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“Disjointed” is the swampy bong water of weed culture

“Disjointed” is the swampy bong water of weed culture

by Natalia DEMBOWSKA 4 min. 18.06.2021 From our online archive
Netflix series is an offensive misrepresentation of cannabis and its users
Kathy Bates plays the character of Ruth Whitefeather Feldman in the Netflix series Disjointed
Kathy Bates plays the character of Ruth Whitefeather Feldman in the Netflix series Disjointed
Photo credit: Shutterstock

As a teenager I once threw a house party for which my parents have never forgiven me (but that’s a story for another time). A friend of mine, partaking in an illegal activity, was taking fat bong rips. In a series of events that was as unfortunate as sudden, he ingested some of the swampy bong water. And that must have been exactly what it is like to watch Disjointed.

When Netflix announced the first season in 2017, everyone lost their mind. A sitcom with Kathy Bates playing a hippie weed activist who opens a dispensary in LA? Count me in. Disjointed was a prophecy fulfilled, a dream that really happened, a promised land entered.

But watching just the first episode made me understand how my friend at that party must have felt. All the conditions seemed perfect for a pleasant experience. But suddenly they weren’t, and what seemed like an amazing idea turned into a nightmare real fast. Watching Disjointed gives you a bitter taste in your mouth from the very beginning and it stays during the entire show.

Netflix ordered the show from Warner Bros, with the first season released in 2017 and the second season in 2018. David Javerbaum, who worked for television productions like the Daily Show or Good Morning Today, created it together with and Chuck Lorre, known for sitcoms like Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory or Mike and Molly. I guess that should have been the first red flag. Because let’s face it - a CBS sitcom about weed is doomed. It fails because you could replace weed with anything else and the show would not change a bit.

Disjointed truly is disjointed. There is no focus, no plot, just scene after scene that tries to be funny but never really is. Everything you have to know happens in the first episode, which is full of out-dated and aggravating stereotypes, on gender, race and, of course, cannabis. There is absolutely no surprise apart from how unfunny and unentertaining it is. I cannot think of enough negative words to describe the show, because it does not awake enough emotion in me. It’s just not good.

One of the saddest parts of the show is Kathy Bates' poorly written character, Ruth Whitefeather Feldman. She is what everybody thinks of as a crazy weed lady and is served to the audience as a slice of sloppy Aldi ham on a dry piece of toast. Really not a baguette parisienne if you know what I mean. Ruth is a hippie weed activist, preaching “the Gospel of Marijuana” and healping (helping and healing) people. She is completely opposed to capitalism and THE MAN and tries very hard to be cool and relatable to young people by swearing a lot and being a bitch to her son.

It is equally painful to see how the show represents race. Ruth’s son, Aaron Moten is black, a fact that is repeated throughout the series from the very first. The bombs keep on coming as you gag in disbelief. Already in the first episode Ruth tells her son he’s just like his father: thirsty for young white women. When she speaks to “thirsty young white” Olivia about dating her son (inappropriate enough in itself), she says: You know what they say, once you go half-black…

Cringe and disbelief – over the fact that somebody agreed to fund the show and Bates said yes to it – fight for your attention as you watch. Two episodes equals five years in brain cell years brutally taken away from you. All you are left with is a a taste of swampy bong water in your mouth.

And there is more. Apart from the token black person, there is also the required Asian person, referred to as the Toking Asian from the start. Jenny is high all the time, just like the rest of the cast and paranoid that her parents find out she quit medical school. You instantly know everything that she’s going to say and do. That is all there is to her character: a weird and detached Asian stereotype, poorly written and harmful in its representation.

But what the show has to say about cannabis itself is the worst part. That is a big disappointment, given that it is the main theme. What is said is not only totally false and without any authenticity, but also a total offence to weed culture. Ruth, the wacky, hippie old stoner lady opposes her son Aaron who wants to convince her she can become THE MAN by being her wacky self and selling weed, so actually capitalism isn’t so bad. That is all. That is what the show has to say.

Every other character just adds more stoner stereotypes. Maria, a classic neurotic stay-at-home mum comes to the store to buy weed for the first time since watching a Spin Doctors concert in 1991. Later we watch her rubbing cannabis oil onto the steering wheel as she practices giving her husband a hand job. Olivia is kind of just there, smoking all the time while saying she’s not that into it. Pete is a Shaggy-looking stoner whose every line is celebrating 420. And so on, and so on. 

I dare to say that anyone who either identifies as a stoner, smokes weed casually or has ever smoked weed in their life at all will agree that show is so predictable and stupid, that the only slightly funny aspect is just how un-relatable and stereotypical it is. It absolutely does not convey any real-life aspects of what weed is and how people who smoke it act at all. I could say much more but I can’t be bothered. It’s just not worth more of my time. Just don’t watch it.

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