The Daily Beast’s Obsessed
Netflix’s ‘Special’ Has the Best TV Sex Scene I’ve Ever Seen
Everything we can’t stop loving, hating, and thinking about this week in pop culture.
- This week’s best new show. (Plus, sex!)
- How is Elisabeth Moss so good?
- Bracing for Beyoncé.
- The verdict on Lawyer Kim Kardashian.
- Stop with the prequels.
- God bless His Holiness, Jude Law.
Special Is an Absolute Pleasure
I’ve never seen anything quite like Special. Of course, nothing’s ever existed that’s quite like Special, which blends sunny earnestness and heart with biting sarcasm and satire in a breezy way that might make it the most pleasant Netflix bingeing experience I’ve ever had.
The show is created by and stars Ryan O’Connell, a gay comedy writer in Los Angeles who has cerebral palsy. Loosely inspired by his own life, O’Connell plays Ryan as someone eager to rewrite his identity. He’s hit by a car, and when his new coworkers assume that’s the reason he walks with a limp, he doesn’t correct them and tell them he has CP. He just goes with it, seizing his newfound confidence to explore his sexuality in ways he had always been too self-conscious to before.
There are so many reasons to love this show. It’s important, of course, but it undercuts any pretentiousness that might burden it with a lacerating wit and self-effacing attitude towards disability. There are more laugh lines in the first three minutes than most comedies have in an entire episode. The skewering of millennial culture and media is painfully accurate. (Ryan is an intern at a website called Eggwoke, which recently pivoted to publishing confessional essays that appeal to “basics,” like “50 Ways to Hate Myself.”)
There’s a fascinating storyline exploring Ryan and his mother’s codependence, in which Jessica Hecht delivers a monologue about the virtues of The Macaroni Grill that I nearly applauded after. All of that, and no episode runs more than 15 minutes. Glory be!
But the thing about the show I can’t stop thinking about is how it handles its big sex scene. Because it bears repeating: I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
Ryan hires a sex worker to lose his virginity to, and the way it’s filmed, frankly, shocked me. It was so realistic in a way no TV show has ever been about gay sex. My Google Doc of notes from that part of the series just reads “holy shit!” over and over again for about half a page.
It’s not graphic or gratuitous, but frank and sensitive. There’s nothing salacious or editorially sexy about it in the way that so many TV shows filter sex. It shows the mechanics, the discomfort, and mutual respect involved in two men having sex—something that is never shown on screen and certainly not in a TV show that’s meant to be heartwarming and, like we said before, important. Special proves you can do all of that. Plus, it’s really damn funny.
Elisabeth Moss Gives the Performance of the Year (So Far) in 'Her Smell'
It is April 12, which means that, by my count, there are 317 days between now and the 2020 Oscars for me to not shut the hell up about how good Elisabeth Moss is in Her Smell, how she should be nominated for Best Actress, and then bitching insufferably about how she was robbed when she inevitably isn’t because the Academy is dumb.
The movie, with a title as idiotic as Moss is good in it, centers on Becky Something, the lead singer of an all-girl rock band with petulance and behavioral issues that would make Courtney Love seem like a saint. (The name, according to writer-director Alex Ross-Perry, is inspired by the titles of riot grrl zines from the ’90s.) The sun is setting on Becky’s incendiary career, and she’s hell-bent on incinerating everything in its path on the way down.
Moss turns Becky into the human equivalent of streaked mascara, delivering a carnal, guttural, snotty, sweat- and blood-soaked performance. She’s unhinged, so palpably out of control you’re uneasy in your seat just watching, like you’re witnessing a person mid-exorcism. It’s a towering performance, completely unrecognizable from Moss’ other work in The Handmaid’s Tale, Mad Men, or even Us, in which we first see glimpses of the terrifying wild eyes that are on display here.
She channels her entire body, soul, and all the power of Xenu into this performance. Girl is on a roll, cementing her status as one of the best actresses working today. All other thetans bow down. (On that subject, make sure to read my colleague Marlow Stern’s interview with Moss about the film... and Scientology.)
