Ashamed to admit, I'm just another white middle class gal who loves watching this show.
From HBO's infamous Girls to comedies like Knocked Up, 40-Year-Old Virgin, The Big Sick, Bridesmaids, and dozens of other films, I usually watch and enjoy most things Judd Apatow creates. This includes one of his most recent shows on Netflix entitled Love. I am trying to sift this show through my usual "Real Reel" lens of race, class, and gender, and I realize, my own whiteness and current middle-class privilege is getting slightly in the way…but only slightly.
While the characters on this show do seem to have invisible means, endless amounts of resources unsupported by supposed humble family origins (Mickey the main character is supposed to have come from derelict parents who have left her to fend for herself, yet she doesn't go without designer clothes and regular happy-hours out), they still conjure up a realistic vibe. I'm definitely not the only one to feel this way, as I am sure many straight white 20s and 30s folks relate to the quirky relationship between mouthy Mickey and goody two shoes Gus.
I don't mean to be a sociological downer, but I need to bring back socioeconomic class status into the discussion. I remember being in college and being confused why some of my friends' lives looked so different than mine. Some of them would go out to fancy bistros, "grown-up-dinners" at "grown-up places" and were always up for a shopping trip, or an expensive cab ride. Others of us would disappear on the weekends, especially Saturday and Sunday afternoons to invisible off-campus jobs, cocktail waitressing, Sunday school teaching, restaurant work…whatever paid our rent. But…we never talked about why we needed to work or why we didn't. Everyone was either available to hang out, or they were not. I attended a very academic liberal arts college and people took their education pretty seriously. There were no fraternity or sorority systems, and if you weren't working, than your lack of availability was assumedly studying, volunteering, meeting a friend to work on a project, or doing school work. In a sense we were all "busy." But we were not all busy the same way.
For instance, one day a friend told me she booked an airplane trip "on miles." This was still the early millennium when "miles" were usually only something people's parents and grandparents had, after all I, we were 20 years old… not a lot of work trips racking up reward miles at this point. Somehow my student loans came up, of which I owed thousands of dollars like many students. My friend explained that she pays for everything with her Rewards Card (I do too now…but I'm in my 30s). She suggested this in a "duh" kind of way. That's what she does, why wouldn't I? I felt so dumb! Why wasn't I doing this? I surely had enough debt to earn me a trip to Thailand!
Palm to the forehead moment…because my life is filled with them. She paid her bills on a rewards card because she could afford to pay her credit card bill IN FULL every month. Rewards cards have the highest interest fees, so they only benefit you if you pay them off completely each month (see, I know this now)…but imagine me trying to explain to my mom why we should put 40k of college debt on a rewards card:). How silly we were to be missing out on all these "free trips!"
The point is, yes, I can relate to Netflix's Love, but I wish I didn't. I wish I knew how these characters and many of my friends afforded to live the way they do. Economic status, privilege, and challenges are total conversation stoppers. No rich person wants to hear about your financial troubles, because they will assume you want their help. No rich person can sit down with their poor friend and complain about their "annoying work trip" to their friend on food stamps. Money discussions are still carefully cultivated, contrived, and cautious. Usually we don't have to have them because we only hang out with people in our class bracket, and maybe a single friend who can handle being friends with someone in different circumstances.
I didn't get into the reasons why I love Love beyond a blanket statement that I find some of the characters relatable. I think we have all been the "wild card" in the relationship (Mickey) or the "stable Mable" (Gus). I think we have all tried to make a relationship be more or less than it actually was, and I think we all have done desperate embarrassing things in the name of love… or you know… basic Freudian low self-esteem. Either way, whether I am proud to admit it or not, I really love watching this show.
Keep It Real,
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.
POP⚡DUST | Read More…
The love story of Gus and Mickey has come to a pleasantly hopeful end.
Call it homeostasis, but we all have a way of ending relationships that have fulfilled their purpose.
Netflix's "Love" is probably the most unromantic show about love and relationships, which isn't necessarily a first for a rom-com with Judd Apatow's name attached. Apatow has a thing for realistic love, that is, I-guess-we're-really-stuck-with-each-other love, or good ol' companionship after the magic fades. Those that have followed "Love" since Season 1 have watched Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) and Gus (Paul Rust) stumble upon, run away from, and finally settle into healthy, adult love. Season 3 finds the couple adjusting to their newfound happiness and their shared fear of screwing things up. "Love" has always shown why relationships in one's early 30s aren't just relationships: One's lover, friends, apartment, shoes, and job are all a reflection of one's adequacy as an adult, and in harsher terms, one's value in the no-one-wants-to-die-alone market.
"Love," like most rom-coms about the awkward transitional period between ending your 20s and entering your 30s, is, at its core, about regular, everyday losers wanting to love like winners. Sit with the word losers. "Love" isn't glamorous, in fact, it's the type of show that elicits—at a minimum—one full-body cringe per episode. But how many people love like in the movies? Love—a subject so heavily explored in literature and film, it's innately comical—looks and feels different when losers are doing it.
As a recovering alcoholic and sex and love addict, Mickey's sobriety is also a condition of her staying in a relationship with Gus, a grown man who's slowly realizing his nice-guy complex doesn't excuse his own neurosis. Mickey's endearingly weird roommate, Bertie (Claudia O'Doherty), turns 31 and subsequently questions her relationship with Randy (Mike Mitchell), a cloying man-child who's terminally unemployed. If this doesn't sound like an A-list friend group to you, then the show's writers (Rust, Apatow, Lesley Arfin) have done their job. Relationships, whether platonic or romantic, have expiration dates; friends grow apart and lovers fall out of love. Call it homeostasis, but we all have a way of ending relationships that have fulfilled their purpose.
Because at 30, being a loser is no longer cool. Season 3 of "Love" is about improvement, walking away from relationships as an act love—self-love—which is the most adult thing a person can do. Mickey and Gus are too old to self-sabotage their relationship in the name of fun, and too young to understand the permanency of saying yes or no to each other for the final time. (An episode in which Gus runs into his ex-fiancé at a friend's wedding is one of the season's more emotionally resonant episodes and clarifies why we've rooted for Mickey and Gus, screaming at the screen when they get it wrong.)
For many 30-year-olds, the tradition (or institution?) of marriage symbolizes the last hurrah, the yes or no, the final declaration of choice in one's life before settling into one's very own expiration. "Love," of course, isn't that grave—its weightiest concern is how and with whom its characters will settle into complacency. The Los Angeles setting adds to the laid-back, easy-breezy vibes, the quotidian drama of Mickey and Gus, and commonplace banter, where characters talk about their new microwave replacements before having awkward sex.
So, if you want to see regular people, particularly men, have hilarious ego fits, look for stable employment, and climb, rung by rung, the social ladder of adulthood, "Love" is your show. In its final season, "Love" slows down and shows how people choose to grow with one another, the small baby steps we take in relationships that matter most to us. But Mickey and Gus are choosing on what terms they'll accept the conditions of adulthood and monogamy. In Season 3, they're not entirely vanilla…more like sherbet.
POP⚡ DUST Score: ⚡⚡⚡⚡
Shaun Harris is a poet, freelance writer, and editor published in avant-garde, feminist journals. Lover of warm-toned makeup palettes, psych-rock, and Hilton Als. Her work has allowed her to copyedit and curate content for various poetry organizations in the NYC area.
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