Monday, June 18, 2018

REVIEW: 'Dietland' - A New Friend Helps Plum Change Her Body to Prove a Point in 'F... This'

AMC's Dietland - Episode 1.04 "F... This"

Plum participates in the next step of The New Baptist Plan, doing whatever it takes to become truly beautiful. Jennifer's terrorism goes global.

Plum has always functioned with the idea that she will only be beautiful if she is skinny. That has been her mindset for her entire life. It's the idea that she got into her head because of the abuse from the Baptist plan as well as society constantly bombarding her with images that only showed skinny people as happy with their lives. She was told that she should feel bad for being so unhealthy with her lifestyle choices. She doesn't buy into the idea of feminism that a woman should feel beautiful no matter how she looks. To her, that's just a way for skinny women to feel good about themselves and the causes that they support. It's not their problem because they have never lived inside that body. So many people want to help Plum. She is allowing them to do crazy things to both her body and mind. "F... This" is a significant come down after "Y Not." There are no hallucinations with tigers. Plum is no longer suffering any kind of withdrawal. She is once again the woman in control of her own life. And yet, she is also feeling these rush of emotions that feel like she should change her life and her appearance in order to feel happy. She is playing into that narrative that a woman has to put in all of this hard work in order to be seen as desirable. The people in Plum's life just want her to be happy as who she is. Her mother has been staying in town after the withdrawal because she wants to be the support system her daughter clearly needs right now. She wants to care for Plum as she is going through these traumatic changes and talking about cutting herself apart just to be skinny. She sees it as this huge risk that will do much more harm to her daughter. She fears Plum has gotten involved with some dangerous people who have put such destructive thoughts in her head. At the end of the day though, Plum wants to be happy and skinny. That's all that she wants. Nothing has really changed with her so far. And now, she may actually be turning against the people trying to help her because she sees a conspiracy going on with their actions and their decision to change the mindset of the world.

Throughout this episode, Plum is accompanied by a new friend of Verena's. Marlowe Buchanan is a former sitcom star which allows for a pretty surreal introduction here. She is basically presented on a sitcom stage with a studio audience laughing at everything she is saying. She outlines her backstory of being famous and then being pushed out of the industry because she spent her hiatus gaining weight and cutting off her signature hair. And now, she is a changed person who has written a book about how the world only wishes to see women a certain way. Once they are no longer bangable, then there is nothing society wants from them. It's depressing and dispiriting. Marlowe is fighting back and forcing Plum to read this. And yet, all of the appointments Marlowe makes for Plum basically only show just how obsessive and abusive the search to be pretty and desirable can actually be. It's a struggle that many women can relate to. They are part of billion dollar industries that have warped their minds that they need to do certain things and look a specific way just to have a man be interested in them. That's certainly not true at all. Plenty of gross men have been catcalling Plum throughout the series. She's gotten attention even though she doesn't have the self-confidence to be horrified by their actions. But she's been made to feel invisible too. That's the quality in her life that she most wants to embrace. She would rather just slink into the background instead of standing up and being noticed by the world around her. She doesn't know how to ask or demand for more opportunities at work. She would much rather just enjoy her simple but boring life in her plain box of the world. She is shaken up by the tragedies happening throughout the world. But it's not really doing anything to change her perspective.

And now, Marlowe is literally making Plum beautiful. She is showing her how she would look if she put in all of this work towards her appearance that society would deem necessary for her to do if she were skinny. As such, she is getting completely waxed, receives botox injections and gets a complete hair and makeup makeover. Those are actions that do fuel her confidence a little bit. She does decide to take a picture of herself and the chocolate cake she has just baked. She sends it to Dominic. She is happy and smiling in that moment. She wants to pose and make it special. She feels as if this has made a difference. And then, she sees the horrors that reside underneath all of this makeup on her face. Instead, she has been disfigured in her pursuit of beauty. It's horrifying to her mother. And yet, Plum just sees it as a side effect that will go away in time. She can rationalize it because it's not going to be a big deal. But she was perfectly fine getting these injections in her face without questioning it at all. She was just that susceptible to whatever Marlowe was willing to do to her. Plum thought it was all to make her come to this big realization about her life. But these are going to be permanent changes to her body. She will always have these injections. The waxing, hair and make-up can go away. But these marks will be forever. This is something that she was complicit in doing. That's dangerous. She is equally horrified when confronted with the reality that she will have some nasty scars if she goes through with this surgery to become skinny. That's an issue that no one has really talked to her before. Her vision of the perfect Alicia is suddenly corrupted. It's so destructive and highlights how this dream of hers may be a complete fantasy because her life will never be as simple as she wants it to be.

