Netflix’s April drop of original content included the NSFW show BONDiNG. One drunken Friday night, I got pulled in by the trailer for it being ridiculous and decided, “What the hell? Let’s give it a pilot’s worth.” Turns out, it’s a comedy made web series style, so it’s incredibly short. Like 13-16 minutes short per episode, and there are only 7 episodes*. So, all things considered, even if you totally hated it by the end, you only wasted about an hour and a half of your life.
But is it worth it? My verdict is: Yes, with caution.
Rope, Giant Dildos, and is that the dude from Pete and Pete?
It’s definitely not the dude from Pete & Pete, don’t worry. Though the character’s name is Pete, it’s played by IRL stand-up comedian Brendan Scannel. Perhaps it’s a nod to that? Who knows. Regardless, he brings the initial narrative thread to the show by acting as the fish out of water for all of us as we enter Tiff’s world of psych grad school student who moonlights as a pro-domme. Tiff is played by Zoe Levin.
Bonding calls itself a dark comedy but unless sex work is suddenly dark, it’s not! It’s definitely light comedy going on. The show I guess seeks to shock you with its giant dildos and rope tying, but I didn’t find any of this shocking. The final episode maybe goes dark but it doesn’t fit the show at all and I almost don’t count it.
Okay, but I have questions and they’re mostly about consent
Here I’m about to get a little bit spoiler-y, so if you want a clean watch, stop reading now and go watch the show and come back (feel feel to skip ep7).
So, the show is clearly a comedy and obviously not intended as any form of true portrayal of domme work but… I have a lot of questions and I’m not the only one. Now, I myself have no experience in the worlds of domme work (or standup comedy work for that matter!) but there were some parts that made me go, “Wait, what? Is that even ok?”
1. Why isn’t there Consent from Pete beforehand?
2. Why isn’t there Consent from clients about Carter’s involvement beforehand?
These two are just consent problematic to me regarding the first episode for sure, and then later the penguin episode. Really any time Carter shows up with Mistress May, it seems like the client did NOT know that would be happening beforehand. Consent is a major, serious thing. Making the client’s lack of knowledge (and therefore consent) as well as Pete’s lack of knowledge/consent into a type of joke on the show is incredibly problematic — and potentially very dangerous for real people.
3. Why is she wearing a collar?
This one is more… wouldn’t a domme not wear a collar? Did they not do any research at all?!
4. Why is there a lack of clear boundaries between her personal and professional lives?
I get that she has a guy paying her to be her maid/slave thing and that’s fine. But why is he showing up where he’s not supposed to without permission? That was weird.
*Episode 7 is so problematic and disjointed, Skip it and End with Episode 6
You’re probably thinking, “Why didn’t Lorena include the question: Why didn’t she screen all her clients?” The reason is because I am not even recommending people watch episode 7. To me it was not a well written episode and didn’t fit with the rest of the series at all. Maybe I was too drunk in episode 6 and missed a major fight plot point, but I didn’t even see the function of the makeup session.
Regardless, the scene where the dude tries to attack them being compared to the cops catching them having sex in the woods was really, really problematic. No screening was out of character, first off, then showing that Tiff now would do that after all the slut shaming of Tiff in high school. No. No no no.
At that point I was certain the show wasn’t written by a woman (it’s written by some white dude named Rightor Doyle). And then it ended! And that was it! So, definitely NOT worth watching the final episode if you want to actually leave feeling good about the series.
What Is Good About Bonding on Netflix?
The best parts of Bonding, intentional perhaps to the show’s title, are the three main relationships. These are what kept me watching the whole series.
- Pete and Tiff: Their friendship is the most interesting thing in the show. They have the right amount of push and pull and great chemistry. Both are able to help push each other up throughout the series. They help each other go after their goals and gain self-confidence. It was nice to see.
- Pete and Josh: Pete meets Josh (Theo Stockman) while waiting on his table at his restaurant job. Their exchange is delightfully hilarious and worth not spoiling. Josh is a charming character and a fun contrast to the rest of the world Pete is living in. He sort of acts as the tether to the banal world for Pete, while not judging anything about Pete’s life. Plus he’s super supportive of Pete’s comedy goals. The perfect boyfriend, really.
- Tiff and Doug: Doug (Micah Stock) is such a GREAT character! He’s a super intriguing character as he’s quite unexpected. Very well acted too. Reminds me a little of Greg Finley from Star-Crossed. He’s definitely got the best arc of anyone in the show and I did not see it coming at all. I love how he is with Tiff and vice versa. An unexpected pairing that really works.
The show’s humor is fresh and Tiff isn’t a super likeable character. This was something I appreciated and found myself rooting for her. While I can see where the haters have bashed her personality, I think that they’re missing the point of how contradictory humans actually are. It seems that is a topic emerging writers are exploring more and more lately, which can only be a positive thing overall.