I remember a time butt-cracks were unimaginable in respectable television. I am happy that is no longer the case, with Netflix’s recent erotic proclivities- Fifty Shades Freed, 365 Days, MILF, and now Dark Desires, all having reasonable amounts of butt, without crossing into the territory of full frontal nudity. We are shedding our Victorian mores, slowly. I say, give it a few years and that territory too shall be vanquished unless the censorship scissor finds its way into our beloved streaming platforms. (Though of course we have seen censorship with anti-Modi sentiments being axed from shows on Amazon Prime and Hotstar. Many streaming platforms signed onto a self-regulation code last year. This year in March, Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Minister Prakash Javadekar held a meeting wanting more stringent censorship.)
Dark Desire, the latest addition to Netflix, rummaged its way through the existing movies and shows to the top of the trending list. As I write this, it’s on Number 2.
Predictably on the show, you have good looking people doing good looking things to each other. But something is rotten, the rottenness lit up like a moratorium, with dull, wet colours. This is not the Mexico of stereotyped fanfare and pinatas. The first thing we see is a woman being whisked away by the police, and she looks back at her house clotted with blood-stains. There’s a flashback. Alma (Maite Perroni), a law professor, is with her friend Brenda who is recovering from a cheating husband. Alma fears her husband Leonardo (Jorge Poza), a lawyer renowned for his moral uprightness, too is on the same route of infidelity. They used to have “72-hour long love marathons” in seedy motels but now even their shower-sex is hurting. Alma and Brenda decide to go to a party, and find each other men to shack up with for the night. It’s just sex, Brenda articulates and Alma acquiesces as she finds Dario (Alejandro Speitzer), ab-ed, clothed in tucked, tight vests under fluttering unbuttoned shirts, all of which would wither away as they thrust into the night.
The first five episodes clearly draw the viewer in with sex plotted right in the middle of the episode, like the elaborately designed sextravaganza on a boat smack in the middle of 365 Days.
The first five episodes are carefully designed: one explicit sex scene per episode, and half an hour of agonizing drama designed around it. The drama turns stale quite quickly. (The episode titles begin to get less sexual as the show progresses.) Brenda is found dead; it seems she killed herself- a bloody blade, alcohol and clonazepam. Alma finds herself increasingly drawn to Dario who turns out to be a student at her seminar. (He is stalking her, and there is a reason, this is an 18 episode tirade of sex and murder with ill intentions and ill-er outcomes.) Leonardo’s infidelity turns out to be more sinister. Then there’s Esteban, Leonardo’s brother, both with hairlines betraying the brutal ageing process, a detective who has trouble walking. Then there’s also Zoe, the teenaged goth (possibly) lesbian child of Alma and Leonardo who will get embroiled in the Dario tale.
This is a bit of a spoiler, but at one point you realize that the brothers had sex with the same woman, and mother and daughter with the same man. All the sex is shown, all butts bare, as intentions uncloud.
I only watched five episodes, and speed-watched another five to get a sense of the direction of the story, and the plotting process. The first five episodes clearly draw the viewer in with sex plotted right in the middle of the episode, like the elaborately designed sextravaganza on a boat smack in the middle of 365 Days. But thereon, the drama seems to take precedence. This might have been a good decision had the story itself been less indulgent. I tired easily by the time the first two ‘twists’ manifested themselves. The episode length, sometimes at 40 minutes, also feels stretched.
Now, bad content of this show aside, the fact that such content is made and watched enthusiastically should make us think about how we have seen sex as a solely a B-Grade streaming prerogative. But now with Netflix’s sextreme content, and Prime’s recent flourishes with Rasbhari (which wasn’t erotica per-se, but quite charged nonetheless), we must ask: do people with ‘refined taste’ detest shows on platforms like Ullu, ALT Balaji, and MX Player because of the sex in their shows, or because how bad the sex in their shows is? If it’s the latter, it’s understandable, but if it’s the former, some soul searching is in place. You can’t lust Jamie Dornan and throw Gandii Baat under the bus for below the belt content at the same time. Sex sells, and we are all consumers.