Californication: Love, Family and the Sexual Revolution
As with every other season opener to Californication, last night’s episode was a little awkward and over-the-top. But my faith holds firm that this season will progress like the others; in other words, it will settle back into itself and its brilliant mode of alternative-family-structure-storytelling once again.
So in reflecting on Hank’s foray into single parenting – which includes a pathetic attempt to stop his 14 year old daughter from smoking pot only to light up himself and the childish inflicting of bodily harm on the father of her friend – let me just tell you why I love this show so much. Despite Hank’s exuberant sexcapades and bad-boy attitude and Karen’s confused forays into other relationships and messy attempts to find what she’s looking for, what truly defines their relationship is a mutual love and admiration for each other; not a silly, romantic gushy love, but the deep down love of commitment forged through time; a deep down love that grows out of understanding each other’s strengths, desires, flaws, hopes and, in some of the more beautiful moments, a deep down understanding of each other’s aesthetic ways of being in the world. Karen gets Hank’s writing; he gets her architecture; they get art together. They get each other. And at the deepest point, their connection is held together by their shared love for their daughter, Becca.
But this is more than a lovely vision of your standard nuclear family. It’s a vision made possible by the sexual revolution. It’s a vision that incorporates the sexual revolution – and all its wonderful and problematic effects – into its vision of the family. And so not only does their co-parenting look vastly different than the Cosby’s version of the same, but their single approaches to parenting look very different to anything Ross or Rachel tried with Emma before they hooked back up again at the end of Friends only a few short years ago.
This is a truly dysfunctional family that functions better than any other one I can think of on television. Hank and Karen are one of the few heterosexual couples on tv in which the woman experiences neither a lessening of her own selfhood in order to pursue relationality, nor the requirement of feeling her feelings any more or less powerfully than she does, in fact, feel them. And they are kind to each other, inviting and ushering each other into the fullness of what each as an individual person is…even when that individual fullness results in a loveable (read: sexually promiscuous) a-hole.
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Posted by: Natalie