Joe Swanberg’s new anthology series on Netflix Easy feels like home. It’s improv-carried, character focused storytelling is an exercise in the attractiveness of the mundane. Spanning eight episodes that each play like a stand-alone short film, Easy is a relaxed, slow, small snapshot of pockets of Chicago, and the relationships that fill them.
From Dark Matter, to Half Acre, to Baker Miller, to City Lit Books, to the Angel Olsen fueled smash-to-credits (and so, so much more), the series is Chicago-saturated in ways that manage to never feel kitsch, due largely to the Chicago-sized drama that plays out in them. Easy is a story of small wins.
Part of the charm that carries the series is its root in accessible relationships. And yes, of course, sex.
There’s a lot of it. And yet the sex never plays as clickbait. Each sex scene is folded into the narrative of its episode, playing out in meditations on aging and identity and all the ways in which we stopgap our way through. The sex in Easy gives itself permission to be the messy grab for happiness, and connection, and pleasure in all the varied and changing ways real life sex can be.
It feels fresh and real in a way that television often fails to capture. And I gasped when I saw the sex toy drawer slide open in the first episode, stocked with the Fun Factory Miss Bi (complete with its USB charger – I died), Glyde condoms, Good Clean Love’s Almost Naked, and (Evanston-based!) Uberlube.
The now-famous Rabbit first popped up onscreen in 1998 in Sex and the City. While it popularized (and normalized) the concept of the vibrator for a generation of viewers, it also spread misinformation, fear about the use of vibrators and the elasticity of the vagina, and the ultimate centering of male pleasure as an integral part of female pleasure. And the few and far between depictions of sex toys on screen since then have often served as a sex-negative, shame-based punchline.
But recently shows like Transparent, Broad City, Sense8, and Master of None are challenging that. Sex toys and sexual tools are portrayed simply as a part of the broad range of sex-on-the-small-screen activities that its characters participate in. Never played for a gag, always pleasure-and-connection focused, the sex toys on these shows are a welcome arrival. Netflix Easy is the latest in sex-positive depictions of toys on film. They even used the right kind of lube with their silicone toy. Beautiful.