I Want All The Characters On The Curse, Who Are Horrible, To Keep Getting Worse
Every new episode is, somehow, a new low.
5:45 PM EST on December 6, 2023
In the most recent episode of The Curse on Showtime, Dougie Schecter, played by director and actor Benny Safdie, has to explain why he bought alcohol for a teenager to the boy’s mother. Then, he makes them thank him for doing it, while threatening to call the police on them if they don’t. The three lead characters of The Curse are so despicable that it’s hard to look at them directly. But that’s also what makes the show so hypnotic.
The Curse follows Whitney and Asher Siegel, played by Emma Stone and Nathan Fielder, a couple who are filming a fictional HGTV show called Flip-lanthrophy. They’ve built a small neighborhood of reflective “passive homes” in the town of Española, New Mexico. While they’re terrified of being seen as gentrifiers, they are actively gentrifying this small town.
The show is obsessed with how much reality television sucks. In the first scene, Dougie puts fake tears in a woman’s eyes so that she looks sufficiently overjoyed at her son being offered a full time job in a bougie coffee shop that later closes because the shop isn’t making any money. But the insincerity of the medium that they’re working in pales in comparison to the insincerity of the characters themselves.
While Whitney asserts that she’s doing Flip-lanthrophy as an act of charity, she also scrolls her Instagram and deletes every comment that accuses her of ripping off the designs. Emma Stone radiates the need to be liked so intensely that even looking at her makes me cringe. Her smile is always a little bit too wide, her enormous blue eyes piercing but cold. You can see the silent calculations always going on in her head about how to make herself look good to other people. After she learns that her show is being picked up for a series, she kills the mood by telling her husband to take a comedy class.
Dougie is an alcoholic so deep in denial that he can’t even admit that the car crash that killed his wife was because he was driving drunk. Safdie’s performance as a shitty reality television production guy feels like a scientific classification, down to the wardrobe. Most of the time he appears on screen, he’s telling the Siegels that their show is too preachy, too boring, doesn’t have enough conflict. As an example of what they should be making instead, he shows them a trailer for a fictional reality show called Love In The Third Degree. It’s a dating show like The Bachelor, except the contestants don’t know that their masked bachelor survived a house fire and is covered in burn scars.
Asher tells his wife Whitney that he does truly care about her philanthropic mission, while he’s also buying condemned homes to flip on auction — one of which happens to actually be inhabited. At the core of his character he is a coward, and also remarkably cheap even though it is clear that the Siegels are loaded (my husband and I got a laugh out of spotting their boxes of gluten free Banza pasta in their kitchen, as well as a SOMA water filter with its recognizable wooden handle). In the first episode he has to ask a few Española locals to get some cash from an ATM that doesn’t really work but “has a trick to it.” After receiving their help, Asher changes his PIN, unable to trust the people who live in the town they deliberately moved to.
The titular curse of the show occurs when Asher hands a young black girl a one hundred dollar bill for some b-roll, and then takes it back after they get the shot.
“I curse you,” Nala, the little girl, says to him as he assures her that he’s going to get change and give her a twenty.
While Asher at first doesn’t believe he’s been cursed, over time the combination of his insecurities and his vanity get the best of him, and Dougie leans into it too. Of course all the bad and weird stuff happening to both of them can’t just be because they’re kind of shitty people. It has to have been a curse.
“I was cursed,” Dougie tells Asher. “There’s nobody in particular I can point to, but there’s no other way I can explain what happened… Nothing, nothing makes sense.”
There is just no low too low for any of these characters. When they hit rock bottom, I want to be there.
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