Another Period, Season 1, Episode 2, “Divorce”
Written by Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome
Directed by Jeremy Konner
Airs Tuesdays at 10:30pm (ET) on Comedy Central
With increased confidence, Another Period’s second episode, “Divorce”, tackles the taboos of rape and divorce with fantastic delirium. After the sexually insatiable and recently-divorced Pussy Van Anderstein arrives at the Bellacourt residence, Lillian (Natasha Leggero) and Beatrice (Riki Lindhome) decide they too want to separate from their husbands. However, divorce at the turn of the century was a little more complicated than it is now and their plans don’t quite pan out.
When Pussy (Jessica Chaffin) arrives, she insists on a male room servant rather than the customary female one. She chooses the sheepish Garfield and as soon as she gets him into her room she “ravishes” him. Dejected and humiliated, the rest of the episode follows Garfield as he attempts to convince those around him that he was taken against his will and what happened was wrong. Society is stacked against him, however, as it is “impossible” that as a man he could be ravished, and also because as a servant he was somehow “asking for it”. His plight is mocked by everyone, even seguing into a darkly hilarious post-coital discussion on why jokes about “ravishing” are “SO funny” (hint: they’re really not).
Albert: “Don’t you find them a bit distasteful though? Some people feel that ravishing is not a habit that should be made light of.”
Victor: “Oh, not me. You know the old chestnut: Why is it always your ugliest friend who’s the most afraid of being ravished?”
The humour does not come from the fact that rape is funny, but rather the absurd way society treats abuse. While it’s below the surface, the humour of the show manages to point out what should be obvious: rape is not about desire, it is about power. The way society treats victims of abuse is absurd and as a result, becomes darkly funny when framed in the period setting. While most of these moments are laugh out loud funny, they also have that uncomfortable tinge of reality. Not prepared to ride on the coattails of what is safe however, the emphasis on the use of “ravishing” rather than “rape” similarly is critical of a society that prefers to use politically correct language than to deal with the issue at hand. This harkens, in part, to Natasha Leggero’s controversial spaghettios/Pearl Harbour joke, which prompted her to respond to her critics by asking them to put their words into action and help veterans directly. It is unsurprising that comedians who thrive off free speech and pushing boundaries would be critical of the outrage factory which is fueled more by control than it is change.
Elsewhere in the episode, Lillian decides to give herself a black eye because the best way to get rid of her husband and be granted a divorce is if he abuses her (the only other options are him cheating on her, an impossibility because of her physical attractiveness, or his death). So she heads over to the police station where she is humiliated when the two cops riff on the many reasons why her husband was likely justified in beating her. Another Period reveals that it’s never so easy when the pervading attitude still leans in the direction of doubting the veracity of the victim’s claims.
The decision to frame the show as a reality program rather than just a spoof was a stroke of genius that continues to pay off. It’s no surprise that comedians like Leggero and Lindhome enjoy the structure and model of reality television, as the form’s tenuous threads and absurd “set” pieces are wonderful opportunities for humour. The format of reality television compliments absurdity, and in many ways people watch shows like Keeping up with the Kardashians to laugh more than anything else. These series are darkly funny both for their self-awareness and lack of it; a show like Another Period exaggerates that atmosphere to great effect.
Looking to the structure of the show there is a sort of unspoken respect for stars like Kim Kardashian. While she is the object of scorn, she along with her family craft situations of incredible comic possibilities. Though it could be easy to just play off their image and play them for fools, they nonetheless pay homage to the genre as well.The sharpness of the show’s wit makes up for the lack of articulation of their inspiration by having characters speak plainly about ideology, such when Celine (Christina Hendricks) sits down to comfort Garfield by telling him she believes them and that they do indeed live in a “ravish culture”. As comedians increasingly take the role in our society of philosophers and social critics, they give meaning to the meaningless.