TRANSPARENT recap: “Kina Hora”

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Transparent season 2 ep 1 for web.jpg

The introductory film clips that were used for the first season very much set a tone for the season of the transgender revelation of Maura.  Most of the scenes were of family, including a feminine dancing boy (think Mae West), and a series of drag shows.

This season the boy and the drag were still there, but new clips had been added that hint at offering some different themes for the second season.  The new clips included immigrants getting off of boats, the Statue of Liberty, a 1930s gay and lesbian party, kissing lesbians, plus lesbian/women’s rights protests from the 70s and 80s.  I judged by this that the immigrant history of the Pfefferman family from 1930s Germany, as well as more recent events that seemed as though they had not happened and left Maura blissfully innocent of the struggles her generation from the 1960s forward.

Why does this episode have the title "Kina Hora?"  Kina Hora is a Yiddish expression, usually followed by spitting, to ward off the evil eye.  It is to prevent the evil eye, which can be caused by envy, from harming the success or happiness of others.  As the second season began there was much about the Pfefferman family that might be harmed by the envy of others invoking the evil eye.  Sarah and Tammy were preparing to get married.  Josh and Rachel had become a couple and Josh was bonding with his son Colton.  Maura and Shelly seemed to be settling into some type of domestic bliss.  Even Ali seemed to finally be starting to find her way.

 

A white wedding?

The show began with the Pfefferman family gathering for a wedding photo in Palm Springs.  They were all were immaculate in their pure white clothing from head to toe, except for Ali who sported a lavender tie with her white suit.  Of to the side a white clad wedding director, could they have had a gayer stereotype, and his photographer, Reggie.  Once all the racket of Pfefferman yacking was a bit subdued, they were all there: the original nuclear family, plus Bianca, Colton and, of course, Tammy.  Time for everyone to smile: the photographer suggested everyone say “Cindy Loo,” which evoked a plea for something Jewish.  The photographer replied, “I want a little wine.”  Doubtless being a pun on wine and whine, maybe?  Then Hanukah was suggested.  Clearly, there was stress between a Jewish family and the white wedding.  Maura repeatedly asked Reggie, did he want her to hold her head up or down. 

Reggie finally answered, “I think head up for you, sir.”

Maura whispered to Shelly, “Did he call me sir?”

Shelly, “Yes”

“We’re done!” exclaimed Maura as she and Shelly left the group.  Being misgendered can be very painful.

Next Tammy’s family, the Cashmans, moved in to replace the Pfeffermans.  Tammy was busy organizing everyone, when two women standing in the foreground were summoned to join the group.  One of these women was Tig Notero (about whom more in a minute), who was playing Barb, Tammy’s ex. 

The other woman said to Barb, “this is more like sister wives.”

Barb replied, “she’s collecting them like Pokemon.”

Why was I so delighted to see Tig in the show?  Other than I find her dry laidback humor wonderful, she was Mississippi sister doing good, this time as a stand-up comic, and now was in the cast of Transparent.   She had a pilot episode of a show on Amazon, “One Mississippi,” which I watched and hoped it would make it as a series, but I guess it didn’t.

 

These are your people

After the photo Josh and Rachel were escaping the crowd for a brief conversation about their pregnancy, as in “we’re pregnant,” said Josh.  He was going to do the right thing this time.  Rachel’s only requested that he not tell anyone.

The next scene, Josh told Ali that Rachel was pregnant; followed quickly by Ali going to the room where Sarah was getting ready for the wedding ceremony. 

Soon, Sarah questioned, “He knocked her Rabbi ass up?”

“Yes, he did,” answered Ali.

Sarah half whined, “This is my day.”  Then complained to the person doing her make-up that her eyebrows were too ebony.  Suddenly Sarah’s children romped into the room wanting to know were their daddy was.  To which, Sarah had to reply that she did not invite him, which led to the kids wanting to know why?  Ali, as she so often did, saved the day by saying in a very excited voice, “we need to rehearse your flower petal throwing.”  Shelly, the ever critical mom, had arrived, and had to add upon her exit, ”your eyebrows are too dark.

Everyone was gathering outdoors for the wedding ceremony itself.  Maura and her friend Davina were chatting, when Shelly walked-up and Maura joined her.

