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TV Review: SMILF (Season 1, Episode 4)

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Bridgette takes on toxic masculinity in A Deep Dish Pizza and a Shot of Holy Water.

We catch up with Bridgette immediately after the Craigslist stranger assaulted her, playing basketball in the middle of the night and dreaming of the WNBA. Her euphoria is shortlived, as she’s almost immediately robbed of Larry’s iPad and her Jordans by teenage boys.

The incident- compounded no doubt by her recent sexual assault- spurs Bridgette into action. Tired of being subject to toxic masculinity rather than the beneficiary of it, Bridgette starts approaching life with “the confidence of a mediocre white guy”, as Eliza puts it.

She aggressively propositions a store clerk and verbally abuses him throughout sex, even telling him “you’re prettier than you know” as George from Craigslist did before assaulting her. However much Bridgette might claim to have blocked out the encounter, her perception of masculine tropes is clearly linked to the sexual aggression she’s experienced in the past.

Bridgette’s past throws up another key theme of A Deep Dish Pizza and a Shot of Holy Water- her antipathy for religion. Tutu’s devotion to Catholicism is tested by Bridgette’s refusal to baptise Larry, and her assertion that the Virgin Mary was raped by the Apostles caused controversy both in-universe and off-screen by Christian organisations.

Although we don’t yet know what triggered her hatred of religion, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was somehow linked to Bridgette’s sexual abuse. The two are connected throughout this episode- the defaced mural of Mary and the voyeur masturbating above the women’s changing room are just two examples of this.

Perhaps that’s why the episode’s subplot feels so upsetting. When Rafi learns from Nelson that Bridgette had Larry vaccinated, he feels compelled to take some control of his son’s life. Aided by Tutu, Rafi takes Larry to be baptised whilst Bridgette, Eliza, and Nelson are all taking part in the Muscle Man mud run.

The aggressively masculine nature of the mud run is expertly skewered by SMILF. Absurd though the emphasis on “protein and testosterone and balls” is, it carries Bridgette through the obstacle course until the fake penis she’s been shoving down her leggings gets stuck on a climbing wall.

By literally and metaphorically throwing the penis away (subtle, SMILF isn’t), Bridgette’s able to reach the end of the course and adopt a female power fantasy instead. In imagined Wonder Woman regalia, Bridgette can at least attempt the electrocution section of the course before having to be carried home by Nelson.

The high of Bridgette, Eliza, and Nelson’s victory doesn’t last long, as Bridgette discovers Larry has been baptised and publicly confronts Rafi. The casual cruelty of their words to each other - Bridgette is “on her high horse alone”, Rafi wants “a prize for showing up to be a dad” - makes for brutal viewing.

Once again, SMILF has shown that whilst it’s periodically funny, it functions much better as a drama than a comedy. It’s far easier to appreciate the show’s merits when viewing it in this way, rather than waiting for a laugh-out-loud joke that never arrives. Luckily, the chemistry of the cast allows SMILF to move from the sublime to the ridiculous with ease, and so at the season’s halfway point, the show still feels fresh.

SMILF airs on Sky Atlantic every Wednesday at 10.00pm. 

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