by Lisa Waugh
*Don’t read unless you’ve seen the entire series now available on Amazon Prime streaming.
Transparent is the family I wish I had. With the transitioning male-to-female father, the mariticide-planning mother, the three selfish/brilliant/confused/annoying/awesome grown children and the LA backdrop of cultured Jewish family dysfunction, I’d have family dinner with these guys and crack wise any time, heaping mustard on everything.
I’m not underestimating the kvetzhing nor the blunt take down. I would have loved that.
I grew up on the polar opposite of Transparent’s dysfunction where when I said “these guys” instead of “ya’ll” I was considered an uppity, book learning, n-word loving yankee. I’m not kidding.
The Klan was a thing when I was in high school and the Baptist church liked to burn books and records of a supposed sexual or satanic nature. Good thing my parents didn’t know that my most of my boyfriends were black, several were gay it’s turns out and that everyone went on to be super smarties who lived in large cities like me.
To my LA friends, my childhood is exotic. To me, it was a kudzu-ensconced prison I needed to escape from.
So my review of Emmy-nominated writer/director Jill Solloway’s Transparent is through this filter where I love all things SoCal, Jewish and intelligently fucked up.
Jeffrey Tambor’s Morty-to-Maura Pfefferman is beautifully sincere. Having lived a full life as a male, she’s decided in her 70s that she isn’t confused anymore. The comedy vet plays Maura with grace and dignity, reminding me once again that he’s a very talented actor.
Maura wants to sell the family house, move to a LGBGT-friendly apartment building and come out to her friends and family in the full-figured ladies wear she’s secretly worn for years.
Maura’s children – played by Amy Landecker, Gaby Hoffmann and Jay Duplass – take the news in their various ways, being consumed by their own revelations and issues.
Maura’s ex-wife, Shelly, played by a very Jewish Judith Light has known for years about her husband’s predilection for cross dressing and isn’t so surprised about Maura’s transitioning. She’s got other matzoh to crumble and is more focused on her second husband’s ever-encroaching Alzheimer’s. She’s been googling a solution she tells Maura.
This is a hilarious and exasperating family, demonstrated in full at their behavior at shiva. They can’t help but being constantly drawn inward, unable to hear their family member’s emotional thrashing over their own.
Transparent’s is a kind of family that spits out showrunners and hit-making band producers or agents. Instead, they all pretend that everyone has a regular – regular for LA – life and that their problems are just like yours, if one of your problems is falling in love with your rabbi just after your goy singer/songwriter girlfriend aborted your baby from the confines of Venice and you don’t want to tell your much older fuck buddy that was your babysitter about your new feelings as she introduces you to your biological son.
You want to pull up to the Pfefferman table and be insulted along with everyone else. But you don’t want to be Ed, Shelly’s wandering away in the condo husband. They’re plotting his death. Poor Ed. Ali/Hoffmann and I agree.
Amazon Prime has gotten into the Originals game, taking on Netflix and Hulu Plus and anyone with a serious streaming concern. And if Transparent is any indication of what’s to come, I’m ready to join the mishpocheh.
Watch the trailer for Transparent