In the pilot of Jill Soloway’s amazing series Transparent, the former Mort Pfefferman prepares to come out as a trans woman to his three grown children, Sarah, Josh and Ali. The children, being unused to sudden dinner summons from their divorced father, expect him to announce that he has cancer. They have a boisterous family dinner in which they talk over each other, make rude jokes (When Sarah tells Josh to wipe the barbecue sauce off his face, he retorts, “Why don’t you wipe the barbecue sauce from inside your vagina?”), and talk about everything but the reason they’ve been asked to dinner. Maura—the former Mort—loses her nerve and announces instead that she’s moving out of the family house. This triggers a noisy argument over who should get the house.
Later, Maura tells a friend of her failure to reveal herself to her children. “I don’t know how it is that I raised three people that cannot see beyond themselves,” she sighs. Having read of its op-ed-ready premise, I tuned in to Amazon’s breakout series expecting a comedy-drama about a man in his 70s adjusting to his new life as a woman. It is that, and it is also the most intimate and unfiltered look at family I can recall seeing on television.
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