Hi everyone and welcome back to my passion project: Dietland. I loved the book by Sarai Walker and am so far really enjoying it being realised on the small screen. Onward! To S1:E04
We open in England (which is going to be interesting, everyone remembers the interview Sarai Walker did about the most fat-bigoted people being in the UK, right? Okay, here) with a beautiful woman waving at her child from the window, turning away and missing him being snatched by masked people in a black van.
HOLD UP AM I WATCHING THE HANDMAID'S TALE BECAUSE I CAN'T GO BACK THERE I JUST CAN'T
Ohh, lemme reign myself in, this is the son of the editor of a tittie tabloid, and the kidnapping of the kiddo by JENNIFER led to the replacement of all the naked women in their pages with naked men. I approve!
Kitty Montgomery (Julianna Margulies) watches the news (in a lovely red outfit), switching through channel after channel of news about organizations targeted for their sexist output. On UNN Cheryl Crane-Murphy (Rowena King) warns us that it's Austen Media's turn. Kitty calls for Eladio (Richard Dávila), she better check her email.
The public has started to fight back, a wave of backlash against prominently liberal Jennifers is landing in the form of death threats and harassment. Just like gaming, whew, being a woman with an opinion on the internet is AWESOME. And these Jennifers prolly didn't do anything!
Our Plum Kettle (Joy Nash) is watching the news with her mom (Debra Monk), who can't condone the killing of people, even if they're rapists.
Plum gets a text from Verena Baptist (Robin Weigert), who reminds her to bring her favourite Alicia dress.
Quick backstory: Plum is fat and would like to not be fat because she thinks life is only Life while thin. She's tried every diet going and is currently on a doctor-sanctioned 700 calories a day leading up to her planned weight loss surgery. One of the past plans she tried (that she thinks was the closest to working) was the Baptist Plan, which turned out to be a cruel hoax, with the figurehead being dishonest about what success looks like after starvation (secret weight-loss surgery). SO. The daughter of the woman who created the Baptist Plan has offered to pay for Plum's surgery, if she follows the New Baptist Plan first. Oh and after Plum loses all the weight and finally starts living her life, she plans to go by her real name: Alicia, she's got a whole new wardrobe of thin clothes waiting for her. One of these dresses is what Verena wants Plum to bring to Step One of the New Baptist Plan.
Now we really meet Marlowe Buchanan (Alanna Ubach)!
That girl from that show! She was a famous actress who walked away from a hit sitcom, she introduces herself complete with audience and laugh track. She's..."no longer bangable."
***I get why they had to go that way instead of "fuckable" but I shall light a candle in a high window for this deviation from the book. Also: I canea stand sitcoms so this is really painful.
She pulls out the book "Bangability Theory", which she wrote, it explains what men want. Plum is confused, she didn't sign up for sex! (Tell that to the tiger stuffie) No no, of course, it's not about what YOU want, Plum, this book is about how to be sexually attractive to men.
Plum has two days with Marlowe, first homework is to read the book. Plum declines a call from Kitty and sets off.
Former NYPD detective Dominic (Adam Rothenberger) hands over a wad of cash to (the adorable Mark Blucas who doesn't have a character name) a former cop colleague for a deep dive into Plum's background, screw you, Dominic!
Hunky Cop has to run, JENNIFER has struck again, or by inspiration anyway. A sex offender got out of Riker's on a technicality and a young woman just tried to blow his wobblies off. There's something hinky about why Dominic left the force, but we don't know why yet.
Plum and Marlowe wait at a spa, Plum declining Dominic's call regardless of her "someone special" face. Plum writes that off to Dom being good looking, I get that. The lure of conventional beauty can strike us all. A woman calls for Plum and Marlowe explains: this first step to Bangability is about learning "what it takes *and* what it takes from you."
Plum is getting a bikini wax, which we see from a glorious side angle with her up on all fours. I don't even think that was retouched and I am going to take a minute to thank Marti Noxon and Joy Nash for that shot.
I love the fact that Plum was feeling horribly self-conscious about the waxing, thinking the two women were talking about her when in fact they were wishing their partners were being thrown out a plane. Self-conscious is super close to self-absorbed, if all you think about is people thinking about you, what have you got to share? Look how much time they have us wasting!
Kitty rages at the board, Daisy-Chain is not going to give into terrorists! Go print JENNIFER'S manifesto in "Men's Muscle"! They sent the scalp of the English publisher to his wife, though, lotta silver foxes at this table would like to keep those pearly manes. She asks them if they're men, then talks baby-talk at them while they stare at the table.
That was awkward.
Plum feels weird after her session at the waxers, Marlowe tells her that's because she's "an animal without her fur." Plum doesn't get why that's sexy to men, she feels pre-pubescent. BINGO.
Plum's been summoned to Kitty's office for 4, first she has to head to Calliope House to see Verena.
At Calliope House, the adorable Rubi (Jen Ponton) and Verena await. Seriously, how cute is Rubi? I swear I have that dress, if not even close to that amount of joie de vivre while just standing there. Rubi is also part of the plan, she'll be making Plum a copy of Alicia's dress, in Plum's current size.
