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Californifying some perennial themes

By Angela Conway - posted Thursday, 6 September 2007

Californication certainly went off with a bang last week. That "religious and family groups" are upset about the extent of the sexual content and the potentially blasphemous opening scene is, of course, just more grist for the show's publicity machine.

Our Californication anti-hero, Hank Moody, hangs out in the swanky beachside suburbs of Los Angeles and never has the city looked so deliciously lovely or balmy.

But poor old Moody is not going well. He is grieving, dysfunctionally, the break-up of his de facto marriage. That is, he is coping with booze, drugs and sleeping around. Struggling with writers block, he is more than a little uncomfortable with his status as newest celebrity writer in town. Women are throwing themselves at him but he is disgusted with himself.


For those who were still in hibernation last week, we first met old Hank at a Catholic Church basking in a summery glow amid swaying palm trees. How California! Hank has entered the church to complain to the Almighty about his life and his block. Lo and behold, a lovely young nun steps out of the shadows, and also apparently out of a time machine to offer some unvirtuous relief.

Of course the pre-Vatican 2 habit was a dead give-away that we were in sleazy Hank's head rather than actually in a church. In hip, post-"the-Spirit-of-Vatican-2", LA, not even Our Lady Queen of the Angels gets a veil, let alone a wimple, at the Cathedral.

Hank apparently has a peculiar compulsion to speak honestly in and out of season and even apparently in his dreams. Just before he's yanked back to reality, he throws his hand up to hide his sordid activities from the Lord, and exclaims "Sweet Baby Jesus, Hank's going to hell".

Yep, that pretty much sums up Hank's trajectory from a Christian perspective - unrepentant fornicators do run the risk of a hellish ending according to the Bible.

But isn’t it interesting that we are using the term "fornication" again?

The clever double entendre in the title might be a bit in your face but maybe it also delivers a little jolt of reality into our jaded post modern culture. "Fornication" is a rather confronting word to describe the "hook ups", "flings" and "relationships" that we casually accept as a fact of life these days.


Watching Hank's adventures, I couldn’t help feeling a little sad about his predicament. Pining for a restoration of family unity, he finally pops the question to his apparently long-suffering ex-wife (de facto that is). But alas it seems that he is too late for she is planning to marry a new boyfriend.

Even more frustrating, was watching as he fell like a domino every time he encountered the slightest come on from another woman. How pathetic and, ultimately, how tedious. If he keeps this up surely his chances with ex, Karen, will be six feet under in no time. Surely too, the audience will tire of all the bouncing naked bodies, and the sexually suggestive language and gestures.

Yes, on a scale of in-your-face sexual content, it was pretty up there. But haven't we seen and heard worse on Sex and the City or Queer as Folk. SBS's Oz has certainly broken new ground with disturbing sexual content in recent years.

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About the Author

Angela Conway is the National Research Officer and Spokesperson for the Australian Family Association.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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