This is the story of obsession as told by popular entertainment: boy meets girl, boy projects every single one of his desires onto girl, girl resists, boy wins girl/murders girl.
In a new Amazon Studios venture by “Transparent” creator Jill Soloway, this story is flipped. “I Love Dick,” based on the cult-classic metafiction book of the same name by Chris Kraus, tells the story of what happens when an undesirable woman becomes consumed with desire.
Kraus (Kathryn Hahn) takes a break from her stagnant filmmaking career to follow her husband, Holocaust scholar Sylvere Lotringer (Griffin Dunne) to his residency in Marfa, Texas, where his colleagues call her “the Holocaust wife.” Her crush on her husband’s teacher, “Dick” (Kevin Bacon), explodes into a psychosexual mind game and performance art project with devastating results. The pilot, currently on Amazon Prime, suggests another revelatory look into the psyche of director Jill Soloway, and the rest of the first season is slated to hit the streaming service on May 12th.
Here are our top reasons to catch “I Love Dick”
Because it’s pretty Jewish
On the Forward’s informal scale of how Jewish something is, which runs from “shtetl-lite” to “Jewish as hell,” this TV show is rated “Barbra Streisand Standing in the Knesset Explaining the Difference Between Menorah and Chanukiah.” Lets examine our roster.
We’ve got Soloway, who has officially snatched, dry-cleaned, and refurbished the mantle of “contemporary Jewish-Life Filmmaker” previously worn by Woody Allen. Between the hit series “Transparent” “Six Feet Under,” and the movie “Afternoon Delight,” if you want to feel extremely uncomfortable while watching Jewish practices on screen, you turn to Soloway. Then we’ve got Sarah Gubbins, the series writer and co-creator, who is also a fiercely talented queer Jew. She says she added a character, “Devin,” to Kraus’ original story, because she wanted to have, “a masculine-presenting lesbian to swagger around in some kind of shadow polarity of Kevin Bacon.”
Chris Kraus, the novel’s writer and main character, is a Jewish woman who interrogates her Jewish identity constantly throughout the book, scattering it with comments like, “I didn’t really know I was a kike ’til I was 21.” And her theorist-husband Sylvere can be summed up through the following interaction from the “I Love Dick” pilot.
Party guest: What are you doing in town? Sylvere: I’m reinterpreting the Holocaust. There’s something new afoot, and I’m gonna find it.
Finally we have Kevin Bacon who, surname aside, is married to Kyra Sedgwick, a proudly identifying Jew.
Because its actually about the female experience
“Most films made by women ultimately aren’t that good,” Dick (Bacon) says at dinner with the besotted filmmaker Kraus. “They have to work from behind their oppression, which makes bummer movies.”
“I Love Dick” is about a person who feels like she has failed as a woman and failed as an artist. The writing team is made up exclusively of female writers, and it’s not your mother’s feminism (no disrespect to mothers). Soloway says one goal of the show is to “take the idea of intersectional feminism, which is really having a respect for the voices of women, and people of color, and queer people, and recognizing that some people are more than one of those, and making sure that all of those voices get heard because as people…will hopefully continue to say throughout the revolution, ‘Women’s rights are human rights’.”
Because it’s time for a better exploration of female desire than “50 Shades of Grey”
“I Love Dick” is about what happens when women objectify men. When women carelessly use men as muses for their art and personal development, instead of the other way around. The show’s creator says, “It’s just so powerful for a woman to say, ’No, I’m not the object of your story. I’m not the Madonna or the whore, I’m not either the woman that you love or the woman that you hate. I’m the subject.’ Just that simple sentence is enough to upend the entire planet.” #Soloway2020.
Because ‘I Love Dick’ is actually art, patriarchal haters
Get turned off (if you will) by the title and risk missing the genius. Kraus, who founded the publishing house Semiotext(e) with the real-life Lotringer, offers us a window into the world of 1990’s intellectualism, and Soloway and Gubbins give it a compelling retooling in the light of this century.
Plus, it is rare to see a film adaptation of a book that works for readers and new fans.
…Because Kathryn Hahn is (Even More) Jewish Than Jesus
Kathryn Hahn escaped landing on the Jewish list above on the mere technicality that she is Catholic. But Hahn has made a career as playing Jews, most notably “Rabbi Raquel” on “Transparent.” She is the most beloved non-Jewish Jewish actress, and her love affair with the Jewish people continues with “I Love Dick”. Speaking about playing Chris Kraus she says,“I was so excited to play somebody that messy and maddening and contradictory. She’s flinging herself forward into her desire. In her mind, her obsession is tied in with her art.”
