Homeland has been developing a relationship between the hunky C.I.A. operative Peter Quinn, revealed to perfection by actor Rupert Friend, and a big and beautiful redhead as "landlady," played by Emily Walker. The dynamic of a hot guy getting it on with a big and beautiful woman has confused some, but it really shouldn't. There are a lot of men who absolutely adore confident, sexy, big and beautiful women, choosing who she is over the stereotype of what she represents to juvenile American minds.
OK, so Homeland is fiction, but it serves as the perfect platform to discuss a silly prejudice that continues to pervade our country, as well as a mistake too many women make when relationships are new.
When I was relationship consultant and talking to a lot of men about their love lives, I learned that men like fabulous women of all shapes and sizes, which comes as news to some. The truth is a very small percentage of couples meet the fantasy physical criteria of what actors represent in our cultural landscape. Men and women of varying weights have gleefully happy sex lives and never think a second about whether their bodies are model perfect.
That's not, however, how Judith Warner of the New York Times saw it when Emily Walker was first introduced as the "landlady" on Homeland back in early October. Now, I don't mean to pick on Ms. Warner, because I've heard and seen it all talking to people about sex. It's just that Warner's reaction to Peter Quinn and the landlady having sex is, to hand her own words back to her, "profoundly weird." From Warner's piece:
The convention requires romantic detours. But Quinn's first stateside sexual encounter -- a drunken tryst seemingly fueled more by despair than desire -- is profoundly weird, and more than a little disturbing. One minute, our black-ops tough guy is on a lounge chair, so drunk he can do nothing but slither helplessly, and the next, he's underneath a lady twice his size, with a really creepy smile on his face that could, frankly, be a rictus of pure fear. Beyond the politics of using a fat woman as a virtue-enhancer (or a sight gag), what was the scene supposed to convey?
What was the scene supposed to convey?
Maybe that the smile on Peter Quinn's face is pure joy in seeing the landlady enjoy herself so thoroughly, while he does, too. Peter Quinn is obviously in search of someone the polar opposite of Carrie, played by Claire Danes, as well as someone wholly accessible, obviously confident and comfortable in her own skin, which is a rarity in his world.
It's revealing that there is still so little appreciation of the big and beautiful woman astride a handsome man that her human vulnerability is reduced to the man having a "creepy smile" that could be a "rictus of fear."
Emily Walker's humanness as landlady washes over Peter Quinn like an elixir, because of the horror that Carrie has come to represent in his world, her detachment to anything approaching emotional vulnerability or basic human caring and decency, has left Peter Quinn on the cliff of sanity.
Then, in a moment of nervousness, which we all feel at some point at a relationship's start, landlady allows her own self-consciousness to show and blows it, at least temporarily.
One morning after an intense confrontation with his boss, played by Murray Abraham, and another drunken bender with the "landlady," Quinn wakes up to find her policing the beer cans and other accumulated debris in an apartment where he resides, but certainly isn't a home. When landlady says she's worried about him during her cleaning up his place, Quinn snaps at her, telling her to be quiet, then to leave.
In a new relationship, never lose sight of boundaries, beginning with someone else's apartment. Getting emotionally invested in someone new when the relationship has begun as physical will invariably be seen as overstepping boundaries. That doesn't mean physical beginnings lead nowhere, often quite the contrary in my experience, but the shift to deeper connection can be awkward and almost always takes time.
Remarkably, Emily Walker's character isn't shaken by Quinn's sudden coldness. She stands up for Quinn to his face, saying what he experienced in Pakistan, the brutal abduction and killing before his eyes of his colleague, no one should have to go through. Saying she'd be glad to tell his boss that too, if he comes back. His anger melts, Quinn's heart touched, because no one ever stands up for him, which is exactly what she said to him after their initial night together, when he fought for her against bullies in a diner.
Landlady's big and beautiful persona attracted Quinn for many reasons that only the writers know, but much of her warmth seems to fill a gaping hole in Quinn's humanness that is only acquainted with death.
XOJane has it "on good authority" that we "haven't seen the last" of landlady. Maybe she'll get a name eventually, because she deserves one.
Big and beautiful women play important roles in the sex life of the American experience. Their toughness to endure what our society throws in their direction forces them to either be resilient or get crushed under the weight of prejudice. To be themselves as they forge their own persona based on the very essence of womanhood, which isn't predicated on size, but on heart.
That's the secret to attracting the right man. Know who you are, don't apologize, be confident in yourself and what you have to offer, which is a lot more than your looks and whether you are a size 6 or even a size 10.
Taylor Marsh is the author of The Hillary Effect on Clinton's rise and the 2008 election. Her third book on relationships is titled The Sexual Education of a Beauty Queen -- Relationship Secrets From the Trenches.