On Masters of Sex Season 1 Episode 9, things between Bill Masters and Virginia Masters get even more complicated when the two decide to put the camera on themselves for the sake of the study.
In my previous chat with creator Michelle Ashford that took place before the show premiered, we covered the beginnings of the ambituos series, based on the real-life sex studies of Masters & Johnson.
However, now that Masters of Sex Season 1 is more than halfway finished, I had so many more questions that I had to ask.
Have things changed as much as we think they have? How did video alter not only the study but Bill and Virginai's perception of each other? And will we be getting a cliffhanger when the season ends next month?
TV Fanatic: Do you think we’ve learned more since the time frame of the show or we still have a lot to learn?
Michelle Ashford: When I was looking at this material in the beginning, just reading Tom Maier’s biography, it’s true that Masters and Johnson’s work had an enormous impact in terms of basic understanding of sex, in terms of the physiology of it and how the body worked. There were huge gaps in knowledge in terms of all that stuff [but] even in that respect, there were times in our writers room where people would not understand something rather basic things about how the body works. We’re much further along in terms of the physiology of sex but there is still confusion about other things, oddly enough.
The minute you get beyond how the body works into the emotional and the psychological ramifications of sex, I just don’t think it’s hardly different at all. When I read the book that’s when I thought, ‘That’s fantastic! That is how the will be relevant.’ So much of what they’re dealing with was a mystery then and remains a mystery now and so that’s when the interesting stuff gets going.
TVF: We’ve seen that Masters & Johnson’s relationship is so clinical at this point, almost like they’re falling in love without even realizing it or wanting to realize it. How does that relationship develops - or maybe doesn’t develop - over these next episodes?
MA: Without spoiling anything, I will just say this. Theirs was the most complicated and strange love story that I’d almost ever read or heard about. It’s a very, very long journey with these two and I think that one of the things is that they were never in the same emotional space at the same time. Where they were in terms of their feelings for one another kept shifting. It was hard for them to meet in the same spot. That said, they were incredibly compelled toward one another so it’s a massively complicated relationship and I think the fun of the show is watching it unfold in very surprising ways.
TVF: How does videotaping themselves having sex together for the study affect their relationship?
MA: I don t think that videotaping changed their relationship so much but I think bringing the idea of video into the work was instrumental because, first of all, it was proof and it documented scientific exploration that had really never been done before. But it also has a voyeuristic quality that I think is very interesting and I think one of the things that’s strange about the truth about their legacy now is none of those videotapes exist. They’ve all been destroyed and I think that’s because there’s a certain intimacy and voyeurism about them that they felt when they were done with their work they just couldn’t let it be out there in the world.
It’s very, very interesting to me that they would feel protective of that because of their subjects and the fact that they were on film and not want that to live on in posterity given the fact now that everyone films themselves doing everything and it’s not seen as a violation. They used it for their work and then they got rid of it.
TVF: The women seem to be a lot smarter than the men in the show and the women are more open to the newness in front of them, something we see very much with the Margaret Scully character. Was that a conscious thought process or is that how the times were?
MA: Here’s the thing. I think gender roles were very solidified at that time. Men were expected to behave a certain way and women were expected to behave a certain way and I think just by those very rigid definitions, any kind of emotional life, any kind of exploration into feelings, thoughts, emotions were much more the view of women so I think in an odd way that came to them easier.
I think men were not at all, I think it’s something men struggle with even now but certainly back then men were not encouraged or really celebrated for being in touch with the emotional, psychological sides of their lives. It was just not really done then. So when you take men and you bring them into those areas, which is certainly what we’re doing here, the men have a harder time navigating those waters just because they were traditionally not open to them and it was not expected that men would be able to be emotionally articulate so, yes, they seem to fuffer around a bit more than the women.
TVF: Are we getting a cliffhanger at the end of the season?
MA: The status quo gets massively upended and things change and stuff happens and, I hope at the end of season one, leaves you thinking ‘Wow! Where are they going from here?’
TVF: Did you change your course at all from the time you started the pilot to the end of the season?
MA: I always knew where the season was ending. Going in I knew exactly how it ended and so the question was what paths are we going to take to get there but I did have a very clear idea of the beginning and the end. I knew where season one was going to end and now that we’ve had some success then you have to think in much bigger terms like ‘where is the series going?’ so we’re asking a lot of those questions now.
Masters of Sex airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on Showtime.
Jim Halterman is the West Coast Editor of TV Fanatic and the owner of JimHalterman.com. Follow him on Twitter.