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Room 104 - Fur - Review

3 Oct 2020

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WARNING: Please don't read if you haven't seen Room 104 4x11 Fur yet!  SPOILERS AHEAD!

Well, if Supernatural could do it, why not Room 104? Make an unnecessary, but still memorably entertaining animated episode toward the end of its run, that is! It's clear that wirter/director Mel Eslyn enjoys concocting some seriously quirky and nostalgic ideas about what to do in Room 104 that doesn't involve the same ol' doom and gloom drama that we have grown used to seeing over the last four seasons, like in The Hikers, which was also about female friendship from a completely different angle. If there was ever a time when the post-episode interview with marc Duplass revealed that the story was inspired by something that happened in his childhood, I was hoping this would be it. Sadly, it was not and it was Eslyn who came up with the post-millennial feminist homage to cheesy 80s low-budget horror and female friendship that is 4x11 Fur. 

And, sorry Nicole Kidman and Robert Downey Jr. fans, it has nothing to do with the 2006 Diane Arbus fantasy biopic. It ended up feeling like an unintentional harbinger to the upcoming Comedy Central Daria spin-off about the character, Jodie, but not really in a good way. Though it sure looked a lot like that classic aforementioned female-centric animated series and I'm sure that is no accident. 

So, what could I be referring to for those who still haven't watched it yet (yes, I know you're out there lurking)? Here, we see the animated Finley (Jordyn Lucas) and Grey (Natasha Perez) lurking under one of the beds of Room 104, having snuck into the room for partying. It's 1987 and times are much more innocent (in spite of the AIDS epidemic that was happening simultaneously), and, frankly, even more misogynist. After the cleaning lady leaves unaware of what is being pulled literally right under her feet, we see the young women having a junk food fest and talking about boys and the joys and agonies of puberty, or are they? Finley is more developed than Grey and it drives Grey a little more than jealous. Finley shows Grey her blossoming leg hair and Grey fetishizes it since she doesn't have any yet. 

Then, she cryptically asks about what Finley's first time was like. What is she referring to? Losing her virginity? Getting her first period? Of course not, silly. She's talking about becoming a teenage werewolf! Pretty lucky that this episode is airing the night after a blood full moon, huh? And, as any devotee of the Ginger Snaps trilogy already knows, using lycanthropy as a mensuration metaphor is a pretty appropriate idea. What was that horror trilogy lacking, though? Based on this, it didn't have enough animated situations, which this episode succeeds in in strides. 

 Of course, the young ladies don't show their cards too quickly. Being tween Regan-era 80s girls, they seem to be all about the boys. Also since they are young and impressionable, they seem to be a little too naïve, even for that era. They have invited an older, athletic, and most tellingly, popular boy, John (Jake Green) over to the motel room to have a little underage fun that, had this episode not been animated, would've changed the tone of this episode for the worse since John comes off as an entitled blonde creeper and potential statutory rapist from the get go. One whose essence, even in animated form, screams "toxic masculinity" even from the depths of his blonde roots. 

For some reason, the young ladies don't seem to pick up on this right away and even entertain the idea of doing some unmentionable things with him that I am glad never transpired. And, since things don't go John's way, he responds by becoming a more attractive version of The Incredible Hulk by growing in size and strength (but not skin color, oddly enough) when a female resists his so-called charms the way any date rapist of that era probably would've, emotionally-speaking anyway. Being a full fledged werewolf, Finley already knows how to handle such advances so she next transforms into her wolf form as Grey...well, hides in the bathroom, listening to electronic music on a cassette walkman (which, incidentally, doesn't exactly sound authentically 80s, IMHO) and reading a teen magazine, blissfully unaware of what is going on outside. 

Finley and John proceed to fight without any interruption until Finley is injured slightly and Grey finally emerges. When she sees what is happening, her true womanly lycanthrop-ian colors start to emerge and she immediately becomes her werewolf form to save the night from John's rape-y assault. Clearly being a 90s narrative homage, Finley somehow gets the idea that the two friends should combine their powers -Captain Planet style - and merge into one werewolf being to finish John off, who just cannot get enough of beating up on girls smaller and younger than him. Without any respect to the laws of physics, they do just that and John is defeated, leaving them to recover from their psychic wounds and promise to always be there for each other, like any girlfriend characters of that era would do. 

Watching this episode, I kept wondering if the writer/director was trying to pay homage or criticize the tropes of the 90s teen drama the way she did with the Kevin Nealon meta episode earlier this season? If so, it didn't feel sharp enough to be satire or criticism. Too willy nilly to be a cultural statement, also. The dance music video that ends the episode was a stylish and fleeting touch, but did it add anything to the narrative or subtext? Not really. 

Are we meant to automatically equate being attractive to attempted rape and sexual conquest? Are rape victims to blame for inviting destructive forces into their own situations knowingly? Are they really "asking for it?" None of that is answered here, but is eerily implied. Frankly, it felt like the writer actually fetishizes these rather naïve, and even more unrealistic, cultural feminine and masculine stereotypes when I feel she should know better. Even Marc Duplass seemed a little uncomfortable talking about this episode in his interview clip. Maybe he just decided a male perspective on this issue would not be appreciated, so he just let the writer do what she wanted? Not sure, but in spite of the stylish fun on display, the whole thing left a bad aftertaste, like many a-teenage date night.

Sometimes, girls really do just wanna have some fun.