Author Archives: Melissa Tapper Goldman

Live from the Lilith Blog

December 18, 2014 by

No Blessings, No Curses—Jill Soloway’s “Transparent”

transparentIf you missed Jill Soloway’s series dramedy,“Transparent. that’s because it was never on TV. And it wouldn’t be. Rather, you’ll find “Transparent” on the subscriber-only Amazon Prime service, where the media giant can “narrowcast” content that appeals to some (if not necessarily all) of the viewing public without pitting shows against each other for limited primetime slots. Amazon bet on veteran writer Soloway (“Six Feet Under,” “Afternoon Delight,” as featured in Lilith’s ”Why L.A.? Why Women? And Why Now?” Fall 2013). Soloway also bet on Amazon, a brand new but untested platform where her story could unfold in all of its complex and boundary-crossing beauty—without having to cater to the tastes and sensitivities of a broadcast audience. On the internet, you can swear! And, apparently, chant Torah.

“Transparent” follows the Pfefferman family, three adult kids and their adult parents, through a host of personal transitions including divorce, shifting sexual identity, abortion, Bat Mitzvah, death, and most centrally the gender transition of parent Maura (née Mort), played by Jeffrey Tambor. Maura’s revelation, being a transgender woman, organizes the 10-episode arc. Abundant commentary about the celebrated show has largely explored the important and complex identity politics of representing trans people. But gender identity is not the only primetime-unfriendly theme that Soloway explores. Religion is baked into the world of the show, and so is sexuality.

Like many, I sat through “Transparent” in a single bleary-eyed day, promising “just one more” until the series was spent. But it wasn’t until days later that the haunting impact began to sink in. It wasn’t the heimish and pitch-perfect dialogue, the exploration of the gender transition, or the family dynamics that pressed my buttons and kept them pressed. It was the entire cosmology, where justice and retribution aren’t tied up with expressions of gender and sexuality, so refreshing for any series but in particular a story about families and growth.

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Live from the Lilith Blog

June 11, 2014 by

On Sex and Silence

I sometimes find talking about sex uncomfortable. There’s so much at stake — power, identity, transcendence, and raw humanity. I wasn’t raised gabbing like Barbara Streisand’s Roz Focker, the sex therapist with an uncontainable comfort with sex. So how did I wind up talking about sex professionally? When I came to feel like the only thing more uncomfortable than talking about sex was not talking about it.

(Flickr: Ariel Waldman, photo illustration)

(Flickr: Ariel Waldman, photo illustration)

In my 20s, I started to see our not-talking-about-sex problem: the mismatch between Americans’ comfort consuming women’s sexuality and our silencing of women’s communication about sex. Sexy billboards freeze-frame a moment without words, but we’re free to look a model up and down, knowing her without knowing her. Real teenagers make grown-up decisions about sex every day, but as eager as we are to second-guess their sexual behavior or clothing, we don’t want to hear why they make the choices they do. And if they speak up about their lived experience, why are we prepared to shame them for acknowledging what everyone already knows that teenagers do? Shame makes it extremely hard to learn the healthy communication that’s needed for respectful, enjoyable sexual encounters, whether at age 16 or 60.

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Live from the Lilith Blog

August 23, 2013 by

On the Jewishness of Minding Your Own Damn Business

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Tony Fischer Photography

 

 

It’s been a banner month for sexting and moralizing about sexting. I offer no conclusions about Anthony Weiner’s most recent spate of online dalliances, especially (but not exclusively) since he’s not actually an elected official. But with Weiner and Spitzer entering the political arena again, we’re back to chatter on sex-related scandals. The human drama of the Weiner story is so attention-grabbing because of its extensive electronic documentation alongside its many unanswered questions, an open field ripe for our own projections. Did he betray his family? Or is it a non-traditional marriage? Speculation is cheap. But while it’s always necessary to take a stand when people’s rights may be violated, there’s another counterbalancing value to apply, and that is minding our own damn business.

I grew up in Barney Frank’s Massachusetts. If ever there was a sex scandal that transgressed the taboos of the time, Barney Frank had it cornered. Then he went on to spend 17 more fruitful and celebrated years in Congress. Like many other politicians who have successfully moved past sex scandals, Frank had developed a reservoir of goodwill through his work before the incidents. The opinions about him that mattered were the ones about his political record, not the politics of his love life. It’s easy to distract ourselves with politicians’ personal lives because that’s something we think we have in common with them, a foothold for making sense of their capacity for loyalty and common sense. That said, I’d never want to be married to a Congressman and I couldn’t begin to imagine my way into the mind of someone who would. When it comes to politicians who don’t make their careers by policing what happens in other people’s bedrooms, it’s worth inspecting the actual motivations behind our inclination to police theirs. I was shocked when Weiner stepped down. I can only assume there were circumstances beyond the aptly titled twit pics, since politicians have weathered much worse and refused to resign, even when, unlike Weiner, their deeds involved dereliction of their actual jobs.

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