Masters of Sex: Fight
July 28, 2014 4:42 PM - Season 2, Episode 3 - Subscribe

Masters delivers a baby with ambiguous genitalia and urges the parents not to surgically assign the child a sex out of fear or convenience. Meeting Virginia at a hotel for a secret rendezvous, the two of them divide their attention between sexual role-play and a championship boxing match, prompting Virginia to unearth the truth of Masters'' troubled childhood.
posted by oh yeah! (4 comments total)
I had a hard time watching this episode. Knowing that the fight to stop the surgical mutilation of babies & children with ambiguous genitalia is still ongoing today, I figured it was too much to hope that poor little baby boy Bombeck would make it through the episode safely, but I still wasn't emotionally prepared for the reveal of the prep and surgery. I mean, I'm glad that the show went there, because barbaric things should be exposed for condemnation, but it was just so sad to watch that defenseless little baby.
posted by oh yeah! at 5:25 PM on July 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Here's a critique of how the episode handled intersex surgery: An Awkward and Uncomfortable Masters of Sex Gets Everything Wrong
posted by homunculus at 7:00 PM on July 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

From the article:
The whole thing left me with a really bad taste in my mouth. I'm happy to see the show exploring both intersex issues and Bill's masculinity — but not if the true medical history of the former has to be distorted and rewritten to support the latter.

Thanks for linking, that was well-written. I did think it was painting Bill in too good of a light for him to be the sole champion, but I guess I was too well-manipulated by the show to really see what they'd done there.
posted by oh yeah! at 8:05 PM on July 28, 2014

Who ever said Masters of Sex was writing "true medical history?" And why does so much online criticism of ambitious, multi-layered storytelling boil down to literal-minded complaints about "getting it wrong?" Not enough that this show should try to deal both sensitively and meaningfully with intersex surgery, but that it should instead make sure to blame all the right people, including its sensitively drawn protagonist and not including the kid's actual parent, for the problem? And if it doesn't, we can dismiss it entirely, because, jeez, it's getting everything wrong. Next up: What Justified Gets Wrong About Kentucky Law Enforcement, What True Blood Gets Wrong About Ted Cruz Rallies, and What Louie Gets Wrong About Being Louis C.K.

I thought the episode was maybe a little heavy-handed and obvious in the connections it's trying to draw, but that's a hazard of the so-called "bottle episode" -- the writers work so hard to make whatever happens in a scaled-down, single-location story resonate in context that the seams tend to show more clearly than they do in a conventional episode. This one had that problem, but I thought the boxing stuff actually worked pretty well (like Virginia, I have little more than clue one about what goes on in a boxing ring, even after watching Raging Bull a half-dozen times, so close commentary on the action always surprises me) and, yes, the baby's storyline worked to amplify the reveal of Bill's abusive family history by giving him an opportunity (finally) to emote, passionately, on the inappropriateness of that surgical procedure. Masters is a product of his conservative environment, yes, but it seems that his research into sexuality, as well as his knowledge of the hell that his friend Barton Scully is going through as he tries to zap all of the gay out of himself, is putting him on the vanguard of sensitivity among his fellow physicians with regard to gender roles and sexual identity. If that makes his portrayal here substantially more progressive than could be expected of actual physicians of the 1950s and 1960s, I'm OK with that; it serves the story, and the makers of period pieces cut corners like this all the time in order to make sure their main characters aren't completely disagreeable to modern viewers.

I'm glad to see some more development of Masters' character since I've long felt that Johnson has gotten a pretty fair deal from the series with the exception that I never understood, at all, what attraction she felt to the standoffish, often dickish Dr. Masters. As his character gains depth, so does her personal interest in him seem to be less poorly judged, and both of them benefit from the added nuance. So I thought this was a pretty solid episode, with some of the best acting work of the whole series, even if it feels a little schematic from a writing standpoint. Certainly it didn't get everything wrong.
posted by Mothlight at 6:03 AM on July 29, 2014 [6 favorites]

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