“Rad Fatties” is the eighth of ten episodes in this season of Dietland, and it is with a heavy heart (no pun intended) that I must report this show is losing the thread.
As I’ve used this space to complain before, Dietland’s politics often rest on overly simplistic premises; Plum’s narration in the “Rad Fatties” cold open goes all the way back to THE BIBLE. “The die was cast with Adam and Eve. One’s an innie, one’s an outie.” I understand the impulse, but please don’t roll your eyes away from the page. It keeps going and gets worse: “The outie acts all outie. It kills things and builds fires and stuff, while the innie gathers and communicates effectively.” We learned in the series premiere that part of Plum’s origin story is that she loved school and kept getting more and more degrees until she could no longer afford it, but obviously none of them was in anthropology because that shit has been debunked and this is embarrassing. Plum goes on to walk back some of her outdated gender essentialism — “I should mention that some people are born outie but with innie parts, or the other way around, or sometimes no parts, and in a huge range of colors and … it gets complicated” — but this Tumblr-meme calibre philosophy put me in such a sour mood to watch the rest of the episode, which never really got me back; but the upshot of this cold open nonsense is that whatever punishments certain bad men are currently experiencing for their sexual abuses, they are far too light and probably temporary: “What changes things is power — who has it, and how you use it.”
Jennifer is using its power to enact consequences against the 100 very worst men it knows about. It’s ranked them on the Penis 100 and is calling upon these men’s female partners to go on a sex strike against them, “a Lysistrata for the modern age.” This is explicitly framed as applying only to men who have sex with women, so the (alleged) victims of Kevin Spacey or of the OSU wrestling coaches Jim Jordan (allegedly) protected are on their own: Jennifer is ordering the Penis 100’s wives and girlfriends to withhold access to their innies (ugh). Until when is not clear, but what is clear is that women who ignore the order will experience reprisal themselves.
Stanley is not just on the list; he’s ranked in the top ten. (The president is No. 1.) Stanley’s very confident about his own history with women, telling Dominic he’s never struck, raped, or roofied anyone, and whining that men are being vilified for what has heretofore been acceptable masculine behavior: “Men take. That’s nature.” That said, Stanley does know there have been police reports over the years — no charges, but he’d still like Dominic to get his chief of police father-in-law to quash them. At the same time, he’s ordering Cheryl’s segments about Jennifer attacks to be edited to be more alarmist, draining the group’s public support. He’d also like her to report on the Penis 100, particularly a wife and a girlfriend who’ve supposedly gone missing: “Most of the men on that list — they are honest, upstanding job-creating Americans; I need you to show that. If anything happens to their wives, maybe someone will give a damn.”
Julia is still trying to use her financial power to force Jennifer into a course correction toward nonviolence. At her first meeting in this episode with a thus-far unnamed Jennifer representative, Julia objects to the group’s targeting of women. “Every revolution has its martyrs,” her opponent replies. Threat is met with threat, but when Jennifer’s spokeswoman says she was raped by men who were supposed to protect her, she kind of wins the debate. When they meet again later in the episode, however, Julia has a carrot instead of a stick: Jennifer’s members will either end up getting themselves killed or have to go on the lam, but if they desist, Julia and her sisters will give $500,000 trusts to their families. The spokeswoman says Jennifer is not for sale. Julia encourages her to think about the people she’d want to be secure if she were a fugitive. The matter is, for now, left unresolved.
Meanwhile, Plum is taking advantage of her viral moment to blog — and apparently is trending widely enough for Kitty to want to sue her for stealing her girls’ data. Plum isn’t afraid of a cash judgment against her, since she’s broke, but Kitty also wants to enjoin her from blogging, just as Plum is finding her voice. Since Dominic owes Plum, he finds out that Kitty will drop the suit for an apology and an interview with Daisy Chain. Plum agrees, on the condition that she approve the interviewer, and that it stream live so that Kitty can’t edit it — and it ends up being a great experience: Plum endorses Jennifer’s manifesto, though not its violence, and draws a distinction between what Jennifer’s trying to do on behalf of women and, as an example, what Plum herself is doing with Verena at Calliope House. Except, whoops, no one else at Calliope House actually wanted Plum to put their business in the street: she returns to furious reprisal for having gotten high on all her recent positive attention and, for the sake of her own self-promotion, having made the other residents feel unsafe. If Plum can’t respect their beliefs, Verena tells her, she may belong somewhere else.
Needing somewhere to vent and having fallen out with Steven in the last episode, Plum decides to take Jack, from her disastrous final date in “Plum Tuckered,” up on his invitation for drinks. He makes supportive noises about her Calliope House confrontation, apologizes again (she accepts), and gets her back to his place. Plum seems bleary as he starts making physical overtures; she’s interested, but (as we know) she’s inexperienced, so she’s scared. The initial kiss, though, is good. Making out is also good, until Jack tries to go down on her and she tells him she doesn’t like it. He asks what Plum wants him to do to her, but then tells her what he wants, which is to “take” her “from behind.” She doesn’t want that, and says she’s going to leave. Jack stops her again, resuming his gentle kissing, but only for a second before roughly turning her around and assaulting her. As he whispers, “I love you, fatass,” Plum goes dead in the eyes. It’s a brutal scene …
… which is why it’s infuriating that instead of letting the viewer sit with it, the show gives us a button in which Plum’s narration takes us away from her singular, particular trauma and returns us to the Bible again. “The die was cast with Adam and Eve. Kicked out of paradise and she took all the blame. She had to. Safety was the coin of the realm, and the outies had that market cornered.” Must we still be infantile/cutesy in our vocabulary when we’ve just finished watching an “outie” rape our heroine? Plum’s last line alludes to the “innies” having enough and blowing up the old order, and I certainly hope that means a villain we know is about to get it and that this is the last time we have to watch Plum degraded.