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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    ‘Transparent’ draws out family drama


    Amazon Studios

    ʺTransparentʺ is a new web series on Amazon Prime starring Jeffrey Tambor. The family drama revolves around a father adjusting to his new identity as a transgender woman.

    Amazon Prime, a semi-hopeful contender to Netflix, recently dropped a ten-episode series starring Jeffrey Tambor, perfectly titled “Transparent.” While many reviews describe the show as perfect to binge on, the subject material of “Transparent” begs to be experienced at a slower pace.

    The show’s greatest strength is the way creator Jill Soloway deftly weaves a portrait of an affluent Los Angeles family into a social commentary on the destructive nature of secrets. “Transparent” is one of the greatest shows of this fall. It must be experienced with reverence and quiet reflection, the same way the story is presented.

    The plot focuses on Maura Pfefferman (Tambor), an ageing transgender person struggling to find the right way to tell her children about her life change. The children — the perfect word to describe them — all operate in their own worlds of selfishness and arrogance. Sarah Pfefferman (Amy Landecker), the eldest of the three, re-evaluates her sexuality after an encounter with a past lover. Josh Pfefferman (Jay Duplass) seems like a typical California bro until his past is revealed and viewers see how damaged his views on relationships and love are. Ali Pfefferman (Gaby Hoffman) abuses her body with substances and sex in the hope of feeling something more than just an ephemeral life experience.

    Maura Pfefferman’s change from patriarch to matriarch is the catalyst that sparks her children’s own self-discoveries. Through flashbacks, we see a connection between Maura Pfefferman’s past gender confusion and her children’s views on love and life.

    Though often narcissistic, Maura Pfefferman’s children all wander through the story with an aura of affability. Albeit a little unevenly-paced, the process of self-discovery each child makes is uplifting and handled with a subtle reminiscence of Soloway’s last masterful production, “Six Feet Under.” Soloway’s own father and sister were cited by the creator as inspiration for the show, both of whom struggled with their sexuality and speaking to the family about their lives.

    While the show deals with important subject material anchored by realistic performances, there’s a sense “Transparent” won’t be recognized in the awards season to come. Rather than playing up scenes for dramatic effect and peppering dialogue with zeal, Soloway simply crafts a story about four people finding the best way to care for themselves and others.

    The combination of well-structured character arcs, slow pace and a sense of city within the story calls to mind the realist genre of film’s yesteryear. While this type of story progression is relatively old in terms of cinema, television is still in a transitional period of genres and styles. This is where “Transparent” breaks new ground not just in terms of content, but in terms of television expectations.

    An accurate portrait of modern relationships, “Transparent” breaks free from the constraints of traditional television and establishes itself as one of this fall’s most admirable productions. With each actor at their best, scenes are a pleasure to watch. Instead of ploughing through social issues with irrelevant plotting, Soloway creates a tender portrait of the modern family, one which plays out with meditative grace and quiet charm.


    Liam Lowth is a guest writer. Follow him on Twitter.

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