December 27th, 2020

You’re At The Grownup Table Now 

after Servant 

In vermillion lipstick, a Dorothy 
blue dress, borrowed ruby, ring finger, beaus
to impress, submit to a coy lady’s 
request for your red shoes before she goes
another night to Oz, woos a tasteless
Lothario.  Leave you with a boy, shrewd 
serpent in a kitchen sink.  First, you finesse,
send for something red to drink. Latter, you  
will batter until still quivering, peel.
Boy who prepares, serves eel on a plate rues 
the bell which summoned him, the man of steel 
who waits to throw him out; you must stroke his rage.
At the grownup table, you will come of age. 


I have two levels of TV watching: obsession-worthy or not at all. When I didn’t write everyday, TV watching and reading filled my days and I was easily pulled into shows and stuck with them that I wasn’t that passionate about. Had a lot more time. These days, I will try a show or a book, and if it doesn’t hook me I will easily put it down because I’m a lot more picky about my free time having so much less of it.

I want a television show to make me feel seduced the way that films do — to be artistic and a fully realized world that I do not want to leave. Most of the time, I can pull free. When I feel bound to the television by a show, it’s the most pleasurable of captivities, and that is the case with the show that inspired this sonnet Servant on Apple TV.

I am going to be careful about what I say here because the last thing I want to do is spoil this show that enthralls me and ruin that experience for anyone else. What I will say is the show begins in a fantasy brownstone in Philadelphia with the most gorgeous kitchen you can imagine befitting the cook and his television reporter wife who live there. There is also a nursery but beneath a mobile of ballerinas and animals inside of the crib, there is not a baby. There is instead a doll. When the show begins we don’t know exactly why this — only that it is and that everyone — including the nanny treats this reborn doll like a real infant (at least in view of Dorothy, the mother).

In the world of this sonnet, we encounter the nanny Leanne Grayson, a mysterious, staid and provincial seeming young woman, 18, who comes to the Turner house (owned by Dorothy and Sean) to take care of a baby she seems to already know is not a baby but a doll (this is not really a spoiler as it happens almost immediately). When Leanne of Wisconsin arrives, it is clear that she is very inexperienced and religious — turning down a champagne toast, studying her bible, high necklines, long skirts and straw crosses. She contrasts very much in the Turner house which embodies sensuality and decadence in food and the provocative, worldliness of Sean and Dorothy. Dorothy with her flaming red hair and sophisticated coquettishness befits the TV personality that she is — an exhibitionist who has met the ultimate the voyeur in her new servant, Leanne.

Perhaps, though, the worldliest character, the one who makes Dorothy and Sean seem almost innocent is Dorothy’s brother, Julian, played by Rupert Gint of Harry Potter fame (a series of movies incredibly I never watched and thus have no stereotypes of this actor of which to disavow myself.) Regardless if you do from the criticism of the show I’ve read I think you will be very surprised by this turn by this actor and the range that he has. In the world of my sonnet, he is the second “beau” of Leanne. He is the one who uses this phrase that is at the beginning of this sonnet, “You’re At The Grownup Table Now.” He says this after kicking out her first beau that Leanne seems to be attempting to seduce a bit, emulating her mentor Dorothy who has borrowed Leanne’s one pair of sexy shoes (before she even wears them) to woo her husband Sean — a cook who has lost his sense of taste. A lot has transpired at this point that I won’t reveal due to, you know, my efforts not be a bad spoiler girl, but when Julian sits down and says to Leanne, “You’re At The Grownup Table Now,” it is a warning to what he believes to be a worldly charlatan that she has met her match. However, Leanne ends this scene dominating him and silencing him in a very effective way which I will not reveal but you can easily find out by watching Episode 3, “Eel.”

I have yet to even mention that the show is a M. Night Shyamalan production, a filmmaker I’m a great fan of and was another reason I was very excited to watch this show. To me, it is one of the best things he has ever done.

This is the setup of this world, set almost entirely in the brownstone which becomes a dire dollhouse world of denial of reality. I’ve started to write a series of sonnets based on this show, this being the fifth. I’m populating my own dark dollhouse of tribute sonnets, a dark mirror to Pink Plastic House — which sadly was a bit dark even if it was pink. I’m familiar with houses of secrets, my first habitat. Thanks for visiting the table, the grownup table of this dollhouse today. I can’t wait to show you more sonnets of this world and check out the series if you have not on Apple TV.