Sex/Life, a steamy new drama on Netflix, has soared to the top of their ‘Top 10′ chart. The reason for its popularity? Perhaps it’s the fact it is eight episodes of X-rated scenes between gorgeous actors connected via a simple, albeit sparse plot. The series, equal parts entertaining and enraging, is a loose adaptation of author BB Easton’s autobiographical novel, ’44 Chapters About 4 Men’, created by Stacy Rukeyser.
The plot is focused around Billie Connelly (Sarah Shahi), who has left New York’s party scene and the life of academia to become a suburban housewife and mother. She is married to Cooper Connelly (Ben Vogel), her dream man, and has two small children. However, she begins to feel trapped in her new life: the expectations of motherhood and no longer feeling desired by her husband weighing heavy on her mind. Billie begins to revisit her taboo past life by writing in a journal, fantasizing about her relationship with her old boyfriend, bad-boy Brad Simon (Adam Demos). Cooper discovers the journal, uncovering Billie’s ‘wild’ sexual past and her current feelings, illuminating the problems in their marriage. The drama then unfolds, balancing on Billie and Cooper’s struggle to navigate their marital woes, while Brad re-enters Billie’s life in the present to cause problems of his own.
The popularity of this new series is no doubt reliant on the copious amount of nudity and sex portrayed on screen. Sex sells, and that’s nothing new to the TV industry. When Sex and the City was first released, it was groundbreaking for its sexual content but nonetheless popular. Quickly it was followed by the likes of Game of Thrones and The Tudors, and soon graphic sex scenes and nudity on mainstream TV shows have become the norm. These scenes capture the public’s attention on a massive scale, leading to increased buzz on social media, which is essential in the competition for views.
Putting the sex scenes to the side, advocates of the show will argue that it has more to offer than that alone. It is an easy watch, one that many people have binged as an escape from the uncertainty that Covid-19 has brought into people’s lives. The conundrum that Billie’s faces of missing her ex is relatable for some people who might also have an ex who seems to have an incomprehensible hold over them still.
However, it was Sex/Life’s potential to explore meaningful themes, sacrificed for erotic trash TV, that has angered audiences. The show begins similarly to others that are focused on a woman in the center of a mid-life crisis. For a moment, there was hope that this Netflix drama would handle the turbulent path of motherhood and the disorientation and pain that comes with losing yourself to it. That it might provide answers to questions that many mothers find themselves asking: ‘Who am I now that I’m a mother? Where did that other woman go?’. Then boom, a lot of sex. It was relatable until it undoubtedly wasn’t.
This glazing over of a serious issue that women face has caused resentment. The creator, surprisingly a women, decided that spicing up your sex life is the solution to this problem. A simple fix that women have argued is inadequate and diminishes the magnitude of their struggle. Sex/Life has also got other viewers up in arms about how it seems to normalise cheating or uses the concept for views. Finally, due to the nature of Netflix being a gigantic streaming service, Sex/Life has also received hate from viewers whose favourite shows have been cancelled by the platform, who use Sex/Life as an outlet for their annoyance.
Perhaps the backlash is misdirected, and expecting more from a storyline of this sort produced for a mass audience is a hopeless endeavour. Netflix works to provide people with what they think people want, and in this case, it was much more ‘Sex’ and a lot less ‘Life.’
Image Credits: Stock Catalog via Flickr