“Wellmania” Is Tired

A limping trope of a dying era

Beverly Garside
ILLUMINATION

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A young woman in a sparkly evening top with big sun glasses
Photo by Angelina on Unsplash

I picked this Australian mini-series because of the promise of its title. A woman’s misadventures in the scam-laden wellness industry would make a timely, potentially hilarious story.

But I was disappointed.

Here she is again

The foibles of “wellness” are not the focus of the story at all. Instead, we are treated to a leading character who is all too recognizable. She’s a single woman “of a certain age.” She works in the media and aspires to the glitterati circles of a glamorous downtown city. She has a bestie who also works in the media. She and the bestie casually spill intimate details about their sex lives. She’s immature and out-of-control, on a constant rampage of parties, drugs, and casual sex. She means well but is so self-absorbed that she regularly hurts everyone around her. They all forgive her in the end, however, because she’s just so damn adorable!

Yawn.

In the case of this character, Liv Healy, (masterfully played by Celeste Barber), we also have the childhood trauma and guilt that allegedly drive her 25-year marathon of destructive behavior. Later in the series, she confesses to her family and herself that it was her selfishness that likely caused their collective disaster all those years ago. Nevertheless. she learned nothing from the experience, having maintained the same level of selfishness in the decades since, to the detriment of herself and everyone else.

It’s this aspect of the story that destroyed the “comedy” part of its label for me. I found nothing funny or adorable about Liv Healy or her antics. The bad taste they left in my mouth spoiled any humor the writers intended. Her low character, along with her outsized sense of entitlement, made it too hard to sympathize with her trauma and had me rooting against her for most of the story.

Her one big chance

“Wellmania” follows Liv around Australia, where she has flown in from New York for her bestie’s birthday or award nomination — it’s never quite clear. She gets stranded, however, because of complications resulting from a purse-snatching, a lost U.S. visa and green card, and her inability to prove that she is well enough to return to the U.S. without burdening our health system.

She is then trapped in a maze of “wellness” programs, her brother’s wedding plans, and some now-or-never appointments back in New York that will launch her into riches, fame, and media stardom. Along the way, she starts a romantic relationship, damages all her other relationships, confronts her traumatic past, and ultimately lets nothing and no one gets in the way of what she values.

Fame. Fortune. Success. The limelight.

Yesterday’s story, yesterday’s values

Liv proceeds from a long line of heroines of a similar mould who have besmirched our screens and pages. They were born decades ago when writers and producers had an epiphany about the comedic mileage to be milked from white, middle-class women behaving badly.

Since then, we have been subjected to an endless stream of white, middle-class women sporting wise-cracking potty mouths, seeking out casual sex, boasting details of their sex lives with coworkers and besties, going on crime sprees, downing shots, sniffing lines, smoking weed, being bad mothers, and God forbid — being selfish assholes!

And oh, it’s just so shocking! It’s so damn hilarious! And my goodness, they’re just so adorable! Except after over 20 years, no it isn’t, and no they’re not. In my book, they never were in the first place.

Ditto for the values and milieus that these and so many other contemporary stories embrace. Too many writers and producers seem to have buried their heads in the sand to the social and cultural revolutions upending our world.

I doubt I’m the only one tired of endless stories about the glitterati in their glass penthouses. I’m unlikely alone in never wanting to read or watch another tale about a “nobody” fighting against hell, high water, and everything holy to get rich and famous. These are not the values and tastes of the new century and the new generations.

Perhaps there are plans to redeem this character in a subsequent series, but if so, it will be an adventure I will not attend. I’ve seen too much already. We need more than just tomatoes or stars for ratings — we need a moldy meter to warn us off this rotting fare.

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Beverly Garside
ILLUMINATION

Beverly is an author, artist, and a practicing agnostic.