Transparent: The Wilderness Season 1 Episode 6 Recap
Photo: Beth Dubber
At this point in the series, it’s time to talk about masculinity. The obvious emphasis of Transparent has been on the definition of a “woman”, through the eyes of Mort, now Maura. But in light of this transition, what does it mean to “be a man”?
A few episodes ago Josh told his sister’s friend / sometimes lover Syd that being seduced by his 25 year old babysitter at the age of 15 was “every boy’s wet dream” and said how cool the experience was. But in the times we’ve been alone with Josh, we as audiences know Josh never got over his rape. I call his “relationship” with Rita a “rape” because that’s what it was: a statutory rape of a minor by someone in a position of power who should have known better. As Syd had tried to explain, if the genders had been reversed and an adult caring for an underage girl took advantage of her, he would be in jail or, at the very least, her parents would not. not passively tolerated what was happening.
But Josh is a man, and obviously men want sex all the time and boys drool over older women – tropes that are born out of patriarchy and gender norms, and screw up our young men. To each other, they boast and brag about conquests and sexual escapes, and there is no discussion of feelings. To be reluctant or hesitant. To be children. This is how patriarchy also fails men. Josh, and the ignorance, especially his own, surrounding his rape is a prime example. For Josh, being a man means fucking pretty women and never stopping to mourn what happened to him. Men are not seen as victims in society, so Josh reframe his assault as a victory. For him, it is to be a man. This is of the utmost importance to Josh, otherwise he will have to admit that a bad thing has happened to him. And now his own father rejects manhood. Josh is not going to take it well.
Although Maura has yet to meet him in person, Josh visits her at Shangri-La to ask him for money to sell the house in order to start his own label. On the way up he is called out by an older transgender couple and becomes noticeably uncomfortable. Inside, he notices his rather modest dress and his father’s hair pulled back and is relieved. Yes, her father wears nail polish, but he tells Maura that her sisters made their father appear to be “parading in a robe.” “You look quite normal,” he said, calming himself down, ignoring Maura’s feelings. “Everything people do behind closed doors” suits him well.
Maura repeats the last two words, undoes her hair and lets it flow. Josh apologizes for going to the bathroom and takes his father’s makeup table, the foundations, the blush, the wigs. Oh. OH. Maura says yes to the money but warns Josh not to tell his sisters about it.
What Josh tells his sisters is that he thinks their father is “losing his mind.” He has WebMDed symptoms and he thinks Maura has dementia. He also claims that she just wants to be the center of attention. “Do you think it’s real?” He asks, and Sara and Ali say they do.
“It just means we all have to start over,” Ali replies. For example, she will go back to school to study Women and Gender Studies. Her siblings laugh at her for her fleeting interests. Nothing Ali does is taken seriously. Sara throws game balls at him and Josh laughs. Josh and Sara can be a mean team.
Flashback to 1994, Shelley and Mort bask in their house on “Sexy Sunday,” which I guess is the day the kids are out of the house and they can do it. They want to try something new. Mort suggests he wear his wife’s underpants because it’s going to be naughty. She’s in there and they make a lovely couple. Where did they go wrong?
Ali speaks fondly to Maura about studying women and gender studies, and says that she is the inspiration for her to find structure and study gender, a subject that has always interested her. Maura tries to understand by saying that she has seen herself a lot. in Ali’s “gender confusion” when she was a tomboy as a child. “Some people say it runs in the blood,” cooed Maura. Ali doesn’t like it. Maura gives him the money to go back to school and tells him not to tell his siblings. Uh, wow. Where will all this money come from?
In the old house, Sara explains Grandpa’s new look to her children. Her daughter says people can change if they are magical and asks, “Is grandpa magical? Sara tries to say she is, but Tammy wants to give the kids a real answer. The girl is not interested: “Will Grandpa have pretty hair when he comes?” she asks, because this little girl knows that what really matters is pretty hair.
Ali, meanwhile, is auditing a feminism class with Syd. It is taught by Celeste (Jill Soloway), a teacher that Syd used to sleep with. Syd is bi now too? I want WE ARE ALL SYD on a fucking T-shirt. Celeste preaches how the man is afraid of the woman because he asks, “Why is she bleeding and not dying?” and she names feminist icons like Bell Hooks and Audre Lorde. At one point, she calls the exclamation marks “petty rapes”.
“Have you ever been raped by an exclamation mark?” Syd asks Ali. Ali replies that she was gang raped with an exclamation point, question mark and semicolon. I don’t like it because like I just said when talking about Josh’s assault, I’m not speaking up grated slightly. Maybe I am a square.
