'Conversations between friends' or the new erotica of the bored twentysomething

Frances is a poet of spoken word (improvised poetry recitals) in his final year of studies in Dublin. Frances reads a lot because she is paid (rather poorly) to do so for a literary agency, she writes little and speaks less. She though she senses a deep inner life; so evident is her disaffection, such is her fondness for monosyllables and her reluctance in social interactions that even her mother implores her on a visit: “Please, she tries to show a little interest here ”. Seen from the outside, Frances could be another one of those 20-somethings with biorhythms and slow speech. Those who seem introverted and intriguing, those who are never interested in the fashions of the moment and whose appeal lies in projecting a minimum effort with their appearance. Young people who at parties look at everything from a corner, distant, while the rest wonder if that girl is absent because she is one of the mysterious and intense inside or she is a textbook bland.

Frances is the protagonist of conversations between friends, the adaptation of the first novel by the Irish Sally Rooney (County Mayo, 31 years old), the one that was published in 2018 and that gave rise to the lucrative phenomenon of a writer who, much to her regret, has been hung up on sanbenito of being the voice of his generation. The series, which is in its fourth episode and will reach 12 weekly episodes in Spain on HBO Max, is directed by Lenny Abrahamson, the same person who took charge of bringing to the small screen Normal people, the second novel and true publishing phenomenon that elevated Rooney. Far from having the magnetism radiated by the Marianne of Normal people, for much of the critics, with Frances “a new limit has been reached in the representation of the boring white girl”. So writes cultural critic Sarah Hagi on the web gawker, where a strange paradox stands out with this new television production: “It has two of the most insignificant protagonists possible, but the series is practically hypnotic,” he says. And he is not without reason.

Sasha Lane as Bobbi, Frances's best friend and ex-partner on the series.  The show also offers the first generational portrait of a young woman diagnosed with endometriosis (Frances).
Sasha Lane as Bobbi, Frances’s best friend and ex-partner on the series. The show also offers the first generational portrait of a young woman diagnosed with endometriosis (Frances).hbo max

conversations between friends is about the intertwined relationships between Frances (Alison Oliver) and Bobbi (Sasha Lure) with Melissa (Jemima Kirke) and Nick (Joe Alwyn, an actor coming off Taylor Swift’s boyfriend label after going through this series, The Souvenir: Part IIby Joanna Hog; Stars at Noonby Claire Denis and face the long-awaited version of Return to Brideshead, by Luca Guadagnino). In this fiction about sex, correspondence and jealousy, it should be noted that Bobbi is the ex-girlfriend and best friend of Frances, an alert American with whom he had a love affair in high school and with whom he now shares university and anti-capitalist poetry recitals on the scenery. Melissa and Nick are a decade older than Frances and Bobbi, a wealthier (and less idealistic) married couple of a fashion writer and a depressed actor. Nick, another jaded with life, will keep a torrid affair secret with his female version, Frances; while Melissa develops a creative infatuation, and then some, with Bobbi.

Curiously, the two most ingenious women in the series, Bobbi and Melissa, will be relegated to the background in front of the relationship of the introverted Frances and Nick. In this confluence of desires, the emails and WhatsApp messages that those involved send each other are balanced by those conversations with a glass of wine in hand at parties, literary events and shared vacations in Croatia. Paragraph: if Rooney’s television adaptations can boast of anything, it’s a convincing summer real estate porn. We still hadn’t gotten past the house surrounded by Tuscan cherry trees in Normal people and here it becomes impossible not to sigh for the set of stone houses with views of the sea on the island of Hvar that can be admired in the fourth and fifth episodes.

The series adapts Sally Rooney's first novel, focusing on the intertwined relationships between Bobbi (Sasha Lane), Nick (Joe Alwyn), Frances (Alison Oliver), and Melissa (Jemima Kirke).
The series adapts Sally Rooney’s first novel, focusing on the intertwined relationships between Bobbi (Sasha Lane), Nick (Joe Alwyn), Frances (Alison Oliver), and Melissa (Jemima Kirke). Enda Bowe (HULU)

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Why is your normal sex so addictive?

The fact that Frances spends a good part of the series in silence, staring at infinity from a window or petrified on her sofa while waiting for Nick’s messages does not mean that the Show go lame sex. Just as it happened with Normal people, those scenes have fueled the polarized discourse on the internet. There you can read articles called to go viral in niches of millennial consumption such as The nine sex scenes of ‘Conversations Between Friends’ ordered by level of horniness, Why Sally Rooney’s sex scenes are so hot either The sex of ‘Conversations between friends’ is fuel for pre-television blues. Why do some turn on so much with Rooney’s sex and others charge against an erotica that “neither is risky nor does it look like moving a lot of furniture”?

Actor Joe Alwyn, who plays Nick, takes over as the male romantic interest after Paul Mescal's success in 'Normal People'.
Actor Joe Alwyn, who plays Nick, takes over as the male romantic interest after Paul Mescal’s success in ‘Normal People’. Enda Bowe (HULU)

For the intimacy coordinator of the series, also Irish Ita O’Brien, all this duality of opinions lies in a change of perspective, in a generational leap when it comes to understanding sexual consent. It all depends on whose eyes you look at those scenes. “It’s a matter of will and autonomy,” she says in a conversation via Zoom, the person responsible for choreographing the intimate scenes on the set, for the performers to feel safe and secure during their creation. “This is not just sex. Is not the pum-pum-pum that we used to see in the past. Here the meetings are not flat and isolated, each scene says something new about the relationship of the characters. There is a choreography of breathing, of details, of what it implies in its own story, ”she explains, and recalls a scene in the second episode in which it is the protagonist, Frances, who takes the initiative until orgasm with Nick. “She is the one who knows how to find the rhythm, she asks him what he likes and she guides him, she takes control. There is a power in that discovery,” she explains. Far from aligning herself with those who see it as something soporific, she says that Sally Rooney “writes about sex in a totally innovative way, especially when it comes to intimacy. I have no doubt that she writes for this era and generation.”

O’Brien, who has become the guru who marks the new times of television sex —has coordinated the sexuality and intimacy of Normal people, I could destroy you, sex education, It’s a Sin, Gentleman Jackor the last season of Master of None—, considers that everything is due to a change of prism: the masculine gaze that prevailed in the thriller erotic of the nineties, that way of understanding sex not to go like in basic instinct, it has disappeared. “It influences that we now have more women writing about all the faces of sex, from erotic enjoyment, to the acceptance of their own sexuality or to abuse itself, as Laurie Nunn has done in sex educationSally Wainwright in Gentleman Jack or Michaela Coel in I could destroy you. We are broadening our sights. And not only do they have to be women, there is Russell T. Davies, who moves the look queer a It’s a Sin about relationships between men”, he concludes.

Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones, in a sequence of 'Normal People'.
Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones, in a sequence of ‘Normal People’.Hulu (THE COUNTRY)

They will see it boring or exciting, but if this series offers something beyond sex, it is the same drug that the Irish girl’s books give: a portrait of the intimacy of these young nihilists seduced by self-destruction, girls trying to learn to love themselves facing an unflattering horizon that predicts how difficult it is to reconcile the romantic ideal with the advent of a moral, economic and environmental apocalypse.

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