Feb 162021

Pete wakes up next to Josh and has a good day until he goes to the dungeon and finds that Tiff is AWOL and he has to deal with her client, a grumpy guy in a penguin costume. 

Pete tries to send him away, but Penguin Guy not only refuses to leave, he intimidates Pete into putting on another penguin costume and wrestling him. 

In the middle of this, Penguin Guy starts crying. 

Penguin Guy: “Give me one little penguin kiss, and it would mean so much to me. Just one. […] One little tiny beak-to-beak.”

Pete: “No! No means no!”

Pete reverses the pin and takes control of the situation. He smacks Penguin Guy’s butt, then tells him to leave. He’s astonished when Penguin Guy calls him “Master Carter.” 

Later, Pete is at the comedy club with Josh. When the MC calls for “Carter” to perform, Pete puts on an elaborate bondage mask and goes on stage for the first time. 

At the school, Tiff shows herself in full dominatrix outfit to Doug in the bathroom. He seems intrigued.

Pete’s walk to the comedy stage is intercut with Tiff’s walk to her classroom.

In the classroom, Tiff introduces her prof to fellow student Kate and two school administrators. The prof leaves, and Tiff takes over the class. The other students don’t pay attention to her until she takes off her red coat and shows her dominatrix outfit, plus bullwhip. 

Tiff does a monolog about her past, talking about her sexual abuse in high school and college. She ends by inviting the class to get tied to the chair. Almost everybody, including Doug, puts their hand up. Tiff tells Doug to get in the chair. 

Meanwhile, Pete does his stand-up about his life as a dominatrix’s assistant, and even takes off his mask, leaving him in just leather pants and a chest harness. Josh watches from the audience, amused. 

I appreciate that both Tiff and Pete use their BDSM personae as a means to being more vulnerable and psychologically integrated, not as a facade they hide behind. 

Bonding’s key flaw is its lack of curiosity about its supposed topic: BDSM and the people who do it. The people whom Tiff and Pete serve are just random weirdos who show up, put the lead characters in comedic situations, and leave. There’s no effort to humanize them. Now, why any given person has any given fetish is a mystery that may be unsolvable. There’s still rich material in looking at the lives of these people. Why doesn’t Bonding explore the impact of Andrew’s tickling fetish on his marriage with Daphne, or ask how Fred’s golden shower fantasies fit with the rest of his life, or consider what kind of loneliness is driving Penguin Guy. 

Unlike, say, Personal Services, Bonding doesn’t even go very deep into the economics or psychology of sex work. It’s all subordinate to the dysfunctional, co-dependent relationship of Pete and Tiff. And aren’t we a little past the “straight woman and her Gay Best Friend” trope?

  One Response to “Bonding S01E06: The Celluloid Dungeon”

  1. I just finished the second season (which I think is superior to the first). I know that this series got a lot of complaints from some in the kink community online, but while it definitely had problems, I found it refreshing and better than the Fifty Shades stuff. It is a comedy with some interpersonal and social commentary, it isn’t going to be correct or safe all the time.

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