The class’s tech assistant is a mountain dweller named Dale (Ian Harvie) and Ali wonders why “Paul Bunyan” is teaching a women’s studies class. The answer? He’s trans. Ali walks up, flirts a bit and talks about his father. Everyone is about to have a crush on Ian Harvie. Damn, I have a crush on Ian Harvie.
Dale explains that he is a “man with a vagina” and complains about what men talk about when they think a woman is not there. “I’m a double agent,” he says. Ali says he is “gender aware”. She wants to ask him a million questions. Now it’s Dale’s turn to be confused. He assumed Ali was a lesbian. She is dismayed that he thought she was so “boring”, although politically she is “basically a lesbian”. Dale says he’s generally attracted to super-feminine women. Ali looks a little disappointed.
In a flashback, Marcie and Maura are dating for the first time and Maura is so excited to talk to people as a woman that she accosts a guy in the hallway. She is dizzy. At lunch, the couple examine a brochure for a transvestite camp called “Camp Camellia,” but Maura can’t go because it’s the same weekend that her daughter’s bat mitzvah. When the waitress leaves their food and says, “Have fun, ladies!” Maura and Marcie look like it’s Christmas morning.
In 2014 Josh is alone and nervous, recalling what Syd said about he can’t be alone. He Google searches “transvestite”, but it is not enough. He goes to a cam site and searches for trans cam girls. He finds one but instead of cybersex he wants answers. He asks when she found out she was trans. She replies: “I am all woman and I have the cock to prove it.” Josh closes the laptop. He panics.
For Shabbat dinner, Maura and Davina go to Maura’s former home, which is now the official castle of Lesbianica. Davina can’t believe Maura has left such a beautiful house, but Maura snaps, “Nobody wants to live in the Palisades. They hunt our species with a stick. They only recently started letting the Jews in. Sara’s children run in and hug their grandfather, telling Maura that Sara said she was magical.
Josh, of course, heads to where the nearest vagina is and attends Rabbi Raquel’s Friday night service. He says he wanted to show her that he wasn’t crazy and she shows him around the synagogue. In a symbolic gesture, Josh enters the “mikvah” or empty purifying bath. The mikvah is a big problem in Judaism; this is where people can go for a ritual immersion and to get rid of the impurities of the past. With Raquel, Josh is sitting in the mikvah and they explain that it may be too late for her to ever have children. She says she’s probably been with the wrong person for too long and her successful years are behind her. They sit next to each other in the empty bath, confessing their sins and asking each other to be cleansed.
At Shabbat dinner, Maura assumes the matriarchal role of lighting the candles and saying the blessing. It’s the first time we’ve really seen Tambor play Maura “at ease”. She’s joking and being cute, announcing that she and Davina are doing a duet at the LGBT center and won’t Sara come and see him, please?
Then Len arrives and is pissed off that the kids see Mort as Maura. “I’m about to get in a car with two young children and I would like to know what they know about it,” he said, exasperated. Sara says she and Tammy talked to the kids, but Len wanted to be a part of that conversation. In a shrill voice, he mocks Maura: “Would you, ladies, have been more comfortable if you lived on an all-female planet?” Maybe you could go aboard a womb-shaped spaceship? Tammy, because she rules, is like, “Uh, yeah.” He grabs a knife and threatens to cut off her cock.
Maura stands up and gives a soothing speech to Len: “I should have called you. Honey, I should have taken you to lunch and we should have talked but I didn’t and I’m sorry for Death and Maura and him and her. I’m just one person and you’re just one person and here we are. Baby, you gotta get in that hot tub or you gotta get out. Len stops, apologizes and leaves. I don’t quite understand Len. I should feel bad for him. He has been deceived and his children are in this situation which is beyond his control. But right now he just feels like an intruder. He doesn’t fit, and maybe he should get out of the whirlpool.
After dinner Sara and Maura smoke cigarettes and talk about nail polish by the pool. Sara is worried about her children, finally. Maybe his crazy selfishness affects some of them? I do not know. Do you think, Sara ?! Maura asks if she only remembers the bad things from her childhood, but Sara says, “Everything is mixed in with the good things.” Maura is relieved. She decides to give the house to Sara and Tammy and tells Sara not to tell Ali and Josh.
In one episode, he promised the house to his three children. This hot tub is getting way too big.
- “I see male privileges everywhere.” —Ali explains why she would want to be a lesbian
- “No phone on Shabbat, sorry! —Bianca, really into this Jewish thing
- “Does he have a vagina? —Sara’s daughter about her teddy bear, and also about her grandfather