Suddenly Maura noticed that her sister was there.  “Oh, my God.  My sister is here.”  Josh was standing with Colton, in all his tall, built, fair, blond handsomeness, checking to see if he was meeting people and assuring him that “these are your people,” who will always love you. 

Maura demanded of Ali, who invited my sister? Ali tried to explain that Sarah had so few people and Tammy had so many, that she had even invited her Facebook friends.

Maura now approached her sister to which she responded, “My God look at you,” in a disapproving voice. 

Maura took off her sunglasses and said, “O.K. Look at me. Just to be clear I didn’t think mom could handle this (as she moved her hand up and down in front of her).  So, that’s why I haven’t been to see her.”

Which drew the retort from her sister, “You didn’t she her before.”

Before the conversation ended Maura accused her sister of coming to the wedding just to tell her that.

The camera moved to a conversation between Shelly and a relative of hers.  Noticing the rather Nordic Colton, the relative quietly said, “He doesn’t look like us.”  Shelly assured her that they got the DNA tested and that Colton was Josh’s son.  She then added that on Colton’s mother’s side there was “a Norwegian shot putter” and that was why Colton was tall and fair.  The camera then panned to Josh and Rachel who were being all suggly duggly and lovey dovey.

Back to Shelly and Maura discussing his sister.

Maura, “she is a filing cabinet with a hairdo.  She hated me…..When I was little, she used to accuse me of wearing her clothes.”

Shelly quizzed, “Did you?”

“Of course,” answered Maura and then she continued, “she is on the record as anti-gay.  I don’t know what she is doing here.”  Maura finally concluded, “to get a gander at this” as she pointed up and down her body.

The scene closed as Sarah complained that she just did not have any people when compared to Tammy.

 

Up the aisle and down the hole

Tammy stood waiting with her father and Rabbi Rachel at the end of the bridal path with an enormous smile on her face.  Sarah began to walk up the aisle to join Tammy.  Sarah’s smile turned to dismay as she walked.  Sarah was having an out of body experience, Tammy’s people were all gracious and smiling at the bride, while on the other side, Sarah’s people were laughing hysterically.  Everything faded into a haze, as Sarah arrived beside Tammy.  Finally, Tammy began to earnestly recite the sweetest vow to Sarah,

“My sweet darling.  I promise to grow with you.  To delight in your growth.  To make love to you.  To make-up love with you.  And most of all to inspire you…

 At which point, Sarah returned to a total haze and was distracted by a plane pulling an advertising banner behind it that read, “We buy ugly homes.com.” 

The brides kissed, the glasses broken and the party ensued, as the cake was cut, toasts were offered, and the dancing began.  Sarah told Shelly, “Josh got the Rabbi pregnant.”  Shelly then told Josh to have a good time, “sweetie.”  Tammy and her dad took the dance floor and Tammy was working the crowd.  Then the singer stepped to the mike to perform “Hava Nagila.”  “Let us rejoice,” was repeated in Hebrew slowly, almost mournfully, at first, before picking up to a dance tempo and the floor filled with people dancing in a circle, as Tammy frantically tried to find Sarah.  Sarah was no where to be seen because she was alone in the bathroom sitting on a toilet.

 

Berlin, 1933

The dancing party changed as Maura’s nephew took the center of the circle and began dancing.   He took off his jacket and began to twirl it above his head.  About that time my gaydar started pinging.  Suddenly, the scene morphed from the present to Berlin in 1933.  A band of merry queer partiers replaced the wedding party with Maura’s nephew in the center of the dancing.  This was the year that Hitler came to power in Germany, but also it was the end of a period of gay, lesbian, bi and trans freedom.  Because in the 1920s and 1930s Germany, especially Berlin, had moved far ahead of the western world in terms of queer liberation.  Think of the musical “Cabaret” if you want a more familiar image for the year 1933 in Germany. 

Much of what made Germany different was a leader named Magnus Herzfeld,  who was a Jewish doctor that argued that being gay was natural and normal, urged people to come out, and formed an organization to repeal the anti-gay laws in Germany.  He also came up with the term “transvestism.”  At any rate, that period in German history saw a remarkable growth in openness and acceptance for queers. Which also played a role in leading to the rise of Nazism, as they were the party of family values, to use an anachronistic term.  Part of the Nazi appeal to the German people, was their stand for the traditional family and against the deviants who threatened it.  Just as the Jews came to wear a yellow star, queers were required to wear a pink triangle, as the purification of Germany by death of  “the other” began.

