Sexuality, family & Jeffrey Tambor: Why you need to start watching Transparent

Despite what the media may tell you, the most important take away from Sunday’s Golden Globes ceremony wasn’t the risky sartorial choices, it wasn’t the proliferation of asymmetrical ‘LOBs‘ and it wasn’t even Poehler and Fey’s unstoppable comedy duo that’s hell-bent on smashing the sexism out of Hollywood. For me it was that Amazon show Transparent won two prolific awards – one for best series and another for best actor in the TV comedy category.

I started watching Transparent on a whim after a particularly intense weekend binging session of Hannibal left me haunted by dreams filled with antlers and far too many organs. Last night I finished the whole first season, and it’s safe to say that ever since I started trading weeks of my life in to the Gods of boxsets, Netflix and Amazon Prime (which was just as Lost was taking off, FYI) I’ve never felt so touched, moved and a little bit torn apart by a show until Transparent came along.

For those not already hooked, Transparent is produced by Amazon Studios and tells the story of the Pfeffermans. They’re a Jewish family who are all forced to face up to some home truths when the patriarch, Mort/Maura Pfefferman, reveals her trans identity to them all. Over the course of ten episodes, and through a series of flashbacks, heart-rendering dialogue, laugh-out-loud interactions and sexual encounters, you’ll get to see an intimate, extremely touching and so SO human insight into the turbulent lives of the main characters. I didn’t realise just how much their stories had impacted me until I felt genuinely sad when I watched the last episode. As if I was saying bye to some old friends. (Maybe I need to get out more?)

On the surface Transparent is an addictive drama featuring the mesmerising Jeffrey Tambor (yes, the dad from Arrested Development) that feels unlike anything I’ve watched before. Maybe there’s a dose of Arrested Development awkwardness, but none of the same humour, there’s a little bit of Woody Allen-style quirky dialogue, but more than anything you’ll feel like you’re watching a reality TV show.

On a deeper level the show is a beautiful tale of sexuality with all its confusion, heartbreak and excitement laid bare for all to see. It importantly and unashamedly shines a bright light on transgender issues, but it’s not just Mort’s exploration of sexuality and his new life as an openly trans individual that really strikes a chord, but the transition every other character goes through too. To me it proves more than ever that sexuality is so personal and so individual. It can never be tied down or pigeon-holed and exists on a huge spectrum that I bet you could never draw or visualise into some neat infographic. Our cultural obsession with control and labelling will never actually translate into the real world and only leaves people feeling more confused and isolated, which isn’t what sexuality should ever be about.

I watched the Transparent: Meet the Pfeffermans behind-the-scenes episode last night (in a desperate attempt to hold onto the characters a little longer) and something really stuck with me. Amy Landecker, who plays Sarah Pfefferman, said that the show is all about going through messy, awkward and sad transitions. She said that when you’re decorating a house you have to tear it apart, make it look sh*tty and get back to square one before you can rebuild it, paint it and make it whole again. She said that’s what the Pfeffermans are going through. A redecoration of all their lives. And isn’t that such a beautiful redecoration to witness?

Becca Caddy

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