show so much, and so I was inspired to write about it here.

I am curious if there are any other fans out there who either like or hate Hank Moody and why. My impression is still that Hank is not only a sort of existentialist hero, but that he is a feminist. I know. I said it. But, the show never portrays women as mere sex objects, as weak, as dependent on men. The women are all--for the most part--self-realized, complex, and interesting. If a woman appears to be slavish or objectified, it is usually to mock the L.A. fake world that manufactures them.

So what do you all think?