Great television can get by on smart alone. I have proof.
Here’s where I tell you my unpopular opinion. I don’t think there should be sex in Mindhunter.
While I’m grateful to Netflix for giving me something to do while I wait for The Crown, a lightening bolt of a thought popped into my head around episode three. Why is there sex in this show? There doesn’t need to be. It doesn’t further a plot line or build character in a way it hasn’t already, it’s just oddly plunked into the middle of every episode like whipped cream on top of a grilled cheese sandwich.
I’m used to gratuitous nudity meant as nothing more than window dressing, I’m a Game of Thrones fan for goodness sake. But this sex doesn’t even add visual depth, at the very least, to its story. It’s just a bunch of useless fucking. I love the relationship between Jonathan Groff and Hannah Gross’ characters, I think their banter is one of the most poignant parts of the show. But then their characters are naked for some reason and I feel like I need to give them a little privacy.
The sex doesn’t need to be there, which leads me to believe the reason the creators of Mindhunter put sex in their show was just so there could be sex in their show. Is it bait? Do they think we’ll perhaps find something better to do in the now 5-second lag between episodes? Are they worried people don’t like television without nudity and convincingly simulated sex?
One might argue the sex is there to show truth, to outline the relationship between two people and allow the audience to attach to them further. But I’ve become quite (too?) attached to characters and storylines in many a smart television show where the wardrobe department never got to take a scene off. The West Wing, Stranger Things, and, as I’ll explain in just a minute, Criminal Minds. These shows, and many more, have managed to grab audience attention, attachment, and an Emmy or two without sex.
Really, the only truth out-of-nowhere sex reveals is that in the world of television, only young, attractive people have passionate, consensual, visually stimulating sex. If we’re taking television as truth, sex really does end after age 39 or so. And if you happen to be unattractive, it never happens at all.
What really puts breadcrumbs in my butter here is that I love smart television. And I’m getting concerned that there is no appetite for smart television that stands on its own. I’m afraid we can’t swallow smart without sex. I’m sad about what that means for us as humans. These days I’m sad about what a lot of things say about us as humans, but this is the battle I’m picking today.
There are countless shows that achieve massive followings and viewerships with no simulated sex, that have been getting by just fine on the occasional adventurous kiss or inuendo. One such show is, ironically, Criminal Minds. As Mindhunter is a kind of preamble to Criminal Minds, now in its 13th season, I find comparing the two shows nothing if not great fun.
While I’m sure we’d hear no complaints about the occasional not-safe-for-CBS Shemar Moore sex scene, it would still be weird. That isn’t how Criminal Minds has built its bond with its audience. Instead, it was forged through relationships, friendship, and family. The core Criminal Minds team, ever-changing as it’s been (Paget Forever), has drawn audiences in and made it fall in love, not lust, with its characters and their affection for and dedication to one another. All while discussing profoundly disturbing topics similar to Mindhunter.
In my opinion, not only have we become desensitized to, and therefore ever-hungrier for, graphic gratuitous sex, we’re starting to require it. Particularly in venues like Netflix and HBO that are simply allowed to do it.
I wonder what people would think about Mindhunter without the sex. Personally, I enjoy the show very much, and find each sex scene to be nothing more than a distraction I have to sit through in order to get back to the plot or other similarly entertaining moments of fully clothed character building. But this is where we are now, this is the carrot on the end of the entertainment string, naked and glistening, and seemingly necessary.
But not for me. Not here. I’m a fan of well-done sex scenes as much as the next gal, but Mindhunter isn’t fooling me into thinking these sex scenes have purpose. I know what you’re doing here, and every time the story breaks, the lights dim, and two comically sweaty figures come into frame, all I’m thinking is: “Guys, can you hurry it up? This shit is getting good.”