I don’t have anything to say today, so I looked back through my old text files and found this thing I wrote after watching season 4 of Maron.
I had entirely forgotten that I watched this show at all until I read this, and I wrote this in July of 2017, so it was before I started my journey of having a baby on my own, but I was already planning to (I’d been planning to since I turned 30). I still haven’t seen anyone else mention what a horrific nightmare it was; probably because nobody watched it, but also probably because our society is so misogynistic.
Anyway, here’s an outdated rant about a show only ten people have seen. I consider it a cautionary tale against using a known donor. Happy Monday!
I enjoy Mark Maron, even though no one would ever accuse him of being especially enlightened. WTF got me through the terrible three months I spent in Austin temping at UT in dull data-entry jobs, and for that, I will always have a great affection for Maron and his weird garbly lispy voice. Marc himself is pretty sexist, but it doesn’t often come up on the podcast unless he has a guest who brings it out in him, in which case, he will participate with the gleeful delight of a child hanging out with a family friend who lets him swear. In seasons 1-3 of the show, however, it’s harder to ignore. There’s not outright, ugly misogyny, but more a view of women that just reads as very sadly dated. It’s like watching a sitcom from the late 80s or early 90s. And Maron does present himself as a throwback who likes vinyl and face-to-face interaction but is reasonably progressive otherwise, but I don’t think he’s really aware he’s dated in a more profound way, which can be a bit depressing to catch glimpses of, although it’s a bit helped by Maron’s self-absorption and limitations with other people being a self-conscious part of his comedic persona.
But then we come to Season Four.
Season Four begins with Marc having fallen off the wagon. He is living in a storage locker having lost everything, and hooked on oxy. His friends put him into rehab and put him up and in general spend the first half of the season shoving him back onto his feet. Then, Marc decides to skip town in his father’s RV for a new start.
So far, so harmlessly clichéd. But the problem begins with Marc’s intended destination. In Season Three, he agreed to be a sperm donor to the lesbian couple next door. Because it’s a sitcom, things went sideways, but the couple had their paperwork in order. Marc was never more to them than the witty educated neighbor with decent genes. He doesn’t know the last name of the biological mother, and they have not kept in touch even casually.
But he knows the small town she moved to, and he obtains her address from her disgruntled ex. He heads up to this town and decides to insert himself into his “son’s” life. Multiple people (including an imaginary version of himself) tell Marc that this is a terrible idea, that he is not this child’s father, that he has no claim on these people and that he will frighten and disturb them by showing up. But Marc just really WANTS to do this anyway: he finds himself in his 50s, alone, adrift, unsuccessful, and with no meaningful lasting relationships having never done any work to foster and maintain any.
But he feels entitled to have lasting familial contacts anyway now that he finally wants them, so he intends to steal them from someone else to who he once gave some of his sperm and absolutely nothing else. And the viewer is encouraged to sympathize with him in this.
When Marc confronts his former neighbor, Shay, and her mother, it’s terrifying. He immediately goes about inserting himself into every area of their lives. They cannot escape him. He shows up at the park, he parks outside their house, and then he turns up at Shay’s work and starts a scene. She screams for help, and her boss, coming out to see what is happening, recognizes Maron as a celebrity and befriends him right in front of his terrified employee. Later when Marc continues to show up at work, she is fired for being impolite to him.
This is where the problem really starts: because this shit is way, way too real, and Maron thinks it’s heightened. He thinks it’s funny. We’re meant to think it’s funny. But to women, it isn’t funny — I was watching a real life nightmare play out on screen. Shay’s boss takes Marc’s side, as do two old white men, military vets who reminisce fondly about the old days when authors were men because they shot their wives, and who convince Marc to be persistent and aggressive when he is about to throw in the towel and leave town — they tell him that this is “his child,” that no matter what the law or the child’s actual family says, Marc’s balls know the truth.
And so Marc stays, Marc persists, Marc threatens and stalks, Marc gets Shay fired, and eventually she relents. She agrees to include him in her life. In the closing shot, she smiles at him, gooey-eyed, as he holds her child. I think Maron actually thinks this is touching.
It gave me nightmares.