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Don't Go Near A Bedroom On Flesh And Bone

Mark Blankenship learns that camp humor can, indeed, be out of place.

"M.I.A.," the fifth episode of Flesh And Bone, has been improbably educational for me, because it has taught me about the limits of my own taste.

On one level, I am always here for grotesquely ridiculous behavior, so I've been having a good time watching Paul, F&B's resident screeching queen, as he behaves less like a person than a John Waters character. When he's getting a massage, he's not only fully naked, but also saying things like to his masseuse like "Hurt me, bitch! Make me liquid!" And when he calls in Claire to excoriate her for not being more comfortable with her sexuality, he stands up and wags his penis at her to make his point. This is not well-written, mind you, but there is a perverse joy to be found therein.

I will say, though, that even I find it hard to get on board with campy poop scenes. I've never watched Pink Flamingoes for just that reason, and when Paul comes home to his apartment to find that someone has taken a giant steamer on his thousand-thread-count pillowcase, I shudder. Especially because we get such a long close-up of the (ahem) evidence.

But I can still appreciate this expression from Ben Daniels.



And while it's true that this gross incident makes little sense, I am willing to overlook it in the name of the one element of this awful show that I can barely enjoy. (I know! I'm such a hero.)

But here's where the learning comes in. See, just moments after Paul makes his discovery, we move to the sequence where Claire performs Swan Lake on Sergei's yacht.



And because Flesh And Bone is the most bluntly obvious series on extended cable, we OF COURSE learn that, along with running a strip club, Sergei is also trafficking young Russian girls. And look! Here they are on his boat, dressed in little dance leotards! Here's Claire roaming the bowels of the ship, hearing a poor child screaming in agony as some scary Russian man rapes her. And finally -- OF COURSE -- here's one of the girls trying to reach out to Claire for help, only to get disappeared by the end of the episode. Because sex trafficking isn't just a real-world problem. It's also a convenient plot device.

But whatever. The ethical treatment of sex trafficking on lurid TV shows will have be to dealt with another time, and Flesh And Bone has a long list of other series to join it on the roster for the defense. Where the show is pretty much alone, however, is in its decision to pair a brutally realized plotline about young girls being raped with a campy story about someone taking a shit on a pillow.

And as it turns out, this is the exact nexus that makes me find camp distasteful. I've learned some lessons about my own sensibilities, but I'd argue I've also learned a universal truth about narrative tone.



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