“I Love Dick,” the provocatively titled new Amazon video series that premiered recently to considerable fanfare, joins the still small canon of films and TV programs taking on the topic of how sexual and social relationships are shaped by the presence of menstruation.
(Spoiler Alert: The following discussion includes details that might undermine a new viewer’s enjoyment of the program.)
As is the practice in the new genre of Internet-based series released by Amazon, Netflix, Hulu and other providers, all of the episodes were released at once and the development of the drama leads up to a finale that allows for the creation of another season of episodes depending on its popular success and the availability of the stars of the show. Kevin Bacon plays the title character.
“I Love Dick” has a good time living up to the unsubtle double entendre of its title. One of the main characters, Chris, an aspiring art film creator who is married to a man who has received a visiting writer award to work at a creative arts institute in Marfa, Texas, develops a passionate sexual obsession with the creative director of the institute, a man named Dick. Furthermore, from the very opening scenes of the series and repeated often throughout, Chris, played by Kathryn Hahn, is portrayed as a woman with a very strong libido. Yes, she embodies the sexual meaning of the title.
The main plot line of the first eight episodes focuses on whether or not her obsessive desire for Dick will ever be fulfilled, an outcome that is repeatedly thwarted by the fact that Dick claims that he finds her uninteresting and undesirable. As might be expected, it is not until the final episode that she and Dick finally have the fated sexual encounter and they are both thoroughly aroused. As they paw one another and tear at each other’s clothing the dialog captures the two physical details most associated with sexual arousal. As they grind against each other, she moans, “You’re so hard.” And when he slides his hand into her pants, he murmurs, “You’re so wet.” But when he pulls his hand out and reaches to stroke her face, his hand is dripping with blood.
He stops and stares at his hand. She blinks and asks, “What’s today’s date? Am I early?” Dick steps away and walks into the bathroom, closing the door behind him. Chris is left alone in the middle of the room repeatedly calling his name, while inside the bathroom Dick stands at the sink scrubbing his hands. After a short wait she grabs her jacket and walks out the door. A close shot shows a stream of blood running down her leg as she walks down the long country road away from Dick’s farm. That’s how the season concludes.
After eight episodes of lusty buildup and explicit carnality, viewers are left with a striking statement about the impact of menstruation on desire. The intrusive presence of menses — the wrong kind of vaginal wetness — brings to a screeching halt any possibility of sexual pleasure. Viewers are left to ponder several questions as they await the next season: Will Dick get over his menstrual aversion? Will this close encounter of the menstrual kind make him lose any later interest in pursuing Chris? Will Chris forgive his rejection and continue to pursue Dick when her period is over? Or will Dick’s callous treatment of her because of her period make her lose all desire — sexual and otherwise — she once had for him?
As they say on TV when it’s time for a commercial: Stay tuned for further developments.
David Linton is an Emeritus Professor at Marymount Manhattan College. He is also Editor of the SMCR Newsletter and a member of the Menstruation Matters editorial board. His research focus is on media representations of the menstrual cycle as well as how women and men relate to one another around the presence of menstruation.