In my last article, I brought up the idea that straight white men are likely having a hard time locating, or identifying a form of masculinity that is positive and politically correct. I know there are much bigger problems then helping straight white men "be men," but as a self identified female and feminist, I am curious.
Progressive culture knows what we don't want men to be, but in this age of non-binary gender constructs, it doesn't mean we still wont attempt to locate or name masculinity, even if individuals of all genders seek permission to perform it, or stop performing it. Non-binary, in my head at least, means the right to move across the spectrum of gender freely, without having to "pick a side." It also means we are in the process of redefining what would stereotypically be called "male behavior" or "female behavior" as well as redefining which genders and sexualities can perform these behaviors (all of them of course). As a consumer of pop-culture, I wonder where we see this non-binary, re-definition played out in the media? (I promise to try and start writing like a normal human for the rest of my article…keep reading, I will get to discussing the steamy progressive sex scenes on this show).
High Maintenance gives us a plethora of non-binary gender bending, racially aware, sexually fluid portrayals of humans… and it is awesome. For one, the main character, played by Ben Sinclaire can only be described as "pretty fly for a white guy." He gives us a version of masculinity that is un-intimidated by empowered identities that don't include him or his gender. He can sit in a room with a person of color, or two lesbians, or eight women and not take up all the emotional or physical space. He can recognize his dominant social status as a white man, without further leveraging it.
He is not defensive or apologetic that he is a white man (nor should he be), however his character can sit with the humanity of marginalized folks and subtly acknowledge that marginalization. He doesn't ask for a pat on the back for not being a jerk. He just hangs out, delivers weed to all kinds of folks, always leaving time to "connect" with his clients, in true, white-guy-hippie-fashion. He asks his 9 month pregnant customers about their mucous plugs and his bi-sexual three-way-ing dudes, what edibles they want. He values the connection between all kinds of people and it's nice to just sit with this perspective...rather than the holier than though perspective that we often here, ie "I LOVE BLACK PEOPLE" or "GAY GUYS ARE THE BEST!"
The best thing about this show is that it places marginalized identities in roles we rarely get to see on television, and rarely get to see on the same show. This show isn't about "gay people" or "women," it is about the intersecting identities that this weed dealer has the unique opportunity to connect with due to his migratory profession. There is a successful Black, female real-estate broker, a butch women with a "natural body" sleeping with two well manicured men, an inter-racial couple in their 50s making love while on vacation in Brooklyn visiting their hipster daughter, and of course lots of feminists, both gay and straight. Also lots and lots of natural nude bodies!
How often do we see naked people on TV that are not doctored, implanted, lifted, and tucked? The bodies on this show look like the bodies at your gym… ya know…just bodies (unless you go to that gym:). These bodies seek pleasure and have sex; usually something reserved for models and artificially altered folks in the media. We see old people, butch people, large people, un-shaven people doing the nasty. I couldn't believe my own surprise at seeing real bodies seeking pleasure. How sad is it that sex in pornography is now less shocking than sex between two average character actors? I'll tell you how sad, it's 'drop-your-ice-cream-cone-on-the-floor' sad. It is now actually emotionally jarring to see an average body on television. WTF.
So go do yourself a favor and wash away all of the unrealistic images of fake bodies that you have in your head, and watch this show. Inundate yourself with some real flesh and enjoy the connection between these very humane characters. Wouldn't hurt to hit up your local dispensary first, assuming you live in a High Maintenance state.
By Rachel Hall, Rachel has a Masters in Cultural Gender Studies, and a BA in Communication & Culture, and works with all kinds of people to improve their ability to work with all kinds of people. She can often be found hiding in her laundry room from her two children. More about her on her website.
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