Because Shirtless Kevin Bacon Carrying A Lamb
The new series also brings us:
Kevin Bacon dressed as a cowboy, leading a horse through the streets of Texas. Kevin Bacon eating rabbit while mansplaining movies in a restaurant called “The Rope and Loin.”
“Leave it to a female writer’s room to create two of the best, well-rounded male characters that I’ve read in a long time,” says Bacon.
Because love yourself some realistic sex scenes
The first question Kraus asks Dick in the pilot is “How big?” She claims to be inquiring after his ranch, but between Soloway’s influence and the freeing nature of streaming subscriptions, we can guess there is going to be a lot of moodily-lit, realistic-yet-erotic sex between unhappy people in this.
Watch the trailer for “I Love Dick” here:
During this year’s Golden Globes, an ad aired that made history. The L’Oreal Paris promo prominently featured 24-year-old model Hari Nef, who became the first transgender person ever to be featured in a primetime campaign.
Participating in this historical moment isn’t even the coolest thing about Hari Nef. Here are ten more things about this kickass human that you should know.
1. She’s an actress as well as a model, and starred in Season 2 of Transparent.
Nef plays Gittel, a trans woman and an ancestor of the Pfefferman family, who is seen in flashbacks of late-Weimar era Berlin. Her character finds community and understanding at the Institute of Sexual Research, which was run by Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, one of the first advocates for the rights of sexual and gender minorities.
2. She’s tight with Jill Soloway.
Nef met the Transparent show-runner through her sister, Faith Soloway, who was Nef’s former counselor at an arts camp. Jill Soloway brought Nef as her date to a gala for PFLAG (an LGBTQ advocacy group originally known as Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), and told New Yorker reporter Michael Schulman that she had really found her “it girl” in Nef. Soloway recalled “marveling at how she fills a frame—her face and her posture, but also how her energy naturally engaged every subject and object in the frame.” She added: “I think this is something that maybe Warhol felt for Sedgwick, Demy for Deneuve, Allen for Keaton.”
3. She’s also tight with Laverne Cox.
Nef is friends with her fellow trans celebrity and Orange is the New Black star, posting pictures of the two of them on her popular Tumblr page. Cox and Nef are also part of a bigger community of trans activists, including models Juliana Huxtable and Isis King.
4. She’s a Columbia grad, and started transitioning while pursuing a degree in drama there.
During her Sophmore year, Nef began her transition, informing the Columbia drama department that she would only be auditioning for female roles—such as Arkadina in The Seagull, whom she portrayed for her senior thesis.
5. While at school, she also frequented the club and alt-performance scene in New York.
Nef performed with art-rock group Gerry and the Twinks, as well as a punk drag collective called Chez Deep, which toured internationally. She also became a regular at parties and happenings like Vandam, where she met many trans night-life celebrities.
6. Her modeling career was kickstarted by an encounter at a club.
Though Nef had some some amateur modeling before, her real break happened one night at an East Village club, where she met Shayne Oliver, designer of Hood by Air. Oliver was instantly taken with her, and she made her New York Fashion Week debut in 2014 with his line.
7. She was one of the first trans models signed to IMG Worldwide.
IMG, which is one of the biggest agencies in the fashion industry, signed Nef in 2015, only two weeks after her graduation from Columbia.
8. She considers her modeling career a political act.
Nef began modeling while still in the beginning stages of her transition. She considers her choice not to wait until her transition was more under way, and instead to transition publicly, a political act of visibility. “I wanted to be in the world,” she told Vogue.com. “I’m not trying to self-aggrandize, but it’s more than a job to me. It’s political.”
9. She gets real about privilege and positioning when it comes to trans issues.
[coatchecks my privilege]— hari nef (@harinef) December 20, 2015
Though she is in many senses a pioneer, Nef recognizes that she is able to do much of what she does because of her privilege as a white, well-off, college educated woman from a first world country, whose gender as a woman aligns with a binary that people are familiar with. She has been vocal about this on social media, where she has also addressed the fact that other trans people who don’t conform to cisnormative beauty standards which, as a model, she at least somewhat embodies, are more likely to be outed or killed. In an interview with Dazed, she said that her hope is “not just that more trans stories are told, but different kinds as well.”