Plum is skeptical, she thinks she has the plan all figured out: do all these things to show her how to be bangable, which is a prison of its own.
May I share? Okay, if you don't want to hear it, just skip past to the next part. The rest of you: gather 'round. I once lost a great deal of weight (don't ask me how, that's not the point) and I remember musing to a friend mid-way about what I was going to do after it was gone and I was fuckable. I wanted the whole deal: fake fingernails, dyed hair, obnoxious purses, high heels and clothing made from fabrics I could not pronounce. I wanted to be conventionally, visibly attractive in the way I saw women around me be recognised for their beauty. I wanted it ALL. I got it all, then I lost it, then I lost the interest I so badly wanted. I cannot recommend this path, but I did learn while I was doing it that I am far too lazy to do anything that requires that much not looking like myself. Hahahaha jk I had kids and became a new kind of invisible, and a new kind of dependent, which meant that I had to get permission to spend money on bangability.
***I love that they showed Rubi from the back, where her dress stretched unevenly across the bumps. That is a body like my body! One of many, but never, ever shown - what would be our incentive to be healthy?***
Calliope House has been getting bomb threats, it's a radical space for radical women. Everyone knows you can't change a system from the inside...BURN IT ALL DOWN WOOOOOO!! Sorry, sorry, where were we?
Plum asks if the bomb threats are related to JENNIFER? But Marlowe distracts, Plum has two more appointments! Today!
First up is botox and tell me you didn't love this mirror shot, you big liar!
I do get that the point is that you can magnify anything to that level and have it look horrible, I just loved the visual!
But Plum doesn't have any wrinkles? But she's "lost some tissue in her nasal-labial folds" and she has a WHAT on her nose?? The doctor reminds her: pretty hurts, but ugly hurts more. See also: "Nothing tastes as good as thin feels."
On to Paul (Darius de Haas) who will contour with makeup to make her face look slimmer! $1,658.00 USD later and Plum is off to see Kitty.
For the record: Plum will only see one thing anyway.
Kitty liked Plum's article, written and submitted while high! It's different in a good way! Kitty's been coming around to this new "specialized" angle she can market. She didn't want to support it at first:
Wow, I didn't even know I could get that mad that fast. Cuppa break!
Why am I so mad? BECAUSE THIS IS THE EXACT REASON WE NEVER SEE FAT WOMEN ON SCREEN HAVING AWESOME LIVES. Just sad and dieting and working out, because if they showed us as healthy, happy people pursuing fulfilled lives outside of diet culture: what would be our incentive to be healthy?
Kitty thinks inclusion is nice! Now about her "girls", who are supporting JENNIFER in print, they feel as though even if they don't fit in with their peers, they still matter anyway. Kitty is confused but getting an idea.
Plum's baked a chocolate cake! Woooo! Her mom is super excited about Plum's work being in the next issue, she wishes Plum could celebrate her accomplishments instead of trying to be something she's not.
Yet Another Side Note! When I was young, bar roses were a thing. You know the type, $5 roses with plastic bulbs of water on the end, purchased in bars by men looking to score. I did not get a lot of bar roses, but sometimes my friends would share. I had a lot of really cute girlfriends, most of whom unfortunately slept with whomever I was "dating", but really: who could blame them? I didn't take their makeup advice often and the dudes were excited about the upgrade. ANYWAY (sorry for the side note inside the side note!), one time I saw the most beautiful but lopsided bar rose, it was bigger! It looked like a big, beautiful bodacious rose and boy, did it symbolize everything I hoped for about myself. I don't remember if someone bought it for me or I bought it for myself or one of the rose girls just gave it to me, but I got that big beautiful rose and I took it home. Where I discovered that it wasn't a rose at all, it was a type of exuberant carnation that someone squished into a holder so it looked like the rest of the actual roses. I decided that was an even better metaphor for me and I saved it as long as I could. It only looked strange when it was masquerading next to a bunch of actual roses, on its own it was glorious.
Plum swats her mom off to go brush her teeth so she doesn't want any more icing then spends quite a lot of time trying to take a selfie with the chocolate cake. Selfie taking is not as easy as you think. ANGLES. She settles for one that shows only part of her face, which she washes to find a lot of irritation. That's what wax and botox does!
Plum's mom is furious when she sees the bruising on Plum's face; she wants to meet these people that think it's okay to hurt her daughter cruelly. Honestly: people do this every single day, and by that I mean women and women only. It hurts my heart when Plum says "I'm not beautiful, I'm fat" because it sounds so familiar. Her mom just wants her to be happy.
Plum heads out for a walk, literally running into Leeta (Erin Darke) who wants to know if the cop beat her up? What? She wanted to see Plum before leaving, she has to bounce, maybe forever. A long hug and she's gone with a plea for Plum to find her when Verena is done with her.
Plum senses that this is about JENNIFER.
Dominic has noticed a sea change on the streets of New York, women looking at him with sneers on their faces. They don't look afraid. In fact, one woman on the news says she went running at midnight! She's never been able to do that before! Men are scared now.
