“Leave it to a female’s writer’s room to create two of the best, well-rounded male characters that I’ve really read in a long time,” said actor Kevin Bacon, promoting his upcoming Amazon Studios series I Love Dick in Hollywood last week.
In the series, based on the 1997 cult novel of the same name by Chris Kraus (paywall), Bacon plays the eponymous Dick, a charismatic scholar who the 40-something fictionalized version of Chris Kraus (Kathryn Hahn) becomes obsessed with. She meets Dick when she accompanies her older, cultural-theorist husband to an academic residency in Texas.
The series, from Transparent showrunner Jill Soloway, is written entirely by women—a rarity in scripted TV and streaming. “I think a lot of women had been the only woman in other writer’s rooms,” Soloway said, according to The Playlist. “Like the only girl in the car, the only girl in the room, and had been trying to play the role of ‘Be game. Be funny. Don’t offend. Be careful what you say.’ So, for them to be able to look everyone in the face and say, ‘There’s another woman,’ got things going really lose really fast.”
Having all women at the table allowed the writers to work from outside “their oppression,” to reference a particularly cringeworthy line in the show. (Dick tells Chris: ”I think it’s pretty rare for a woman to make a good film, they have to work from behind their oppression, which makes some bummer movies.”).
The series brilliantly plays with female desire and has been praised for its uncouth, but relatable relationships. Chris objectifies Dick in the way many women are in other programming, which awakens an artistic and feminist expression she never knew she had. (“I never had someone shatter in one glance the persona that I spent decades constructing.”)
And, even though the story is told largely from the perspective of the female protagonist, the male characters, Dick and Sylvere, are laudably multi-dimensional.
In the show, Dick presents himself as a “post-idea” rancher and academic who, at times, sounds like a straightforward, misogynistic male. But there’s something deeper there. By the end of the pilot, released by Amazon in August, it’s clear that he’s struggling with who he is and the life he’s made for himself. Chris’s well-meaning—if slightly self-centered—husband Sylvere, meanwhile, is drawn to this new side of his wife and learns about himself through her one-sided tryst as well.
“Both of these guys end up being definitely male and definitely complex and definitely interesting,” Bacon said. “It’s kind of like the idea that somehow you’re not going to be able to deliver that is astounding to me.”
The show’s full first season premieres in the US on May 12.