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  • Thomas Rose

The Curse: A Review of Nathan Fielder and Emma Stone's Cringe-inducing Show Within a Show

Gen Z loves to make fun of millennials and how they're out of touch, cringeworthy, and addicted to anything Disney. However, Nathan Fielder and Benny Safdie's satirical black comedy series "The Curse," which just aired its final episode on Paramount+ and Showtime, is the most damning conviction of the Millennial generation (and 'Nepo Babies' of any era) of all.

The series follows the Siegel family as husband Asher (Fielder) and wife Whitney (Stone) navigate the challenges of marriage and the difficult production of their new HGTV show "Fliplanthropy", which is about the couple's gentrifying, err, eco-friendly housing development in Espanola, New Mexico, which Whitney's slumlord parents definitely did not pay for. All the way, producer Dougie (Safdie) attempts to destroy the Siegel's marriage for entertainment value, mostly out of his own insecurity.

The show uses the Siegels' position as privileged do-gooders to comment on a lot of problems and social phenomena that our country has been dealing with, like gentrification, microaggressions, and 'virtue signaling' (for lack of a better term). A big way the show comments on this is through Whitney's character; she's a bleeding-heart liberal who does not listen to the community she claims to help. This is shown through her relationship with local Pueblo artist Cara Durand (Nizhonniya Luxi Austin). Whitney feels like she needs to earn Cara's respect by explaining her own culture to her, despite Cara's obvious annoyance. Cara begrudgingly goes along with it for the money that working on "Fliplanthropy" brings her, all the while rejecting Whitney's cringe-inducing attempts at a deeper friendship. Their relationship culminates in an extremely schadenfreude homage to "Seinfeld" when Whitney gives Cara an offensive caricature of a Native warrior and asks her to 'recontextualize it' in her art. Stone's portrayal of Whitney really sells this whole aspect of the character.

Asher, on the other hand, serves more to comment on a kind of awkward, subtle sociopathy among upper-class married men who feel consistently inadequate. Fielder's performance is perfect for Asher's character, as he has been playing similarly awkward and cringe-inducing characters who go too far since "Nathan For You." This is shown through one of his first scenes, where he pretends to give a little girl named Nala (Hikmah Warsame) selling soda a $100 bill for the show before proceeding to ask for it back. Nala then proceeds to tell Asher that he's been cursed, making Asher panic. Asher spends the rest of the series being vigilant against Nala's curse (hence the name of the show), failing to realize that his show and marriage are falling apart around him.

The show culminates in the finale, "Green Queen," where the entire series skips some time to the day Whitney gives birth. This finale was... divisive among critics, as it takes the logic of the series' supernatural elements from interesting to ludicrous.

The series' depiction of Millennials is so interesting to me because of the way the Siegels and their friends are written as uniquely Millennial characters. Whitney's attempts at activism are shown as just a half-hearted way for her to rebel against her parents, while Asher and Dougie's insecurities and lack of self-respect are a way of mimicking their boomer forefathers, which the finale comments on extensively.

All in all, "The Curse" is a thought-provoking yet cringe-inducing show that will make you think, wince, and feel kind of dreadful, which is why I recommend it.


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