She'd Like To Make An Unethical Investment - In Another Man's Penis
Sex/Life is terrible but I wrote about it. (The above is my imitation of a NYT headline. How did I do.)
Sarah Shahi is Billie, a Greenwich stay-at-home mom married to Cooper (Mike Vogel), your typical self-righteous passive aggressive adult child of alcoholics. They have a big white house that looks like three houses mushed together. They also have an infant, a toddler, and (spoiler alert) a less than exciting sex life. So Billie stays up late drinking and writing a sex journal about her ex, Brad, your typical intimacy-avoidant addict adult child of alcoholics, and eventually they run into each other and make mating noises.
The sex Billie and Brad had is pretty much like sex lots of people have (oral sex! “from behind!” sex). Brad did eat chocolate out of Billie’s ass crack, which, fine, let’s say this activity is arguably memorable. The big question this show asks is whether you should leave your husband for a man who once ate chocolate out of your ass. It’s a story as old as time.
(Before I continue, it must be said that Sarah Shahi has the hardest nipples I’ve ever seen in my life. Come to think of it, one of the few sexual positions she does not get into over the course of the show is “from behind, against a tree” presumably because after about ten thrusts, her nipples would make swiss cheese of it, and might even cause enough structural damage to fell the poor guy. Of course this would provide an opportunity for Brad to balance the fallen tree on his massive cock (20:01, Episode Three), and then Billie could stop whining to girlfriends “I’m just wondering if there’s more to life than Cooper” and simply declare, “I’m leaving my husband for a man who can balance a tree on his cock.” They’d all help her pack, and that would be the end of it.)
I’m not certain that the world needs another comment on Sex/Life. Scaachi Koul’s assessment in Buzzfeed of this show as “an incel day-mare” said almost everything. My sole purpose for writing more about it is to discuss Cooper’s job.
Cooper is in “true impact investing,” which is sometimes also referred to as “ethical” or “sustainable” investing. It is through this job — this laughable rebranding of plain old investment banking — that Billie and Cooper meet-cute on the Columbia University quad. She is a grad student in the psych department (more about that later). He makes up an excuse to ask her for directions because he thinks she’s hot. (Every actor in this scene with a speaking part is wearing brand new shiny leather gloves, all the extras are bare-handed. The weather looks balmy, the foliage abundant, it is bizarre.) Billie then follows Cooper to a company recruitment event and watches, doe-eyed, as he sells a roomful of prospective MBAs on what’s allegedly the softer side of capital: “Now, I’m not saying that we’re curing cancer”— his lowers his voice to an obnoxious conspiratorial whisper—“except we kind of are.”
“CHUCKLE CHUCKLE CHUCKLE” goes the audience. “Isn’t it hilarious that to prevent people from dying we are forced to raise money? Hahahaaahaha. Hysterical!”
Cooper goes on to praise Henry Ford, noted white surpremacist; Steve Jobs, the inspiration behind you and your children’s lack of attention-span and empathy (not to mention so many worker-suicides in China) and finally, Elon Musk. “Their dream was not to make money,” Cooper says, “Their dream was to change the future for the better. Money’s just what they got for being right.”
It’s the sort of dialogue that makes you want to get your broker on the phone immediately: “Mikey, put everything I’ve got on puke emojis!” But Billie listens to his repulsive schpiel with an almost motherly smile on her face, like, can you believe this handsome man with a six pack whose hair and face and body are all the color of Silly Putty also cares about cancer? How sweet.
They get drinks, and Cooper tells Billie that Ford came to him in a dream and told him to read “The International Jew,” one of his favorite books. I’m just kidding. This was one of Ford’s favorite books. But Cooper didn’t really say that to her. They spent the date talking about Billie’s high school cheerleading career. He said he’d like to see her moves. They get married.
