The Threat of the Ex: Lessons From Californication


“We know where we go. We go where we know” ~Blink 182

I recently got turned on to Californication. It’s a very entertaining show with a great cast and very good writers. It comes on Showtime and each episode is only thirty minutes but a lot happens in that thirty minutes. The story line is fairly simple, centering around David  Duchovy’s character, Hank Moody, a very talented writer whose self sabotaging and destructive behavior damages his career (he spends the entire first season suffering from writers block) and causes his girlfriend to leave him.

The first season of the show consists of Moody fucking and blundering his way through his quest to find the meaning of life. He runs through countless random women while at the same time constantly making passes at his ex girlfriend whenever her fiance isn’t looking, never letting her forget that he is still in love with her. He gets in and out of trouble, pisses a lot of people off, and is an all around douche bag throughout the entire season yet there are times where he displays surprising insight, humility, and acts of extreme kindness.  Moody’s character is  relatable because he’s flawed, complicated, and human. He doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing with himself. It’s clear he’s floating through life and he doesn’t  pretend to have all the answers, or even some of them.

What really sticks out to me is the relationship between Moody and his ex-girlfriend, Karen. Though Karen is engaged to be married to someone else and Moody is sleeping with what seems like all of Los Angeles the two are so hopelessly in love with each other you can’t help but shake your head. The chemistry is strong between them, though they both (mostly Karen) deny it. They attempt to maintain a  truce friendship, one that barely hangs by a thread. Despite the circumstances neither has moved on from the other, they even sleep together at some point in the season.   All the while Karen’s fiance seems to be in the background, trusting her but at the same acknowledging Moody as a threat to his relationship. It all comes to a head at the end of the season when Karen marries her fiance, then promptly runs off with Moody.

For me Moody and Karen represent the “threat of the ex”. That fucked up but very strong connection between two exes. That unresolved situation that’s almost always carried into a new relationship. Even if the two people in question don’t see or acknowledge that connection, everyone around them does including the new person they may be dating. So long as that connection remains the ex will always be seen as a threat and, like Moody and Karen, the two people in questions will always find themselves back in the same place. Regardless of their intentions otherwise. This type of situation isn’t right, fair, nor responsible  but  it happens. A lot. People get into relationships while they still have feelings for someone else all the time. And people accept relationships with partners that still have feelings for another. Why this happens? I have no idea. It’s a 100% guaranteed train wreck.

Californication is as real as it gets, showing us that life is never simple.  It’s the perfect illustration of just how complicated people and relationships are, that nothing is ever black and white. Life is one giant gray area.  None of us have the answers to life’s questions. We’re all blundering and fucking  our way through existence.


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