I haven’t seen a soap opera since my sister (doubling as babysitter) forced me to watch a summer’s worth of All My Children back in 1983, but Young American Bodies, Joe’s Swanberg’s new web “soap opera” series for Nerve, might have me tuning in week after week.
In case you’re unfamiliar with Nerve.com, it’s sometimes summarized as a cross between Playboy and The New Yorker, which I suppose is the way we describe things that are “sexy” and “literate” these days. (How depressing it is that those two words like those have been branded? And how depressing is that the brands are those two publications? Alas, I digress…)
In addition to muting the melodrama and the sentimentality of typical soaps, Young American Bodies is graphic and frank when it comes to “adult situations”. Instead of cutting to that commercial for Cheer, or Joy, or All, we get some very matter-of-fact male and female nudity, sexy and otherwise. These episodes are for mature audiences and probably not safe for the workplace.
No, it’s not porn — not even close. First, only the nudity is graphic. The sex is not. Secondly, the emphasis is on characters and emotions. The episodes I’ve seen show people as they often are — emotionally ambivalent, confused, and at turns opportunistic and thoughtful. Swanberg’s interested in sex mainly as a way of talking about intimacy (or the lack of it) and that’s ultimately what makes the show worth watching.