You’d expect a TV show about a dominatrix to be salacious — and Netflix’s “Bonding” does boast its fair share of whip-cracking and unseemly showers. But for creator Rightor Doyle, who drew from his own life experience, it’s just as much about mental health.
“In the same way that a therapist can talk to a patient through their intellectual and emotional needs, dominatrixes can speak to a physical need you don’t even really know about, ” says the New Orleans born Doyle, 35, who’s also an actor on HBO’s “Barry.”
Premiering Wednesday, the seven episode comedy “Bonding” follows Peter (Brendan Scannell) a young gay man in New York City who enters the world of BDSM when his dominatrix friend Tiff (Zoe Levin) needs a bodyguard/assistant. It loosely draws from Doyle’s own life: Like Peter, he’s gay and in 2006 — when he was 22 and a recent grad from Bard college — he worked with a dominatrix pal (whom he declined to name for privacy’s sake).
“The show is actually based on my real life, I’d had a [friend] who had secretly become a dominatrix. I needed some money and she sort of roped me into it,” he says, adding that his position was often to accompany her as a ‘witness’ in order to ensure her safety on house calls.
“It’s highly fictionalized. I’m not that interested in a show about me, but I’m interested in a show about what happened and what I learned. It was a great, wild entryway into exploring ideas of my own sexuality and the way that the patriarchy establishes what women and gay men are good for and what power is — and how people with less power can begin to subvert that in the sexual underworld.”
Doyle says he was cognizant of the stereotype that BDSM is dangerous, so he tried to counter that with the show’s visual tone. The dungeon on-screen is in pink hues.
“The bright colors subvert your expectations of what you think dominatrix culture is,” he says. “We have so many things like ‘50 Shades of Grey,’ like ‘Ooh, it’s sexy and it’s dark.’ Actually, what if it’s joyful and practical? What if we are not judging this thing visually?”
The show portrays scenarios such as Tiff and Peter being paid to shame a man for his, um, size, letting a woman hit them, tickling a man until he screams and more. Doyle says these scenarios are fictionalized for the show, but the real-life scenarios he drew from were similar.
“It’s my imagination, but those are real things people do.” His “go-to anecdote” from that time period, he says, involved “a No. 2 pencil; an SAT pencil.”
“The important thing about the show for me,” Doyle says, “is we are exploring this world, but not exploiting it.”
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