We Are Not Far From Your Doorstep
I Love Dick, Jill Soloway’s adaptation of the a 1997 cult feminist novel of the same name, explores a clusterfuck of romantic projection in the Texas desert. In so doing, it exposes the dark side of being a muse (something women are conditioned to believe we want) and anticipates a toppling of the patriarchy (Soloway’s production company is appropriately called “Topple.”). It’s award-season snubbing reminds us mainstream audiences are wary of a world centered around female desire. But it’s existence proves we getting dangerously close.
The series kicks off when failing filmmaker Chris accompanies her husband, Slyvere, to the Marfa Institute for a fellowship with Dick, the Institute’s founder. Dick is a paragon of unduly worshipped white male mediocrity. He fancies himself a cowboy and makes unremarkable sculptures that say “here is my penis.”
Dick and Sylvere are praised by the same world that rejects Chris’s film-making. In response, Chris begins writing salacious, unsent letters to Dick, morphing him into an object over which she has the ultimate control. In the series’s standout episode, “A Short History of Weird Girls,” the four main female characters each read their own letter to Dick. Paula the curator wants Dick’s validation, gender-queer Devon wants to vampire his swagger, while the irreverent Toby wants to surpass him professionally. Chris, meanwhile, just wants to fuck him. “I don’t care if you want me. It’s better that you don’t,” Chris says, subverting the male gaze by asserting that her point of view is all that matters. “It’s enough that I want you.”
Dick is used to being the arbiter of female sexuality, so he panics when the women begin to claim agency. And an insular artist/academic community plopped in the blank slate of the desert is ideal for exploring projection of the type which was once a uniquely male enterprise. “Men have been doing that with women for centuries,” Sylvere tells Dick. “Using them as a source of their creativity.” But Soloway flips the switch. Toby strips naked naked in an oil field of ogling workers for a performance art her Facebook live feed; Devon starts writing Chris into her one-act play. Meanwhile, Chris plasters her letters to Dick all over Marfa, a move that infuriates him. When Dick realizes Toby’s video went viral, he quits his own institute.
The series ends perfectly: with Chris’s blood on Dick’s hand. In a desperate effort to hold on to the status quo, Dick attempts to sleep with Chris. When he reaches into her underwear, he’s proud of how “wet” he’s made her, but when he removes his hand, he realizes she has her period. Horrified, Dick acts as though he’s dipped his hand in acid. With the stark image of Chris’s self-generated womanhood on his hands, Dick realizes his history of undeserved adulation won’t last forever. In the end, Soloway anticipates an impending wave of women who are unwilling to exist as objects to serve the male ego. In the series standout moment, Toby captures this shift when she deadpans the camera and says, “Dear Dick, we are not far from your doorstep.”