October 13th, 2009
I think what I find most interesting about this, the fourth episode of Being Erica’s second season, is that it has largely moved away from any sort of “change” resulting from its missions. There was a point before where what Erica did in her trips to the past would actually change the future, not always in ways as dramatic as in “Leo” but in small ways like sleeping with the nerdy poet at the Lake instead of her jock boyfriend. Those kinds of changes are something the show isn’t actually interested in so much, primarily because Erica’s life has largely stabilized and there is accordingly less of a need for fundamental change.
It does mean that “Cultural Revolution” is anything but revolutionary, positing a “What If?” scenario less to see how it would change the present and more as a test run for a current life’s dilemma. The episode suffers slightly due to a lack of suspense as to what decision Erica is going to make, but overall it’s another solid entry that sticks to the show’s formula in a pleasing fashion.
The best scene in this episode is the one where Dr. Tom, after Erica has returned from her Taipei adventure, tells her that the risk/reward system didn’t work out so well for his daughter. It’s a reminder of the emotional beat where the season began, and in some ways an unexpected one, which is really the one part of the episode that stuck with me. There was no chance of Erica writing a sex book (after all, the opening scene with Ethan all but confirmed she shouldn’t be informing people about sex), so the central premise of the episode was never going to really go anywhere. As a result, the episode lives or dies based on its ability to get some interesting dramatic mileage out of this dilemma.
On the one hand, the episode feels like the show sometimes does when it enters into soap operatic territory, throwing in some unnecessary girl-on-girl action and even once again providing the hilarious sight of a CBC warning about nudity (which turned out to be a hostel-goer running out with his tail between his legs). The sexualized nature of the episode was intriguing, but never fully realized as a theme, so it just felt gratuitous. I know the show is on SoapNET in the U.S., but sometimes I find this kind of content goes beyond the premise of the series. Erica isn’t an entirely sexual being, and while there’s some comedy to mine from that (as noted, the scene at the beginning of the episode was solid) it isn’t really enough for me to buy the show as inherently sexual.
I guess I just sort of feel as if they could have done away with a lot of the window dressing and really dialed in on the ESL side of things, which was potentially interesting in its own right. I think there was an episode to be found about Erica struggling to live modestly on her adventure, but instead the whirlwind night club experience takes over. It’s not that it wasn’t entertaining to see Karpluk put on her worst possible singing voice to belt out some Celine Dion, but the entire scenario seemed like too much of a fantasy. I would have liked the change of pace afforded by a mundane experience in Taipei, although it certainly would have been a less boisterous message of sorts.
As for the rest of the episode, I’m intrigued that we’re spending so much time in the workplace. After Erica’s family from made prominent last year, this year we’re seeing Brent go behind Julianne’s back in order to try to move up the ladder, something that I think is more interesting in theory than in practice. It’ll be interesting to see if they’re able to get much out of it, as right now the job side of things seems kind of low impact (which is fitting for a largely low impact show, outside of certain episodes). Elsewhere, things remain drama-free on the Ethan front, and we see neither Erica’s family nor her other friends (I think there’s a one-friend per episode rule), so things remain pretty solid.
- No sign of Kai or the idea of having various patients interacting with one another. It will be interesting to see if they start to fold that in gradually, or slowly build it into a season’s climax.
- I know a lot of people doing (or considering doing) ESL work, so it would be interesting to see how it compares to the real thing (circa 8-10 years ago). I don’t quite think you can get work without a visa these days, but that’s just a presumption.
- Maybe it’s just me, but the whole karaoke sequence was kind of insulting to the intelligence of Taiwan: not only does Erin Karpluk look nothing like Celine Dion, but her singing was legitimately terrible even factoring in the fact that it was at a karaoke bar.
6 responses to “Being Erica – “Cultural Revolution””
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I have to agree that the sexual nature of the episode was a bit surprising. However Erica’s curious yet uncomfortable relationship with nudity and sexuality seems to be a theme. There was that episode in the first season where she was naked at the prom. And also this week’s episode was very sexual in nature. I think this internal struggle that both Erica and Ethan seem to have with sexuality and nudity is very interesting. The show doesn’t concentrate on it, but it is definitely there on purpose. I think it’s entertaining on the one hand (uncomfortable but harmless nakedness always seems to be amusing on TV) and on the other hand I think it’s a more refreshing way to treat this kind of hangup. Most shows either ignore sexuality altogether or they bring it to the forefront, but in reality the topic is a much grayer area. It’s always there, but rarely dealt with in public and I think the show is doing that aspect of it justice.
I took the karaoke bit was more of a joke – the club owner clearly knew she was lying when he pushed her on stage. And I just assumed it was in the nature of karaoke that it be a fun-filled celebration of the bad, along with the surprising good. Like the WWE, where you *know* it’s fake and the audience as a whole agrees to pretend. (Also, notable in comparison to the last use of karaoke, both renditions of ‘Girls just want to have fun,’ in Adultescence.)
Initially I completely agreed that the focus on the party scene was a cop out, but the more I think on it, the more I like the ‘fantasy’ aspect of the ESL experience. I just don’t think it was well executed. After all, Erica went to Taipei expecting a life-changing rebirth. And she DID get that experience – falling in with social elite and the party world is a lifestyle coveted by many and experienced by few (with parallels to her trip in “The Unkindest Cut.”) The fact that her nature led her to reject it outright, coupled with the ‘risk taking’ theme of the episode, left little room to explore what ‘grand adventure’ means.
I concur that “the sex book” angle was almost a throwaway in this ep, but subsequent episodes have gone back to it, almost as if the project is meant to be the thematic basis of a story arc this season. I’m curious what your thoughts are on this, but alas, it appears that BE is no longer featured on this blog :[
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