Jessica Max Stein

Transphobia Ruins Weeds Finale

Filed By Jessica Max Stein | September 19, 2012 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: Mary-Louise Parker, Nancy Botwin, review, transphobia, Weeds

Nancy-Botwin-weeds.gifI stayed loyal to Weeds after many had quit watching the erstwhile Showtime hit. Frankly, I'd watch Mary-Louise Parker read a grocery list; she can convey a world of emotion in a quiver of the lip. Plus, the show did interesting, even trangressive, things with Judaism, particularly this season when Justin Kirk's Andy Botwin became a Hebrew School teacher and found his boyish existentialism surprisingly suited to the job.

So I forgave Weeds its moments of stomach-turning offensiveness, of which there have been plenty ("hole in her niqab," anyone?). But they ruined the finale for me with transphobia.

In the penultimate and ultimate episodes, Weeds brought back a lot of characters (even some, such as Charmaine, so minor I'd forgotten them). I was hoping they'd bring back Isabelle Hodes, the confident, gorgeous and independent lesbian teenager who enlivened the first five seasons.

We last saw Isabelle in the Season 5 finale, when her mother Celia Hodes (Elizabeth Perkins) starts a weed-selling team to rival Nancy's. The team goes around the table, naming their roles: "Celia Hodes, team leader", and so forth. Isabelle-Hodes.jpegIsabelle goes last. "We all know each other," she protests. "Do you want to play, or not?" her mother asks.

She purses her lips, deliciously insouciant. "Fine. Isabelle Hodes. Brains."

Looking around the table, it's true. She is the brains of the team, and the common sense of the show, one of the few remotely realistic minor characters as the show became more and more farcical. Sadly, that's the last we see of Isabelle Hodes. (Or Celia, for that matter.)

So my ears perked up during Sunday's finale when Isabelle's old friend Shane Botwin (Alexander Gould) stood talking to Isabelle's father, Dean Hodes (Doug Milder), who we hadn't seen since last season.

SHANE: How's Isabel?
DEAN: You mean Bruce?
SHANE: (nearly spits out his beer): Bruce?
DEAN: Yeah, sex change. Isabelle - is a boy.

The way Dean delivers the line, with such gleeful derision - about his own child, with whom he seemed to have a close relationship - just turns my stomach. What's more, the transition seems entirely out of character for Isabelle, who turned being a fat femme from a supposed "flaw" (mostly in her mother's eyes) to a profitable asset, modeling plus-sized clothes and visibly growing into her own power. More power to Isabelle/Bruce if that transition continues across the gender binary - but the show doesn't make me buy it. It's just a cheap punchline, throwaway exposition.

As if that's not enough, a few scenes later, the disgusting and tiresome character Doug Wilson (Kevin Nealon) says to Andy: "You hear Dean's little girl got a dick now?" In a sense, the dialogue shows how far apart these onetime buddies have grown, as Andy's response is kind and matter-of-fact: "I know. He put up my drywall. Does great work."

I suppose the transition fits in with the episode theme of Nancy's youngest son Stevie's Bar Mitzvah, of "becoming a man," the legacy of family, and by extension the legacy this show will leave behind. Sadly, part of that legacy will be this gratuitous nastiness.

Thumbs down, Weeds. Maybe I won't miss Nancy Botwin so much after all.


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