Things that "Bloodline" has taught me about Florida:
- Internecine family drama is de rigueur
- Humidity rests at about 100% at all times
- Wearing linen is obligatory
- Wearing sunglasses on a lanyard around your neck is obligatory
- Murders - not OK; also obligatory
No, "Bloodline" is - funnily enough - not an advertorial put out by the Florida Tourist Board. (Sad face.) It's a super-moody family crime drama produced by Netflix. As is Netflix's style, God love 'em, all episodes of a series are released simultaneously, so you too can fall down the rabbit hole of suspense and thrill for hours/days on end binge-watching this top show. Profit from my troubling experience, though: do not mainline "Bloodline" whilst watching "Friday Night Lights"... For a while there, I got pretty confused at the lack of (American) football spirit in the former, and seemingly landlocked "Floridian" landscape in the latter. Don't judge me, it was - always, all the time - about 3am and Kyle Chandler acts in both series. Though you should, immediately, block out large swathes of your schedule to watch both shows all the way through. So. Worth. It.
Mentioning Chandler's omnipresence permits me a pastry-themed tangent. (Honestly, guv'nor, it does.) In her 2002 novel, Faking It, Jennifer Crusie (one of my all-time favourite authors) sets out what I like to call "The Doughnut vs. Muffin Grand Theory of Men". This is not a gross generalisation, obvs, but a consistent and coherent taxonomy for all menfolk everywhere. As one character, Nadine, puts it:
Doughnuts are the guys that make you drool. They're gorgeous and crispy and covered with chocolate icing and you see one and you have to have it, and if you don't get it, you think about it all day and then you go back for it anyways because it's a doughnut. [...] But then the next morning, they're not crisp anymore, and the icing is all stuck to the bag, and they have watery stuff all over them, and they're icky and awful. You can't keep a doughnut overnight. [...] Muffins are for the long haul and they always taste good. They don't have that oh-my-God-I-have-to-have-that thing that the doughnuts have going for them, but you still want them the next morning. (pp. 161-63 from 2004 Pan Books edition)
In both "Bloodline" and "Friday Night Lights", Chandler clearly plays a Muffin. And, I think, much of the conflict in both series can be viewed through the lens of Doughnut vs. Muffin conceptions of masculinity, if we expand the categories a little. Beyond the framework of female desire Nadine explicitly sketches out to define the two types of man-pastry, I think that other ingredients come to light, amongst which:
- Muffin = a stayer; a family man; holds your hair when you puke over the toilet; reliable; respectful; a good sport, who plays for the game not the win; values his roots; expresses emotion, or at least tries to
- Doughnut = a booty-call guest star; an adventurer who prioritises his own life story, needs and desires; won't buy you tampons; plays to win at any cost; probably not respectful of women, at least not all the time; a bro; potentially violent and/or sexually aggressive; emotionally detached
Basically, I view the Doughnut as more immersed in the foul soup of toxic masculinity (thanks, Patriarchy!), whilst the Muffin has been able to negotiate his role within patriarchal culture a little more. Personally, I think that makes Muffins entirely preferable to Doughnuts - and much more drool-worthy too. Anyway. Not all Muffins (or Doughnuts) are the same. In "Friday Night Lights", Chandler's Coach Taylor operates as a valorised blueprint for other men - he is at the vanguard of progression of masculine identity for his young male team-players and other men in the community. Whereas, in "Bloodline", being a Muffin ain't easy - nor is it necessarily idealised. In this show, we see the push-pull between the brothers Rayburn, John (played by Chandler; Muffin) and Danny (played by Ben Mendelsohn; Doughnut, albeit self-avowed Doughnut). What makes a Muffin frost himself up, thereby sliding into Doughnut category? Can a Doughnut ever be redeemed, packed full of oatmeal and delicious for days, not just a juicy one-night-bite? In "Bloodline", all is shades of grey - and there are no easy outs or stable identities, no matter how hard a Muffin might try.
With all this in mind, I present to you below the opening credits of "Bloodline". For interested parties: the music is "The Water Lets You In" by Book of Fears. These are perhaps my favourite TV opening credits of all time. Foreboding, menacing, and evocative, they capture the overarching themes of the show, and the central concerns of the characters, without any simplistic fading in/out of an actor's face or scenes from the show itself. Grab yourself a pastry - muffin or doughnut, I throw no shade on whichever type you choose - and enjoy 74 majestic seconds of emotive imagery.