Masters of Sex S4 E2, Inventory, raises the question of how much tolerance we can have for a female anti-hero. Television loves its male anti-heroes, from Don Draper to Walter White, and Bill Masters—cold, adulterous, a shitty father and a worse husband—fits right in. But television is also virulently unforgiving of its female anti-heroes: Betty Draper Francis and Skyler White, both significantly more sympathetic, were subjected to piles and piles of fan hate. (And yes, that’s sexism.) So in Inventory, with Virginia Johnson in full-blown mean girl mode, I have to wonder how much the audience can handle.
Virginia wound about as tight as she can be. She is lying to everyone about her marriage to Dan Logan—something which apparently never took place. (As I’ve pointed out before, the real Virginia Johnson was engaged to, but did not marry, a perfume manufacturer before ultimately marrying Bill Masters.) She said in last week’s episode, Freefall, that marriage provided protection, but it also seems to provide revenge. She’s punishing Bill with her fake marriage, and punishment seems the primary thing on her mind.
The entire scenario with the psychiatrist was grotesque. She is enraged by him only because he saw through her. It’s honesty with herself that she finds unbearable, and here’s a man who saw through her lies. So she seduces him for no other reason than to humiliate him. It’s all a rather horrifying.
Bill’s trajectory is far more conventional. As he explores the process of hitting bottom, all the normal trappings are there—the dishevelment, the seedy apartment, the meaningful conversations. His story, I guess, is meant to parallel Foot Fetish Couple (which rolled over pretty damn fast from Shoe Fetish Couple), in that they are manifesting The Truth Will Set You Free. Harry Crane’s instant ability to combine “normal” intercourse with foot-sucking so that it was both acceptable and unacceptable to his wife was possibly very, very fictional. On the other hand, I’m not necessarily seeing happily ever after with these two, as she’s saying “It’s too weird” even while enjoying the sex. Also, the truth is decidedly not setting Bill free, on those rare occasions when he indulges in it.
Discussion: Betty hasn’t had a raise in ten years. Where is she getting those fabulous clothes?