Plum's struggling into Spanx while Marlowe reads from her book, Plum's had enough of her "opinion, dressed in an agenda, couched in propaganda." Next is extremely high stiletto heels, she can't believe some people actually remove toes to be able to wear these more comfortably.
She has no answer when Marlowe asks how that relates to her wanting to have her stomach stapled but she does have a rant about not wanting to be thin to get laid. Oh, but what she wants is approval from society at large, doesn't she? Plum doesn't have any answer for that either, but another patron of the store has had enough of Marlowe screaming about bangability in front of her 12-year-old. Marlowe takes a moment to survey the pre-teen, so makeup and skin-tight shorts is okay, but not ideas, Mama? She advises the girl to "not go gently into that good night. You have choices."
Plum's mom shows up at Calliope House: what are they doing to Plum?? Verena settles her down, Plum can quit any time she wants and cash the cheque. Verena's just trying to show her that happiness has nothing to do with how people look or how much they weigh. Like Plum's mom, she's beautiful, how did everything go for her?
Kitty stares at what's been done to the bathroom.
She demands that each Austen Media women's magazine print the manifesto on the front page, one of the editorial assistants protests that they've already been printed. We getta hear some of the manifesto for the first time, all-female presidential candidates for the next 50 years sounds awesome! What? Equal pay plus 1/3 for women, sure! There's a lotta backpay, fellas!
Plum's in for her plastic surgery consult, which starts out so exciting for her, until she realises the reality of major surgery and scarring and oh.
Okay maybe I cried a little, watching her dream die in front of her. I canea get enough of these awesome full-body shots, though, keep 'em coming!
Plum's angry when she comes out, even more so when Marlowe tells her she'll be going on dates, wearing the Plum-sized version of Alicia's dress.
Plum is finally so very angry, and not very good at controlling it. Back at Calliope House, her mom and Verena explain that they're just trying to help her heal from all the manipulation. Plum doesn't want to heal, she just wants to lose weight.
She has to stop being so angry at herself.
Austen Media CFO Jeff has heard from the editor about Kitty's direction to print the manifesto on all the magazines in the catalogue, it was actually his decision to only print it on the cover of Daisy-Chain, "nothing personal, honey.
*I didn't know I could get that mad AGAIN! Cuppa break*
Okay, I'm back in time to watch Kitty take out the trash, reminding Jeff of the time he screwed her 20-year-old assistant, "protecting" her with a condom as he is "protecting" Kitty from making a mistake. He swears he isn't like those men, it was "extremely consensual" for a CFO with hiring/firing authority to sleep with an administrative assistant 5 pay levels down! And his marriage is...complicated. Aren't they all? Kitty gets her approval.
Dominic is eating the chocolate cake at the cafe, he even tries to share but Plum can't do cake! Look at her! He is looking at her, and he's not worried about the phone calls she made while coming off her anti-depressant. And hey: her skin really is soft!
*I hate the look of hope that comes into Plum's eyes then*
She asks him if JENNIFER is an offshoot of Calliope House? They're trying to radicalize her! He asks her to maybe stick around a bit, spy for him? She has to be talked into it, I'm pretty sure the hand grab seals the deal for her.
We finally getta meet the head of Austen Media, the fabled Stanley ohhhh and it's Campbell Scott. Oh I love Campbell Scott, Singles was one of the best movies of the 90s and I will fight anyone who disagrees. I'm going to try very hard to hate Stanley.
Kitty has come to see Stanley to tell him about her editorial decision to publish JENNIFER'S manifesto on the cover of every magazine, "one man's terrorist is another woman's liberator."
Kitty wants to monetize JENNIFER.
And used to screw Stanley, who used to be a lion.
Plum's mom is ready to leave, she trusts Verena and the gang to take good care of her daughter.
$1,700.00 USD ON MAKEUP.
Plum sums up the stage she was at now: she didn't want to be the hero, she still wanted to be the hero's girlfriend. Meanwhile, Kitty activated Jennifers across the US.
Hmm so obviously a lot of deep cuts tonight. I'm not ecstatic about Plum's pseudo-spy role, I get that she hasn't evolved yet to understanding what Calliope House is doing for her, but she's not stupid either. That's a bit of a poser for me, but then I've been steeped in fat activism for years, I don't know what it's like on the outside any more. Like Roxanne Gay, I am a bad fat activist, but I do read the tea leaves a lot, so everything Verena and Marlowe said made sense to me and it seemed slightly hammy that Plum did not.
I guess I see how someone like Plum, who just wants to fit in, who just wants to play the parts she's coveted for so long, is having trouble understanding why these women are blocking what she wants. Why does it matter that this one woman is an example? Why can't they just let her try to change herself and leave her alone?
It's going brilliantly, I'm interested to see how these new plot lines play out! How does this all tie in with JENNIFER? Speaking of, I love that we're seeing Kitty start to see the future of this revolution, there always has to be a commercialization angle and nobody embodies that better than our tiny waxed Cruella.
This show is so beautifully, subversively shot that I can't barely believe that it's on TV! I hope it's getting a lot of action, pass on the word to your friend, will you? This show is important. Cheers.