Brad — the competition who dumped her eight years ago — is a record executive. The two men’s jobs are obviously meant to contrast: one makes music, the other saves lives and randomly just “gets” money. Presumably the guy who makes music also makes money, but this money is “bad” money, for buying penthouses and expensive liquor. The true impact investor’s “good” money buys an old rambling house (or McMansion made to look like one?), diapers, the Mac on which his wife narrates the dream of getting fucked by another man, and the Vermont Country Store white cotton nightgowns she wears while writing it.
We see Brad at work, but there is no exposition about it. It’s just like, “Here is a man who, in his valiant quest to stay upright while carrying a nineteen pound weight between his legs, occasionally crosses paths with a band or singer.” We see Billie in her former grad student life, giving a lecture about “the efficacy of traditional monogamy” in a room with an arched ceiling and leaded stained-glass windows. College is more banal and middlebrow than we like to think, that said, I doubt a lecture in a Columbia undergrad psych class would sound like it was ripped straight from Marie Claire. I also doubt over the course of her attenuated career as a teaching assistant Billie worked in a room with windows, much less stained glass ones.
Now, Cooper’s job is no less visually idealized than Brad and Billie’s — investment bankers do not all look like models, their offices and clothes are not that nice, their meetings are longer and more boring — but the amount of time on this show given over to describing what wonderful people true impact investors are, and what they allegedly do, is truly astounding. “I got a big fancy offer from Morgan Stanley, and I took it,” Cooper tells the potential recruits. Big dramatic pause... “And then I couldn’t look myself in the mirror for three years.” Three episodes later his extremely hot boss/potential lover confides, at excruciating length: “Last year I closed the UniBank merger and got the highest bonus of any woman at Goldman … But then I saw this article about a start up 3D bioprinting company that could make organ replacement available all over the world, and I realized my moment of success was a total fail...I started in this business with a dream that I could change the world with money. Instead, the money changed me.” Jesus Fucking Christ!
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that this show is some kind of secret project to advertise ethical investing while distracting you with poolside orgasms. Let’s just stick to the surface: this is a show about a woman ostensibly choosing between something risky and exciting and something safe and a little dull. The safe, dull thing, as represented by Cooper, is ethical investing. But ethical investing is not any different from any other investing. I don’t want to write a whole treatise laying this out, it’s just true that the only way to accumulate profit is to get people to create more value with their work than you actually pay them. This is not a political philosophy. This is a fact. Ethical investing is just investing; Cooper’s job is to make money. “I never thought I’d leave Morgan Stanley to become one of the good guys,” toasts a colleague at a holiday party. “Cooper sucked me in with his “change the world” hoo-ha…but we have had a very big year.” So amazing, all they did was be wonderful and the money just showed up.
You’re supposed to like Cooper, I think, and that’s why it’s important Cooper not be just an investment banker. Everyone knows investment bankers are dicks: Gordon Gekko in Wall Street, Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, Dan Aykroyd for the first half of Trading Places. Even Cooper knows investment bankers are dicks — he used to be one and he was ashamed of himself. But now that he’s a true impact investor, he is at peace. He loves himself. The most Cooper thing is him pulling up to his giant suburban house and New Englandsplaining to Billie, “Connecticut is the Algonquin word for the land of the long tidal river.” Billie is super touched by this, again, in an almost motherly way, like “What a sweetheart to care about all the indigenous people buried on his acreage. ”
This show is so bad. A friend wrote me over the weekend: “I can’t stop watching this every scene is awful in so many ways what is wrong with me?” I had the same problem. The worst thing about it was Billie and Cooper himself were ignorant enough to believe that “true impact investing” was different from regular investing. Clearly, Billie is not that into Cooper, no matter how much she insists that she loves him. I thought to myself, if only Billie could understand that impact investing and regular investing are the same thing, Cooper would lose his saintly veneer, and she would leave him in a second. If one of the rich women continually whispering “marriage is hard work” to Billie would change it up, even once, and tell our horny heroine, “Ok, someone clearly needs to explain to you how profits work,” Billie would be free.