Downtown . . . in Hemlock Grove

Okay, so this isn’t exactly a nice post, and anyone who really gets upset by sexual discussions might want to just scroll on past . . .

Ok . . .

We ready?

Yeah?

All right.

So, I spent several hours of my irreplaceable precious life watching Netflix’s newest “Made for Netflix” series, Hemlock Grove. And, yeah, it was a pretty silly way to waste 12 hours of my life, but I found it campy and amusing in its own way, and the kid who played the werewolf was, well, really cute, in an adorable “Don’t you want to pet him and feed him a sandwich and check his i.d. to see if he’s over 18 before you ogle him” kind of way.

I was most interested, however, by the way the show depicted sexual encounters. I’m going to give you a huge spoiler alert right now and say that, if you haven’t finished watching the show (or ever want to watch a silly “vampires-and-werewolves-fight-crime” show), you might want to stop here.

Spoiler space

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Okay, now that we’ve eliminated the readers who don’t like to discuss human sexuality and those who don’t want to be spoiled for Hemlock Grove . . .

(You guys HAVE stopped reading, right? Here’s your last chance.)

The whole show, since it’s a made-for-online show, doesn’t fall under the rules for TV shows, so it has some pretty explicit sexualized scenes. That’s not exactly surprising in a world where HBO is the big bad boy on the street. There’s one scene that’s a positively-portrayed sex scene between high school seniors, which is questionable at best. Since they are each other’s “true loves”, however, we’re supposed to let it slide. Another scene is, frankly, rape.

One spoiler that you’d need to understand the rest is that two of the characters, a mother (Olivia) and son (Roman) are basically vampires. They have mind-control powers. Roman is 17 and can force people to do acts against their will, although every time he uses this power, he gets a nosebleed. His mother never spills a drop of blood, although we highly suspect throughout that she’s controlling people more subtly. Roman doesn’t know he’s a vampire, however, and may just be a novice at the whole thing. He craves blood, especially during sex, and we see him cutting himself during sex in order to facilitate his little vampiristic bloodlust. Creepy, but, well, not the creepiest thing we’ve ever seen.

We do, however, see him a) spot a girl who is on her period, since she has a tampon sticking brazenly out of her purse, b) follow her to the bathroom, and c) persuade her (possibly with his mind-control, we don’t know for sure) to allow him to perform oral sex upon her.

That was pretty creepy. And, honestly, menstrual blood isn’t per-se blood, but that’s probably too nit-picky for most people. But it’s still a pretty questionable way for anyone to portray cunnilingus. Gross, really.

The two young lovers (the werewolf and his pregnant girlfriend) do use a little oral stimulation by the male before they get the bed rockin’, but it’s clearly foreplay and definitely a situation where it’s freely engaged-in and pleasurable for both parties. Applause, at least, for that.

The other two instances, however, are definitely questionable, and both for the same reason: the vampire mind control bit. The mother, Olivia, has a scene where she is receiving such pleasuring by her (married) brother-in-law. Afterwards, he stands up and straightens his tie and she sends him back off to work . . . we get a strong hint, here, that she coerced him to do this. In the last episode, we see her directly mind-controlling this same man, so it’s definitely a possibility that she’s been playing with his head all along (Don’t kill me for the pun, it was unintentional, I swear!)

The last instance is during the rape scene– Roman begins what seems like a consensual encounter with a young woman by giving her some rather perfunctory oral stimulation. Then he rapes her. After this very heinous and terrible act, he makes it worse by using his mind control powers to force her to forget the whole thing. It’s almost impossible to retain any sympathy for his character after this point, no matter what comes afterwards. All in all, it was a wrenching scene, made worse by the fact that he briefly made the young woman think it was going to be a good encounter– by doing that act which is, presumably, for the woman’s pleasure.

So, we have four instances of oral sex being performed upon a woman. Three of those are definitely not positive depictions of the act. The last one is . . . troubling. Not because cunnilingus is prohibited during the marital act, no, but because it wasn’t between a married couple, for one, and two because these two young people weren’t supposed to be adults.

That last fact was . . . dare I say it, unintentionally, rendered the most squicky and uncomfortable by its timing in the show– I’ll explain.

The young werewolf and his girlfriend are walking peacefully across a large lawn. They sit down on the hill, cuddle, and exchange soft words. The werewolf hunter, who is watching them with binoculars from afar, looks at them and says, “They’re children. They’re all just children.”

And then it cuts to the explicit sex scene.

If it wasn’t intentional, the director needs a kick in the nuts.

Ahem. Just my opinion, of course.

All in all, Hemlock Grove was not a victory for a discerning viewer when it comes to depicting oral sex. Some people may question whether it should ever be depicted, period– of course, that’s a problem in and of itself. I happen to think that, if it is depicted, it should be in a way that doesn’t make it either a) disgusting, b) non-consensual, or c) illicit. Possibly, that can never happen. I’m no expert in the field.

I am, however, disappointed, Hemlock Grove.

Very, very disappoint.

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About endurancemom

Writer of fantasy and historical fantasy fiction, mother of 6, former nurse, Catholic convert, wife of 24 years, and general all-around geek. Warning: Do not attempt this at home. View all posts by endurancemom

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