There are several things guaranteed after watching an episode of Showtime’s Californication. For me it’s usually wondering how protagonist, Hank Moody, has the ability to get beautiful Los Angelean women to his bed within the space of one conversation. But whilst his linguistic, conversational, and, admittedly, aesthetic qualities are top of the range, this isn’t the reason why I admire the fictional anti-hero of California.
From the outset, creator Tom Kapinos wrote Mr. Moody (David Duchovny) in a manner that both puzzles and pleases. He has an endless supply of snark and wit to throw at friend, family, and foe alike, and with an ego the size of Jupiter, his comments land perfectly every time. Despite being an unconditionally loving figure to his daughter and ex-wife, with practically each encounter between the three including a comment of his undying love for them both, he never seems to grasp the idea of being a ‘family man’. Whether this is due to the hard drugs, poor choice of company, or limitless queue of desperate women at his feet is for the viewer to decide, but what’s truly confusing and admirable about this character is the lessons you learn from him.
On top of being a full-time homewrecker, and best friend to agent, Charlie Runkle (Evan Handler), Hank Moody is a successful writer, with his book, ‘God Hates Us All’ striking a chord with the similarly crest-fallen intellects of his city. He is the embodiment of a successful writer, with the help of his trusty typewriter, he is able to create works of art that people are constantly in line for. He is his own employer, his own supplier creating the demand for more. He may have agents like Runkle down his back pleading him for more material, but he doesn’t care. He can still wake up the next day with enough money for whiskey and cigarettes. Plus, what difference does money make when the one you love is always just a stone’s throw away?
Moody shows us the good life, yes. But he never forgets to remind us that fame, money, and affection from strangers are all material. Artificial. He reminds us that he is still a person, and we only truly see this side of him appear in front of Karen. Played by Natascha McElhone, the blonde-haired beauty of his dreams is the only goal in Hank’s sights. Despite the lavish lifestyle he lives, it means nothing to him without his beloved. To him, she is beauty incarnate. From the moment they met, he was infatuated, obsessed. He convinced himself that he had to be in her life, and after he succeeded, all seemed great. Before they even knew it, Karen was pregnant and now this smug-faced devil that she had gotten herself involved with was something more. A Father, a man, and a life partner – whether she liked it or not.
What intrigues me about this is that we see Hank seduce some women to the point of obsession in a matter of days, yet the only woman he will ever care for on a human level only chose to stay because they suddenly shared a child. Yes, there was his unmistakable personality (and apparent skill in the bedroom) that he had, but would have that been enough if it wasn’t for their happy accident? I personally doubt it – for all Hank’s “Hank-ness”, there’s the unstated fact that he is not a great person. He’s selfish, hedonistic, childish, boisterous – ask any producer that wants to work with his literary genius mind, and they’ll tell you he is toxic, impossible to work with. These traits are what make him the unapologetic bad boy that women crave, but for all the good it brings him, unpleasantness and existential questioning always seem to follow closely behind.
Even daughter, Becca (Madeline Martin) makes sure to let her man-child dad know that he is flawed. In many ways, she is more of a grown up than he will ever be. He is a constant disappointment to Becca, though she knows with certainty that he will never love anything more than her and her mum, he messes up in ways that can only be written for television. In the midst of the sex, the highs, the intoxication, there’s an undying spirit lying dormant, the spirit of human Hank.
On the surface, Hank Moody is the heart and soul of rock n roll, he drinks, smokes, beds gorgeous women and pays for it all with his successful writing career, all whilst making us choke, cringe and scream with laughter. As the seasons go on, however, all of that is just noise. A given for the lifestyle of a fallen angel. There will always be more drugs, more booze, more adoring women, for he is Hank Moody – sexy literary god of the modern age. But when the smoke clears and the hangover subsides, Karen and Becca shine with a light that blinds him from everything else, for he is Hank Moody – father, lover, human.
You can find Californication (2007-2014) on Netflix, Showtime, and Hulu.