 

I fucking hate Tammy

Sarah was seated on the toilet as Ali and Josh had come in search of her.  She was in mental agony and began her complaint

“Why did you let me do this?  I didn’t want to.  You let me,” Sarah moaned.

“I don’t know what I want to do.  I fucking hate Tammy and I hate her stupid fucking family, those WASPS.”

Meanwhile back to the party where Tammy continued to look for Sarah. 

She ran into Shelly and asked, “Where’s Sarah? I can’t find her anywhere.”

Shelly rose to the occasion by announcing, while we wait for the bride, “let’s celebrate Josh’s brand new baby.”  Tammy looked bewildered and Rachel was stunned.  Josh ran up to Rachel shouting he needed her help.  Rachel promptly asked, “who did you tell?”  Josh pled innocence, “nobody.”  Then, “how does your mom know?” questioned Rachel, as they entered the bathroom.

Sarah was moaning, “I am not ok.  I don’t want to be married.  Oh my God, I am fucking stuck with her for the rest of my fucking life.  I’m like legally bound to this fucking woman.”

Rachel responded, “It’s not done yet.  Jewish-wise you are married, but legally not yet….the city hasn’t stamped the license.  I haven’t sent it in.

A nonplussed Ali asked, “So what is a wedding then?”

“It’s a ritual, a pageant, “ said Rachel.

Ali looked at Sarah, “we are just in costume and you’re not married.”

Sarah grins and says in a happy little voice, “I’m not married” over and over. 

Yes, in western culture there were religious ceremonies for weddings, but in the eyes of the secular state, you were not legally married without a duly recorded marriage license.  Sarah was to escape through the marriage equality loophole.

 

The aftermath and peering into the future

The hall has emptied out and the tables are being bussed, while

Maura’s sister and nephew were gathering floral centerpieces.  Maura approached them and thanked them for coming and taps his nephew on the shoulder, “you were great.”  Maura then said she wanted to go see their mom, to which her sister replied,

“Don’t you dare, Mort!  I want her to get off this planet without knowing this.”  She pointed at Maura.  “Can you do that?  Can you just do something for somebody else?” 

That left Maura in deep contemplation; most likely she was dealing with a common issue for transgender people. The accusation that you were selfish and hurting those who love you and you owe them not to do that. The idea that transitioning was totally selfish, as you left your assigned place in the family and society. You had uniquely held a spot, that no one could fill, if you left your assigned place.  You were creating a void for everyone around you and they were the ones losing.  The best way, that I know of,  to deal with this, was a quote from Oscar Wilde,

“It is not selfish to live your life as you wish.  It is selfish to expect others to live their lives as you wish.” 

So, who then were the selfish people?

Now it was back to the hotel and a night’s rest for all.  To do this a neat artifice was used as the camera panned from the outside across the sliding glass doors of the respective rooms. 

Rachel and Josh approached their room with Josh still apologizing for having told Ali about the baby, rather than them telling people together.  As they entered the room, Rachel told him “don’t betray me and tell me it’s a gift.”  At this Josh exploded,

“I know what you are doing. Expecting me to disappoint you and then I do and its like OK. Great.  I want you to know that I told Ali because I was excited and so yes, I fucked up……[I am not going to let you do this] so you can prove this relationship to be wrong.

Next the camera moved to Sarah and Tammy’s room.  At last Sarah was telling Tammy she did not want to be married.  Sarah was seated on the bed and leaning over holding Tammy’s knees, as she was seated and looking longingly at Sarah.  Unlike the other rooms, the curtain on one side of the room was drawn.  The side that was the one that Tammy was on, as if to symbolically remove her from the family.

In the next room, Maura and Shelly were standing as Shelly gave Maura a gentle kiss on the cheek with her arms around Maura’s neck.  Shelly said, “I hope you feel beautiful.  Because you are,  so beautiful.”  Domestic bliss and affirmation filled the room.

The last room was Ali’s.  It was dark and she was alone.  She walked out on to the balcony and looked into the distance.  She walked to the end of the balcony and there was an empty chair behind her, when suddenly a woman from the 1930s cabaret appeared in the chair.  It was her friend Syd.

 

 

See also:

TRANSPARENT recap: "Flicky-Flicky, Thump-Thump" (season 2, episode 2)

 

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