The Get Down S1: The SSL Review

The Get Down, Baby.
We watched the whole season of The Get Down a few nights ago on a whim. The truth is the first 2-hour pilot episode was, for my taste, a bit too frenetic and unfocused, and we weren't sure what to expect from the rest of the series. However, I liked the premise of it a lot, and there were some really cool aspects to the style and story, so we kept on, and it was worth it. I'll definitely watch the next season too. I recommend checking it out.

It's set in 1977 Bronx around the birth of hip hop, largely following a group of young friends to tell the story. It's a mix of kitsch, and seriousness, and magical realism and pieces of actual footage from the Bronx in that era were cut in from time to time. The series was created by Baz Luhrmann who directed movies like Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge!, and Great Gatsby. The first and last of that list I kinda actively don't like...and that first long episode was particularly Luhrmann-esque, but yet I still really enjoyed this show.

And BONUS. There was 1 SSL reviewable moment. As most of you already know, an SSL Review is a critique specifically of a depiction or discussion of female orgasm and/or masturbation. I look toward realism (for instance, were the physical things happening to that women while she orgasmed things that could realistically cause orgasm for a woman?) and to what the depiction/discussion reflect from and add to the larger cultural discussion around lady-gasms and female sexuality. A show could be good with a bad SSL review or vice versa.

You can see all the SSL TV Reviews HERE (and as always you can find all the movie SSL Reviews HERE).

So here we go:

Forced Cunnilingus - Disco Style
So, being that this show is about the birth of hip hop in the Bronx, it's also got elements about the end of disco. So, without giving away too much for those of you who will be going to watch this soon, let me explain the situation.

Jackie Moreno (played by Kevin Corrigan) is a has-been record producer and song-writer that has a drug problem and shitty past. However, he must go to 'the record pool' to try and get a particular record listened to and recommended for play in disco clubs. It's where all the big Disco DJs go to find new music. The thing is there is this woman, Leslie Lesgold (played by Alexis Krause) that listens to all the records there and has the say in what gets played and what gets thrown out. Other thing is, what we learn when ol' Jackie Moreno goes in to pimp his record is that Leslie used to intern for him in his heyday, and that he was an asshole and she hates him.

In fact, she reminds him that she blew him in the back of a car, and is clearly pissed that he 'fucked her and fired her.' He says she was a terrible intern, and that's why she was fired, but she ain't havin' it. However, he's desperate for this record to get looked at, and asks what she wants him to do, to which she says:
I'm going to exploit you like you exploited me. I'm gonna abuse my power like you abused yours. And if you're compliant, then we'll see.
At this point she gets up and is talking to him right up in his face. This is clearly sexual now.

My aside about getting dudes back sexually
At this point, I look over at Charlie and say (I think these were my exact words), "If she doesn't make him eat her out, I'm gonna flip this coffee table," because I have seen too many movie/TV situations where a woman 'gets back' at a man by fucking him real demanding and aggressive like.

It enrages me. It's always just plain ol' penis in vagina ramming till coming sorta thing except she's usually on top, and she's being pretty rough and saying mean things and stuff (oooo - poor, poor guy, right?), but there is never any clitoral stimulation happening - you know, the thing that actually makes ladies orgasm. So you tell me - how the fuck is engulfing a man's penis until he comes a way to get back at him? That's some male-centric, don't-get-how-women-orgasm next level bullshit writing right there. That's some forgot-over-70%-of women-don't-orgasm-during-intercourse kinda shit.

Seriously, it's like the stupidest pubescent male fantasy (that somehow doesn't get called out in the real world) of how a woman might get back at him ...like, 'Oh man, maybe she'll be so mad at me that she gets real hot for my body and makes me come real hard with her vag!'

Listen to me carefully. Depictions of men sexually exploited by women should include a man doing something to a woman to make her come that doesn't also make him come. If it's gross or annoying or kinda painful, all the better. this would be more of a mirror to the way we depict men sexually exploiting women. So fucking him until he comes is not a good way to sexually exploit a man...even though men probably don't mind us believing that it is.