All of these horrors essentially make Plum and her mother separately believe that she has joined a cult. They no longer trust Verena because she's supportive of everything that Marlowe does. Moreover, all of the acolytes at Calliope House seem blindly devoted to the woman leading them. Plum's mother wants to know how Verena could support these kinds of actions. It's only after Verena confesses that she just wants Plum to love herself for who she is before making any of these kinds of decisions that the two of them form a connection. Plum's mother has the confidence that her daughter is in good hands. She can go back to her home knowing that Plum will be safe with Verena. Of course, that's not what the narrative is telling the audience with all of those ominous teases about what's to come in the future for these characters. Plum actually believes that Calliope House may be connected to Jennifer in some way. She has absolutely no proof of that. But Leeta comes to her saying that she has to leave town. Plum believes it's because of Jennifer. As such, Plum doubts Verena and her actions now because Leeta was the one who introduced them in the first place. Moreover, Calliope House actually gets bomb threats. That's because of the work they are doing to help enlighten people into truly loving themselves. It's not because there is the suspicion that they are a terrorist organization killing people all around the world. But that's the association that Plum is now making. As such, it seems very unlikely that these characters are actually connected to Jennifer in a significant way. Plum can't be trusted with her judgment at the moment. She is so self-destructive and Verena genuinely wants to help her have a better self image. That's all that she wants. Those intentions need to be pure without adding in all of the complications that come from her also running this terrorist organization.

Of course, there is still the mystery of who is behind Jennifer and what their end goal is going to be. They are now blackmailing news organizations into printing their manifesto. They want women to not only have equality but more. They are the section of humanity who deserves to get more appreciation. The patriarchy has kept them down for too long. And now, they are fighting back to show the hypocrisy when it comes to people being offended by the sight of male body parts but being completely fine with the same from a woman. It's an important lesson that highlights just how sexist and abusive the world and words can be. Kitty tries to take a hold of all of this as well. She may be presenting Austen Media as the biggest supporter of this organization. She is against printing the manifesto and changing the upcoming issue of Daisy Chain at all until she hears from her girls that they feel empowered just by knowing that someone out there takes them and their issues seriously. As such, Kitty sees it as a business opportunity in order to reach out to as many women as possible. It's a solid idea because it means these magazines will post their highest sales numbers in quite some time. And yes, they do go flying off the shelves. It also points out just how much passion Kitty can put into any endeavor if she has the mind to do so. She is more than comfortable blackmailing the chief financial officer in order to get him to comply with this decision. She doesn't appreciate being forced to be the only woman in the room who must obey whatever her male counterparts are telling her to do. She will continue being the one making the decisions. Sure, it's made more complicated by the audience learning of her past sexual relationship with Stanley Austen. But she is still willing to fight for what she sees as the best strategy in this industry. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "F... This" was written by by Nancy Fichman & Jennifer Hoppe-House and directed by Michael Trim.
  • I don't really understand why the show seems to be suggesting that Alanna Ubach is older than she actually is. Marlowe is the spokesperson for the idea of being bangable in order to be relevant in this world. And yet, she's also positioned as this middle aged woman with grey hair who is finally free to express herself however she deems fit. It just seems to age Ubach in an odd way that the show is just completely comfortable with.
  • Dominic wasn't lured away from the police force because of some lucrative offer in the private sector. No, he was forced off of the force because of some mistake that he made that could cost the department immensely. Many of his cases are now being overturned due to a technicality. As such, he may not be able to offer Plum any of the protection she needs right now. That only further increases the stakes around her.
  • Of course, Dominic doesn't seriously believe that Plum is in any kind of physical danger. He just sees Jennifer as this terrorist organization targeting horrible men. Plum is safe because she is a woman who should feel empowered by this movement. Plus, she already has a way in with Calliope House and Verena if they actually are connected to Jennifer in some way. It should just be very interesting to see what Plum is willing to do to find out for sure.
  • And yet, Dominic is still looking at Plum with suspicion. He is leading her on in order to get close to her. He is cultivating her as a potential source for this work. And yet, he's also checking her out to make sure that there's nothing he should be worried about. That's why he reaches out to his friend on the police force to begin with. That too is bound to create some intriguing complications.
  • There are no real consequences to Plum going through withdrawal and doing this assignment for Kitty. In fact, the article actually turns out pretty well with a unique perspective even though there are a couple of significant notes that Kitty must give her. There are spelling and grammatical errors. If Plum adjusts things according though, she could have her first article in the magazine. That's very exciting as well. It could lead to more opportunities for her.