‘Afternoon Delight’ writer/director Jill Soloway talks filthy females

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Jill Soloway/Credit: Emily Shur

In the roughly 23 years since she co-wrote “The Real Live Brady Bunch” — an initially low-budget stage show that premiered at Chicago’s Annoyance Theatre in 1990, became a surprise hit (starring, among others, “Glee’s” Jane Lynch) and subsequently toured the country ­— Chicago native Jill Soloway has managed to carved out an enviably successful career in television.

Her best-known writing/producing credits include HBO’s “Six Feet Under,” ABC’s “Dirty Sexy Money” and Showtime’s “United States of Tara,” episodes of which feature Soloway’s unique brand of dark and sexually charged humor. It is a style she has described as “funcomfortable,” and it’s on full display in her raw and sometimes raucous directorial debut “Afternoon Delight,” which opens Friday and won Soloway a Dramatic Directing award early this year at the Sundance Film Festival.

From her parked car in Beverly Hills — across the street from some dude in a gullwing Mercedes being accosted by paparazzi and near where Soloway is shooting a pilot for Amazon.com — she talked about women and sex and the evolution of raunchy humor from a female perspective, with which “Afternoon Delight” is rife.

“I remember really noticing the divide in our culture when I got out of college, trying to understand why the good girls had to be good and the bad girls always got killed,” she said. “There was this thing I call the divided feminine, where sexual women sort of get punished. And I think things really changed with “Sex and the City.” In some ways I like to say [the show] was gay men teaching straight women how to have gay sex. Because it was written by gay men. But in some ways it didn’t feel wholly authentic to me just because of the way they were so obsessed with things like shoes and fashion. Then [Lena Dunham’s] “Girls” really took us to the next step, which is: Here’s a protagonist who’s not obsessed with perfection and she’s not super skinny and she’s not all about the Manolo Blahniks and she’s actually a pretty messed up person herself.”

Asked whether the filthiest utterance she has ever heard came from a man or a woman, Soloway — who has spent ample time in notoriously ribald television writing rooms — admitted to being fairly ignorant of day-to-day guy grossness simply because she isn’t around it much. But that sort of behavior, she added, is more than just boys being boys; it’s emblematic of a larger and more disturbing issue.

“For me it’s not just simply a switcheroo. Like, ‘Guys have been gross for years and now women are being gross.’ For me, when guys are being gross, it’s sort of part of male privilege and it’s part of reinforcing the dominant culture, which is one that allows men to weigh in on whether or not women are hot or whether or not they want to have sex or ‘she’s a slut.’ So just the fact that that language exists for men to use as code to converse with each other is kind of upsetting to women—that we can be catalogued by men in that way.”

“So for women to do it, it’s sort of like they’re appropriating the language of the dominant culture. It’s really taking back this notion of owning the thing [that] inhibits us and in some ways destroys our confidence.”


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