The Hidden Sex Lives Of TV Characters

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Here's what we should be doing with TV criticism: figuring out what a character's living room says about how and why they bone.

At Grantland Kate Carraway has written an article about the hollowing out of middle class women on TV shows. It's a great piece, you should check it out. 

There are a lot of problems with the article, like the idea that you can evaluate social class by examining someone's belongings, even while ignoring the average cost of living for a character's assigned city. And how do you use property to measure "class" (as you infer it) when it's the showy materialism of the Real Housewives characters, more than a couple of whom have overspent their wallets?

Lucky for us, that's not exactly what we're about. I'll leave it up to you to measure what kind of loft is realistically suitable for a  teacher's salary and what's plain set dressing/trust-funded hokum. Here's what we should be doing with TV criticism: figuring out what a character's living room says about how and why they bone.

1. Louie CK

Almost all of Louie's furniture is from Ikea. In fact, he probably bought it in a rush along with a heavy load of Swedish meatballs. We've seen Louie at Ikea twice on the show already, both times on hapless dates: Louie uses Ikea's model homes to simulate intimacy, but when the furniture is transferred to his own apartment that intimacy falls flat. His apartment definitely belongs to a divorced guy with a family.

Louie's an old school bachelor, and his color palette reflects that: his couch is grey, his walls are white (elsewhere they're a sophisticated-yet-drab olive green), and his sheets are always dark blue. In this scene (Season 3, Episode 1) he's using a comforter we later recognize from the set of sheets on his bed, but the floral pillow probably belongs to his soon-to-be ex or one of his daughters. Louie's living room is also arranged to maximize couch-potato grazing sessions. A flat screen TV occupies the center of the back wall (not pictured), and coffee and side tables (pictured) fence the couch to increase the likelihood that Louie'll have a place for his sandwich.

His other belongings confirm the story that he has spawned: his mantle, for example (pictured below), is adorned with photos of his children, but there's a literal gap at the center that seems intentional. You could read that empty space as symbolic of his divorce. 

2. The Mindy Project

Now here's a woman who likes to spend time in her bedroom. I have never been in a bedroom with this much furniture. In one frame alone there's a psuedo-Victorian armchair, a large wraparound couch — or is that two separate couches — made of what looks like leather, a desk area, a fabric board (???), and a dresser. And this isn't even a frame large enough to show us her bed. 

Mindy also has several lightsources (all color coordinated, natch) and air conditioning. This room is feminine but not in a cliche, Virgin Suicides way. My thesis? Mindy likes sex and she likes sleepovers. She likes bringing guys home instead of going to their places and she doesn't want to give them any excuse to leave. Also, given the number of small light sources, Mindy's lighting will always be soft, flattering, and easy to reach anywhere in the room. Turning off all the lights in her room would be an ordeal, so Mindy probably enjoys as much well-lit doin' it as possible.

3. Portlandia

Carrie and Fred (and Chloe's) apartment is mostly a mess, except for their kitchen, which includes high-level kitchen-minimalist items like hanging wooden pot racks and a great many naturally lit surfaces. It's probably Carrie and Fred's main meeting place. Every roommate apartment has one. They keep plants in hard to reach, dirt prone, tiny all-glass vases. (Their houseplants are quirky, but they're still just houseplants.) This platonic couple is unconventional but only to a small degree. 

When we get a sight of their bedrooms we can see that they both have messy rooms with childlike matching queen beds– one whose headboard says 'F' (for Fred), the other, 'C' (for Carrie). You don't get the feeling there's much more than a bed in each room, probably because neither Carrie nor Fred spends much time in there. Carrie and Fred prioritize their nonsexual relationship above all others, but neither would say no to sex if the opportunity presented itself. The pair are probably looking for dates, but not aggressively. If they happen to run into sleeveless Chloe Sevigny at an underground concert, they'll bring her home.