Dear Mr. Swanberg:
I’m writing this as a fan of your work. Drinking Buddies was my first exposure to your writing, and I was immediately drawn in by the simplicity with which you dealt with very complex emotional situations that felt painfully real. I would likely cringe and wriggle the same way the characters did if I were saying some of the things they were saying, and that genuineness is rarely portrayed in film.
It is this same eye to authenticity that made me a fan of Easy. And before I get to my complaint, let me just say that I am absolutely still a fan. I should also add that I am a massage therapist and, more importantly to this situation, a massage therapy instructor.
The reason I’m writing, as you may have guessed, concerns the portrayal of a massage therapist in the episode “Open Marriage.” When the character, Kyle takes advice to “just get a massage” if he was looking to have sex, the massage therapist offers a sexual favor in exchange for fifty bucks.
So here’s my little rant about that.
Female massage therapists are not prostitutes, despite their constant portrayal as such in the media. Massage therapists go through many hours of training and need to be professionally licensed in the state of Illinois (and most states) in order to practice. In the current political climate it is more important than ever to point out these facts, as I’ve had several former students tell me horror stories of men grabbing them during massages. Perhaps because these men were inspired and emboldened by a president who gleefully brags about assaulting women, or perhaps because the only portrayal they see of our profession is women who finish every massage with a “happy ending.”
But that’s not how massage works.
The majority of massage therapists came to this profession to make a positive impact on people’s health and well-being. I’m very proud to be a part of this profession that helps people manage chronic pain, reduce stress, and increase overall well-being. I’ve seen firsthand the positive changes that can occur from a professionally administered massage, and to see my profession constantly portrayed as a joke galls me.
And let me let you off the hook a little. If I were a person who knew very little about massage therapy, and I heard somebody say the word massage, my first synapse would likely be to a joke about happy endings, too. I understand that instinct.
But back on the hook, the very next episode of Easy titled “Side Hustle,” portrays a character, who actually is a prostitute, in a very detailed and nuanced manner. All the more impressive since she shares protagonist duties with an Uber-driving stand-up comedian. So in half an episode you manage to draw a compelling, three-dimensional character who could just as easily have been a punchline.
All I ask is, given the opportunity, the next time you include a massage therapist character, you turn that detail-oriented eye towards my profession as well.
My purpose in reaching out is not to get an apology, but to raise awareness about this industry that has done so much good for so many other people. I’m very protective of my students, and I don’t want to send them out into the workforce afraid of who they might encounter.
Thanks for your time. I look forward to your next project.
Harper College Massage Department