How the BDSM Community’s Criticism of ‘Bonding’ Inspired Change in Season 2

How the BDSM Community’s Criticism of ‘Bonding’ Inspired Change in Season 2

In the penultimate episode of the second season of Netflix’s “Bonding,” Pete, aka Master Carter (Brendan Scannell), delivers a stand-up comedy set that his best friend and employer-dominatrix, Tiff, aka Mistress May (Zoe Levin), says he did not have permission to share because he is not truly of the community. In the next minute, an agent in the audience calls it “a hilarious take on a world I know nothing about.” These two reactions, while diametrically opposed in emotional delivery, are ultimately saying the same thing: Pete has power and a platform to share secrets of the BDSM world, but that comes with great responsibility because many watching and listening to him will take his word — and only his word — as gospel.

Such was the case when “Bonding” first premiered on the streamer in April 2019. Creator Rightor Doyle, who once worked as an assistant-slash-bodyguard for a dominatrix, turned some of his experiences into a comedy that followed Pete and Tiff as they began to bumble their way through this new profession. Even though it had a humorous tone, “Bonding” is one of the only shows to have the opportunity to offer a detailed glimpse into this very specific world, and reactions from those within the real-life community were not favorable.

“Honestly a lot of what they’re saying is not wrong,” Doyle tells Variety of that criticism. Stepping into a second season, he wanted to take the experience of “having a television show come out that a lot of people really loved and then a community that was representing didn’t really like,” and not only put it into the narrative for his characters to similarly have to take responsibility for their actions, but also to give members of the real-life community a voice.

“In the first season, Tiff was in school, and in the second season, we all go back to domme school: we’ll all learn, we’ll all educate ourselves, but we’ll bake it into the story. Maybe no one’s ever heard the criticism outside of the community and outside of me or the production at ‘Bonding,’ but ultimately we’re all going to live through the experience of what it is to dive deeper into this world in a way that is very fun while also at the same time authentic and educating people,” he says of his mission for the season.

“What I was looking to do was to say that there is real study and practice that goes into this job,” he continues.” We can have a flip nature to a lot of the show — we can make jokes about a lot of the characters — but ultimately I wanted to talk about the seriousness of what it is to have a community of people who take their craft very seriously.”

To aid with this, Doyle brought on Olivia Troy, a BDSM professional, writer, producer, intimacy coordinator and the founder of Reps On Set, a production consultancy dedicated to the responsible representation of underrepresented stories. Troy joined Doyle and Nana Mensah, who also plays Mistress Mira, in the writers’ room for the second season, penning two of the eight episodes, in addition to “actively contributing to stories and dialogue and details” for the rest of the scripts, she recalls.

“One of the things that happens in a lot of depictions of BDSM in the media is there’s no consent, there’s no communication, there’s no connection. So really what was wonderful about my opportunity with ‘Bonding’ was to bring in more of those elements. It’s really not about the whips and the chains and the costumes and all of that stuff, so much as it is grounding all of that in connection and consent,” Troy says.

In addition to helping shape the story arc of the second season, Troy also consulted with casting to bring in real-life professional and members of this community, including King Noire and Jet Setting Jasmine, as background artists.

“Troy really stuck her neck out. I do believe it’s scary to align yourself with anything that has gotten some negative press if you’re a part of that community,” Doyle says.

And as hands-on as Doyle likes to be with production details from props to set decoration, Troy, too, offered her expertise to aid in the authenticity of the world-building in Season 2. “We wanted to have the dungeon where they’re working look like a real dungeon. We brought in gear and equipment from actual working dungeons in New York City,” she says.

Troy admits that because this is a television show, “there are going to be little things and little moments that aren’t necessarily going to be accurate because we have to accommodate for the medium.” She points to a scene of puppy play as an example, noting that because the director needed all of the actors to be in one shot, they were all on the ground, whereas in real life a “domme would never be on the same level as a puppy.” While she was on set to offer guidance on “purely mechanical things,” such as rope ties and how to put someone in bondage, her job is not about “being prescriptive.”

“What we’re looking for is recognizable stories and characters and experiences so that whether you are someone who is deeply in the BDSM or sex work community, or you’re someone who’s outside of it, we’re talking about characters and situations that have meaning. ‘I see that, I get that, I understand that,’” she says. “A lot of people understand themselves because of who they see on-screen, so it was just wonderful to say, ‘Here we are, on-screen, as ourselves.’ We are the stories we tell, and we are here, representing ourselves and our community.”

“Bonding” Season 2 is streaming now on Netflix.

Source: Read Full Article