It is not great revelation to say that I had a huge crush on David Duchovny during The X Files days. Nor is it particularly unique. Yet, I was living a Duchovny-less life until a few years ago when a friend recommended I watch Californication. So I added it to the Netflix queue and with my significant other, sat down to check it out. I liked it, in the same way I sometimes enjoyed Curb Your Enthusiasm or Entourage. Here were people who I assumed I was not supposed to consider particularly real people, doing idiotic things and living a life which in a real person, I would find deeply, deeply abhorrent and morally reprehensible. And it was David Duchovny. At the end of our first Netflix season I said to my significant other, “It’s all very interesting, but where do you go now? He has a daughter. Do I really want to watch someone who has a daughter be vile, irresponsible and grotesque?” And the answer for myself was, all in all, no.
And now it’s Season 3, and nothing has changed. Well, some things have changed. Hank is now a full time father, rather than a part time father. He still fucks indiscriminately and hangs out with others who do likewise. His friend Runkle has, as far as I can tell, raped his wife (which is still a crime, though only really since about the 1970s when most states in the U.S. repealed head and master laws which gave husbands the right to do pretty much whatever they wanted to their wives and children), caught a venereal disease, and shared a prostitute (though she seemed at first to just be a stripper) with Rick Springfield. Ugh, ugh, and bleck.
In the interests of attempting to be fair, I will also note that thrown in there was a very touching episode in which Hank reconnects with a high school friend and reflects on how people grow apart over time and move in different directions. That was actually some good t.v.
But then there’s the scene with Runkle and Rick Springfield sharing the prostitute/stripper, and I won’t go into the gory details, because I didn’t want the image in my brain, so I’m not going to put it in yours if you don’t want it there either. Runkle, Hank, his daughter, his ex-wife, and I suppose Rick Springfield, are all characters on t.v. And they’re not, I guess, supposed to be particularly realistic characters? I don’t know. I don’t live in L.A. And some people would say I should not care and realize that it is, in the end, just a t.v. show.
But what does that mean, just a t.v. show? Is there any such thing? I spend a lot of time as a professor having this discussion with my students. One of their favorite expressions is, “I think you’re reading too much into that.” I think what they mean is that I’ve thought too much about the significance of Runkle and Rick Springfield sharing a prostitute or Runkle “kind of” raping his wife. That these things don’t really mean anything. That they’re not really worth talking or thinking about. Really?
So I’m perfectly willing to be accused of taking stories fairly seriously, and Californication has become a story I’d rather not follow anymore. I’m not a censor, so I wouldn’t deny it it’s right to exist in the world, but I’d also say that all in all, I think the world would be just fine without it, and maybe even better.