Sex (and the Masters of Which)

Showtime‘s “Masters of Sex” may just be the most important show on television at this moment. Not because it provides the best mental workout (that goes to HBO‘s “The Leftovers,” which, having read the book, really enjoy; nor to the most anticipated — that honor, no surprise, goes to HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” which I am among the eagerly awaiting horde; nor to the moment’s darling — that goes to Cinemax’s “The Knick,” which, to be forthcoming, I have yet to see, but have read about enough to make Star Wars Episode VII seem underreported; nor even to the most decorated, hardly a surprise as “Breaking Bad,” the awards to which I have issues, but the second-greatest television series ever created), but because beyond Showtime’s “Homeland,” HBO’s “Veep,” “Masters of Sex” is the most topical show on television.

The fact that such a show can even air on a major (albeit paid, yes) network is a testament to the degree to which times have changed. To discuss sex in anything but the most guarded and allusive terms even fifty years ago was a risk; to even think about discussing or seeking homosexual sex was unthinkable — an abomination in most nations, a capital offense in many more (and still, to those nations’ discredit, many).

“Masters of Sex” reveals the extent to which sex and sexuality have acquired a degree of new normality in the United States. Terms like “uterine wall,” “vas deferens,” “vagina,” “penis” are no longer considered “dirty words” (though what makes a word “dirty” I have yet to decipher; it seems to me that terms like “fraud,” “adultery,” and “hypocrisy” would be more damning, but, then again, one would have to ask politicians and Baptist ministers about that). Thanks to Simone de Beauvoir (“The Second Sex“) and Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique” we as a nation advanced beyond straight white male control of a society that was increasingly — and increasingly is — a society in which women, individuals of color, LGBTQA individuals assume roles previously only accessibly to white straight men. As it should be.

What “Masters of Sex” does, to its underrated credit, is to throw into relief the moments at which the barrier broke. Sex became no longer a taboo, that of which must not be spoken, but the human, physical and medical truth which it is. This show, more than any other, encapsulates what in the USA should be categorized as rationality versus superstition. Wonderful show, wonderful acting, and I applaud Michael Sheen, Lizzy Caplan et al for the work they’ve done.

~ by Benji on September 4, 2014.

2 Responses to “Sex (and the Masters of Which)”

  1. I confess I have never watched this show, but I hear it praised regularly. Is it underrated, I thought it won some Emmys? But yes, it is interesting to consider that moment when things changed, when there was a sort of swing in another direction, a little tip. By the way, there was a “Homeland” launch today so I think it’s coming back soon. My current addiction is “The Honorable Woman” on Sundance Channel – a superior spy thriller series with Maggie Gyllenhaal and a great cast!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. critically underrated no — but in terms of viewers and media coverage, far more under the radar than, say, Breaking Bad. (though it, too, started out that way, so we shall see…). Thanks for the recommendation — I’ve heard great things about that series and have always loved Maggie Gyllenhaal; will definitely check it out.


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