Beyoncé Homecoming Is Already Iconic (And It Hasn’t Premiered Yet)
Beychella—Beyoncé’s iconic performance at the Coachella Music Festival—was the pop culture event of 2018. Now our Lord and Beyvior is ensuring that it’s the pop culture event of 2019, too.
By this time next week, a documentary about the making of the superstar’s jaw-dropping Coachella set, which was an homage to historically black colleges and universities, will have premiered on Netflix. Called Homecoming—this rude Julia Roberts erasure—the film will include behind-the-scenes footage in addition to performance clips. It will be directed by Beyoncé herself.
This is obviously all very exciting, but it remains to be seen how Homecoming will stack up against my single favorite piece of filmmaking, Beyoncé: Life Is But a Dream: a documentary about the artistic genius and unrivaled cultural significance of Beyoncé, directed by Beyoncé, the theme of which was that God sent Beyoncé here as a gift to us, as told by Beyoncé. Where is the lie?
Kim Kardashian West, Esq.
Kim Kardashian is on the cover of Vogue, and the accompanying profile delivers what may be the single greatest plot twist in celebrity puff piece history: “Kim Kardashian West is studying to become a lawyer.”
According to the magazine, she is studying to take the California bar exam in 2022, through a state loophole that allows aspiring lawyers to take the bar without going to law school if they apprentice with a practicing lawyer or judge. [Insert “wonder if she reached out to Lori Loughlin for some study tips!” joke.]
It’s a move that many are dismissing and scoffing at, which is perhaps the stalest and most unoriginal reaction to the Kardashians someone can have today. (Ridiculing their success was lame five years ago.) But it’s also a move that isn’t as far-fetched as you might think... and dare I say, inspiring?
She was apparently inspired by her time at the White House, pleading for the release of Alice May Johnson, a 63-year-old woman who had been incarcerated for two decades on a nonviolent drug charge. Sitting in a room surrounded by legal experts, activists, and the president of the United States, she was inspired to learn and know more, so that her activism could be more effective.
The Elle Woods/Legally Blonde comparisons are inevitable, except that the inspiration for Kardashian’s pursuit of a law degree is certainly more noble. Elle wanted to win back her boyfriend. Kim Kardashian West wants to reform the prison system and save human lives. Who gives a shit how the girl became famous? She’s doing important things with her fame.
The 'Grease' Prequel No One Wants
Grease is an absolutely ridiculous film that I’m not sure is any good, and yet I love it dearly, think it’s perfect, and for the love of 33-year-old Stockard Channing playing a high school senior, wish that Hollywood would stop taking T-bird-sized dumps on its legacy.
It was announced this week that a prequel to the film is in the works, inspired by the vacation fling Sandy and Danny had that’s alluded to in “Summer Loving,” the song in which Sandy tells the Pink Ladies that she had a chaste time with a stand-up guy at the beach and Danny suggests she couldn’t resist fucking him the second she saw him. (This movie is problematic in so many ways.)
Anyway, the movie will be called Summer Loving, and no thank you, I don’t want it. Tell me less, tell me less.
The Only Photos You Need to See This Week
I’ve been in an uncharacteristically good mood this week. The temperature in New York finally climbed to about 50 degrees. I’m about to go on vacation. The calendar suggests it is finally an acceptable time of year to alternate between chugging iced coffee and rosé sans judgment. Oh, and these photos of Jude Law on the set of The New Pope have come into my life. Suddenly, I’ve found religion.
What to watch this week:
Little: It’s Marsai Martin’s world and we’re all just living in it.
Game of Thrones: So there’s this little show coming back this weekend…
Les Miserables: Did we need another version of this? No. But this one has Olivia Colman!
What to skip this week:
No Good Nick: I refuse to endorse another Netflix family sitcom until they release One Day at a Time from hostage status.
Hellboy: Heavens no.
Mary Magdalene: The movie was never going to top the paparazzi photo of Rooney Mara smoking a cigarette on a break while Joaquin Phoenix hangs from the cross.