By Sharan Saikumar Feb. 03, 2019
The View at 40 is a weekly column about sniping at youth. This week, we watched the new web series, Four More Shots Please! and heard lots of orgasming.
watched the new Amazon Prime series Four More Shots Please!, on close to mute after the first episode, terrified that my son and dog sitting in the other room would judge me. Right from episode 1 to episode 10, the four supremely styled women of the series engage in a series of trysts with sex – and loud ones at that.
Sex is a full-time job for Damini, Umang, Siddhi, and Anjana. Either they’re having too much, or having none, or having it with themselves, or having it with the wrong people, the right people, the intern, the barman, the best friend, and even the outrageously good looking neighbourhood gynaec they conveniently bump into at bars. With all that fucking it’s a miracle they manage to get any work done at all.
I made my mother watch ten minutes of it and she sat through them brimming with judgment for our generation. Not because of all the wanton sex but because these women seemed deeply unlikeable. They are insecure, entitled, and painfully raw feminists who obsess over their vaginas and offer to ball-break any boys who dare offer them drinks. Their definition of feminism seems to loosely translate to “thou shalt be allowed to get away with behaving as badly, as irresponsibly as you want.” The show logline tells us they are celebrating their flaws, but at the end of the series you want to tell them that they really shouldn’t be.
Now like every Indian mother, mine is very wary of this feminism thing. She treats it like some deadly Sriracha sauce to be used only very sparingly. She’s raised her daughters to be modern… but not too modern. Independent, but not too independent. Just the right amount of feminism sprinkled and adjusted for Indian taste. Anything more than that will ruin the dish and nobody will like it.
She’s right of course. Feminism is not a very likeable thing. The relentless work of wresting power can be painful to watch. Whether it’s in a marriage or a job, the narrative is a predictable one, and it’s been mythologised to ball-busting levels. No wonder Kareena Kapoor doesn’t want anything to do with it. Poo knows that if she gets too strident about her rights and shit, Laddoo will not like her and choose someone more adaptive. Someone who can keep his mummy, daddy, bhaiya, and bhabhi happy. Everyone likes adaptive women. They “keep the family together”.
I’ve lost count of the times my mother has used this line. Women keep a family together. And indeed, she was right. All around us, the truth of this is self evident. Women do the work of the family, the friends, the relationships – the men ride along and everyone is happy. But what happens when one day, you wake up in a world where the women refuse to be adaptive? They resign from their job as the Family Glue. And what if, like the women in Four More Shots Please!, they’re chockful of Sriracha? Is my mother right? Will nobody like them?
The four women in this series refuse to be adaptive in a way that borders on gross stupidity. They’re unforgivably shallow, they fuck up relationships intentionally, and create chaos needlessly. You imagine that a project created by an almost all-women crew, will treat its women with a kinder lens but the creators of this series seem to be done with giving women a facial and making them glow. It’s like they are thrusting their imperfections down our throats and demanding to know what we should do with them. And frankly, we have no answers. Will the men be forced to become the better gender?
But what happens when one day, you wake up in a world where the women refuse to be adaptive? They resign from their job as the Family Glue.
Four More Shots Please! certainly seems to think so. All the four supporting male leads play no more than the role of pretty and supportive wallflowers (the role women have been playing for a while now). In fact, the central conflict in this series – unlike in Sex & The City – is not men vs women at all, but women vs women.
Damini is fighting her female boss, an unflinching capitalist in FabIndia sarees; Umang is having her heart broken by her selfish lady love; Anjana is obsessing over Kavya, the new girlfriend of her ex-husband; and Siddhi is in a battle unto death with her waspish mother, a Gujarati Simone Singh who only glares in designer clothes through the series.
Each of these antagonists represents a fight against expectation in some way – the boss is the glass ceiling we want to break, the role of the wife we can’t live with or without, the parental line we are constantly asked to toe. In New York Carrie and her gang may be in a battle with men, but here in India, we are in a battle unto death with society and social conditioning. We are up against the institution.
And they are good fights to fight. It’s just sad then that the weapons that the girls use most frequently are alcohol and sex. Four shots of tequila and loud orgasms is their answer to most of life’s problems. That and screaming “VAGINAAAAAA!” loudly into a pitch black sea. (At this point, my mother stopped watching, and gave up on an entire generation).
But I rewound the scene and watched it again late at night and turned up the volume. The women sit in a public space late into the night and scream out the hundred pejorative words assigned to their womanhood. They really live the moment together, forgetting their self-involved lives for one second. I realised that when I was watching it alone, free of judgement, I was left oddly satisfied by a sense of cathartic release. It’s a simple idea – just making a word less dirty by saying it out loud, making it a joke, stripping it of its shame.
Maybe that’s why the sex is so loud in the series. Maybe everyone needs to go through the discomfort and hear more woman moaning, orgasming, screaming out the word vagina and doing inconvenient things and generally being as unlikable and non-adaptive as they want to be. It’s a privilege we’ve never enjoyed until now.
One hopes, of course, that the next time we pull off these all female projects we may perhaps not offer such wafer-thin plots and choose to invest in good actors instead of good clothes, and actually work at a story instead of rushing to fulfil a feminist agenda because that’s the cause du jour. Then, my mother might even watch.
Because God knows she could use some Sriracha sauce!