10. She is present for and reaches out to the trans community, and advocates for less visible trans people.
As mentioned above, Nef has transitioned very publicly, documenting the process openly and honestly on social media sites like Tumblr and Instagram. Her social media presence has created a safer space for other trans people, who now have an example of someone being out as trans and it being okay. She regularly takes questions and comments on her Tumblr from fans, especially trans fans: in one such instance, she was contacted by a young trans woman in Iraq, who expressed loneliness at being the only person in her town that’s trans, but comfort in the fact that she had Nef’s example to follow.
‘Transparent’ creator Jill Soloway referred to Donald Trump as “the inheritor to Hitler” at the Emmys.
The Republican presidential candidate “needs to be called out every chance we get as one of the most dangerous monsters to ever approach our lifetimes,” Soloway told reporters backstage.
“He’s a complete dangerous monster,” she said. “Any moment I have to call out Donald Trump as the inheritor to Hitler, I will.”
Soloway who is Jewish, won an Emmy for best directing for a comedy series. Transparent is based on Solway’s father who came out as transgender, and has been called the “Jewiest show ever.”
During season two, Transparent had several flash backs to Nazi Germany. Backstage, Soloway called the Holocaust-related storyline “incredible” timely given our current political climate.
“Jews were other-ized in Nazi Germany to gain political power for Hitler, and right now Donald Trump is doing the same thing,” Soloway said.
“He calls people pigs if they don’t look like beauty pageant contestants. He blames Muslims and Mexicans for our problems. He makes fun of disabled people.”
Soloway was not the only celebrity who attacked the Republican front runner at the Emmys.
Host Jimmy Kimmel pointed out the creator of the Apprentice, the show that helped Donald Trump rise to fame, sitting in the audience: “Thanks to Mark Burnett, we don’t have to watch reality shows anymore, because we’re living them,” Kimmel said.
David Mandel, the executive producer of the political comedy Veep, said backstage that some of the satirical ideas they come up with “pale in comparison to that madman threatening Hillary Clinton, not once but twice.”
Mandel also gave a shout-out to all the “chubby Jews from the Upper West Side” when he excepted Veep’s Emmy for outstanding comedy series. “Wherever you are, thank you!” he added.
Lilly Maier is a news intern at the Forward. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @lillymmaier.
Happy Emmys day, everybody! We’re celebrating by counting down five of our favorite Jewish moments (“Transparent” dominated our list a little bit…no surprises there).
1) Kicking off the night in style, Amy Schumer answered the “what are you wearing” question in the best way possible.
Who are you wearing? @amyschumer: “Vivian Westwood, Tom Ford shoes & an O.B. tampon.” #Emmys https://t.co/TxtLHWRmCS pic.twitter.com/5yO2jIiYbJ— Matt Wilstein (@TheMattWilstein) September 18, 2016
2) Jeffrey Tambor wins Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for his role in “Transparent” and spoke about the importance of giving transgender actors a place in the entertainment industry.
“I’m not going to say this beautifully: to you people out there… please give transgender talent a chance,” he said. “Give them auditions. Give them their story.”
3) “Veep” executive producer David Mandel accepted the show’s Outstanding Comedy Series award, declaring, “This is for chubby Jews from the Upper West Side, wherever you are.”
4) Larry David mocked the Emmys in a way that only Larry David can, equating feigning interest in presenting an award to going on a first date with a woman.
5) Lastly, Jill Soloway nabbed Best Director of a Comedy Series for “Transparent” and gave a moving speech about LGBT rights and giving a voice to those who are underrepresented.
“I’ve always wanted to be part of a movement. This TV show allows me to take my dreams about unlikable Jewish people, queer folk, trans folk, and make them heroes. Thank you to the trans community for your lived lives,” she said.
Jill Soloway, you guys #EMMYs https://t.co/xL9J1WELBB— Cosmopolitan (@Cosmopolitan) September 19, 2016
Amazon is hoping to strike gold twice with another show by critics-darling Jill Soloway.
Amazon studios announced Soloway’s new pilot “I Love Dick” based on Chris Kraus’s 1997 novel of the same name. The story revolves around a married filmmaker who falls in love with a theorist named Dick. Her pursuit of the man takes her away from her husband and on a journey across America. Kathryn Hahn of “Parks and Recreation” has been tapped to play the lead with Soloway directing and executive producing.
Soloway is best known for her work on HBO’s “Six Feet Under” and Amazon’s hit comedy “Transparent” in which a Jewish Los Angeles family deals with a transitioning transgender parent and his family’s identity struggles. The story has resonated with viewers and the show has five Emmy Awards and two Golden Globe awards under its belt.
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