Forced Cunnilingus - Disco Style, Round 2
Okay, so I went on a big ol' tangent there, but I didn't need to flip my coffee table. She, to my utter delight, makes him eat her out till she comes. She sticks her fingers in and out of his mouth like she's face-fucking him first. She says, "I want you to taste just what it's like to be powerless." Then hooks her finger in his mouth and guides him as he's crawling on his hands and knees to a couch where she sits. He's on the ground in front of her, and she guides his head down to her crotch area.

We really don't see much detail about what's going on except that it's pretty clear he's using his mouth area on her clitoris / vulva area. That is absolutely a physically realistic way to get a lady to come - stimulating that area, so I'm all good with that.

The cuts after that are very quick. We see her head go back like his mouth is moving her in the right direction, and we also see him look up at her desperate and pathetic before she pushes his head back down. We see her with her hands on his head working herself up to orgasm with his face, and then we see her looking up towards an overhead camera letting out a scream groan as she comes.

In the end, she doesn't give him what he wants, and the conversation goes:

Jackie: Come on. I'll go to the police.
Leslie: For what?
Jackie:That was rape. I was raped.
Leslie: So was I.

This is the way to do a lady sex revenge scene, people
So, I actually really liked this scene in a lot of ways:

  • Listen, I'm not about anyone taking sexual advantage of anyone, but there's so much depiction (and reality) of men taking sexual advantage of women, that I think it's kinda awesome and important for balance that we show some women taking advantage (actual advantage - not BS advantage. See my rant above) of men. 
  • The depiction of how Jackie was forced to make Leslie Lesgold come was physically realistic. What was happening, physically, could certainly make a woman orgasm. Now, that seems like not too hard a hurdle to leap - to get that physical part right- but so many things don't. Here's a quick clue: the clit needs to be involved
  • I think this scene brought up rape and spoke about it in a way you don't often see, but we probably should see more of. It was more about a power balance during a sexual encounter rather than some type of forced, violent interaction. And, the way the guy got his comeuppance was more about power balance during a sexual act rather than the classic theme of kicking him in the balls or something. I thought that was surprisingly thoughtful and refreshing - even if it was not specifically related to an SSL review, it makes me like it even more.

Maybe think about what scenes you're cutting around it though...maybe?
However, this scene was also intercut with 2 other scenes all with the theme of 'power.' One with a young man of color verbally agreeing to the general idea of doing things that are hurtful and counterproductive to his community in order to gain power, all as he's sitting across from a rich, powerful white man working in government. The other with a young man being forced to murder someone for the first time.

Now one of these is not like the other. The whole montage was so dramatic, and the intercutting seemed to equate the gravity of all these experiences. The murder one - yes, quite serious. The one with the degrading of a young, promising kid's moral direction as he's coming up out of the Bronx - I mean it's serious if you think he actually means it (and honestly, that wasn't exactly for sure to me), but I can get behind that this is a serious and important thing, especially within the context of the script. However, the one where a scumbag has to eat out a woman that he once treated very badly (in a similarly sexual way) in order to get something as trivial as a record listened to by the right people? Um...no. That's not as serious as having to murder someone.

So, why was that in the mix? What was that supposed to say to the viewer? Is eating a lady out (especially if you had previously forced her through your power to suck your dick) so demeaning and sad and shows such a lapse of moral character that it gets thrown in there with the other two? It makes me feel like the people writing this really think cunnilingus is gross. So, point is, in the context of the montage it was in, the cunnilingus scene is less progressive and exciting to me...at least a little.

The SSL Review
So, I liked this scene on its own for all the reasons I gave above, but I think the context of the surrounding scenes slid more insinuations to the audience beyond just the scene as is; things like eating girls out is gross, dehumanizing, etc. or that even though boys do gross things to girls, when those boys finally get their comeuppance it's not as much awesome as it is really terrible for the poor man - as bad as being made to murder someone for the first time or losing your moral fiber.

So, I would give this a 5 vulva rating if it were the scene on its own, but I'm only giving it a 4 vulva rating.


Non-SSL Side Note About Gender In This
The young females in The Get Down are all into Disco and don't 'get' or respect the hip hop stuff the boys are into. Now, whether it was meant to or not, this show has that 'boys are on the leading edge doing cool, daring, important things and girls are still stuck on boring, old, silly stuff because it's pretty and familiar' thing. I could go on, and maybe someone on the internets has, but I feel like the whole dynamic between the males and females could have been written more thoughtfully. Just wanted to mention that.

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