The Cutting Edge

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Last week I wrote about how Alan Shore and Denny Crane from Boston Legal were brilliant illustrations of how successful men can be as much victims of the patriarchy as the patriarchy’s more obvious victims. Watching Nip/Tuck it occurred to me that the two male leads, Christian Troy (Julian McMahon) and Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh) were even more tragic victims.

We’ll start with Christian. He’s a hugely successful plastic surgeon – he’s wealthy and has women fall at his feet. And he’s absolutely miserable with no intellectual or emotional wealth in his life. He seduces women left, right and centre – his patients, his patients’ wives, his Sexaholics Anonymous sponsor – for a few minutes of physical pleasure followed by the return of haunting emptiness. His single-minded pursuit of sex is portrayed as an illness as opposed to a healthy male characteristic, which I find refreshing.

Troy is so self-absorbed that when he gets a girlfriend, a blind woman with an incredible sense of life and fulfilment, he eventually dumps her, telling her if he had her disability, he’d kill himself. Perhaps he knows that he should be happy when he has so much, and that this woman is happy despite such a disability only emphasizes the emptiness in his life.

He wants the only woman he can’t have – his colleague and friend’s wife, Julia. This is another illustration of Troy’s infantile sense of entitlement – no-one happy with their life, no-one with a sense of self-worth can be bothered chasing after something they’re not going to get.

And McNamara doesn’t come off much better. He’s spent all his life building his practice, only to realise one day that he doesn’t know his kids, and his wife resents him. He attempts to justify this by saying he was “˜providing’ for them, and when he discovers that his wife Julia had an affair with Troy years ago, he throws her to the curb and makes every effort to humiliate her. Fair enough that he felt he couldn’t forgive and forget, but to not direct his anger where it belonged, at Troy, was hypocritical; and to humiliate Julia at every turn was petty and vengeful. He’s a man who’s been brought up to believe that all he has to do is bring home the bacon, and everything else will fall into place; when it doesn’t, he behaves with a sense of sore losing that most five-year-olds would be ashamed of.

Nip/Tuck never portrays Troy’s sex addiction and emotional voidness or McNamara’s neglect of his family as healthy things, or as reasonable entitlements of men. They are, ironically, victims of the benefits of the patriarchy – they have wealth, and professional respect, but at immeasurable personal cost.

Nip/Tuck operates as a satire – it promotes the pursuit of good looks and money to the detriment of all else while on an underlying level saying “˜never follow this path; it ends in misery’. Troy and McNamara are rich and successful, but they’re miserable because they’ve pursued good looks and money to the detriment of all else.

Call me idealistic, but I’d rather be a poverty-stricken student at my beloved liberal arts university. Hey, at least I have intellectual and emotional fulfillment there.

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