I was just watching a short independent Canadian web series called On the Heated Floor. The series revolves around two friends, Charlotte and Beatrice, who with mere days left until they’re unceremoniously evicted by their “big jerk” landlord, have decided to spend some quality time together reliving moments that characterised the best times they’ve had together. While it’s not the worst series in the world, it did give me time to start tidying my desk and scouring my extensive to-do list.
Co-creators and stars, Rebecca Davey and Marie-Claire Marcotte’s successful crowd-funding campaign for the series included very little detail about what the series would entail, rather it focused on the positioning of the show and on the shared history of the double act. The shows origins lie in its creators desire to represent, well, the “female brain” as they put it; the creators state that “as women [they] wrote about women and issues that affect women!”, even going on to assert that backers of the show are “supporting the proliferation of female content around the web”.
As I watched this so-so and mildly nauseating web series, it occurred to me that the series was weighed down by the creators ideology. Obviously it wasn’t made by women who want to portray women negatively, rather its meant as a challenge to the depictions of women that are already out there. So the characters have been written on the basis of stereotypes they should not be; obsessed with their appearances, defined by their orbit around a male character and so on, rather than being written solely to be realistic, and engaging women.
This is not a web series exploring flawed human beings but one set in an alternative reality where the characters are liberated from any social pressure so the creators can portray an idealised female relationship. So brace yourself for zero bitchiness, backstabbing, conflict or drama; those are probably negative female stereotypes which must be avoided anyway, and get ready instead for the total opposite of an emotional roller-coaster ride. In this series we’re treated to Charlotte and Beatrice getting on well with each other, being girly, baking cakes, sharing anecdotes in their PJs some of which trigger sexcapades flashbacks and of course, spending time on the heated floor.
Searching for the link to the eighth and final episode I noticed a YouTube recommendation for an episode of “BroScienceLife”, which is a web series that I’d thought about reviewing awhile back. I never did. I had almost decided it didn’t qualify as a web series; the production values are light and the performance by front man Dom Mazzetti (Mike Tornabene) is delivered to-camera in the vein of a popular YouTube vlog star – but despite all that, it is very much a web series; there have been 36 episodes to date set in fitting locations (such as gyms and kitchens), the dialogue is clever and referential, whilst each episode is a narrative covering a different topic.
Bro Science isn’t exactly for everyone. The enjoyment you’ll get out of this show will be almost directly proportional to the amount of time you’ve spent working out to gain muscle, and how much of that time was inspired by one of the many popular work out gurus on YouTube. Indeed the name of the show itself subverts and humorously makes light of perhaps the biggest controversy in the online workout community, that of the value of ‘bro science’ – which the urban dictionary defines as “anecdotal evidence presented as fact by unqualified, yet confident individuals in the body building community”.
If you’re a stranger to the online workout community, take it from me that Bro Science is an expertly achieved parody of YouTube instructional videos and workout personalities. There’s probably enough universal charm here to reel you in, but the show really shines if you’re familiar with the material it’s riffing on. Dom guides us through his take on the many problems bodybuilders encounter in the gym and in life; from our first awkward visit, to how to maximise our gains, handle problem areas of our physique and even how to hit on a girl in the gym.
Bro Science is not for the weak of mind. Each episode boasts expert satirical commentary that can be enjoyed on many levels. Only true workout scholars, muscle-bound philosophers and the few Albert Einstein’s of personal fitness possess the intellect to analyze and break down the series to its hidden, often devious roots. These rare, brilliant few will be able to enjoy Bro Science to its fullest degree. Others, like you and I, however, can still enjoy Dom Mazzetti’s silly antics, overblown ego and comic delivery.
What really sets Bro Science apart is the depth that it has – the show hits at emotional level, seriously. I’m not kidding. Deep down the drive to workout is born of feelings of inadequacy. You want to look better, you want to feel different, it’s connected to your sense of self identity and as Dom comes back each new episode and mocks yet another aspect of work out culture and bad advice folklore, he seems to pull open and reveal some of the emotional truths behind the whole activity – it’s like some kind of Richard Pryor style stand up comedy routine.
Yes! That’s right. The first time I went to the gym to work out, I was completely focused on the activity in the room, and how to try to look like I was already an expert while while I was figuring the machines out. I’d forgotten that. It’s all funny because its true. The experiences brought up by the Bro Science are ones that a lot of people will, perhaps just secretly, relate to. And it’s cathartic to see somebody else highlight these universal experiences that you go through on your own.
Despite the comedy angle Bro Science leverages, the series still portrays real life aspects bodybuilding; the language, the techniques, the debates, etc which fitness enthusiasts will enjoy. The combination of the athletic culture and Epic Meal Time style larger than life satire makes it a hard web series to resist.
If it seems crazy that I’m comparing a male focused and fitness centric comedy with a series all about reminiscing with your best friend, then you’re just lacking imagination. The two web series might seem worlds apart at first glance but they’re comparable because of how they tackle representation.
While On the Heated Floor’s creators have labelled it as representative, I struggle to see who it can really be representing. The characters are dull and one dimensional. Their exploratory conversations in which they wonder about love, marriage and getting old are oddly flat, carrying no emotional oomph whatsoever. The dialogue itself is written through so many layers of jaded cynicism, wrapped up and presented to us as “quirky” indifference that it’s almost impossible to care about or understand what motivates anybody on screen.
On The Heated Floor set out to represent women in a positive light, and has failed. Its two leading ladies come across as emotionally numb, deeply miserable and fully in denial about it. Leads Charlotte and Beatrice may not get on each-others nerves, argue or clash (like actual, real human beings do, regardless of gender) but this “victory” in representation is as hollow as the characters Davey and Marcotte have somehow managed to write.
In terms of structure, there’s a big difference – On The Heated Floor starts with a painfully long, repetitive intro, and fades out to an even less appropriate, ethereal techno tune. Unlike Bro Science which often breaks down into an introduction, followed by a count down or another structuring device, On The Heated Floor just meanders from beginning to end. Bro Science is actually representative. It is made by creators (Mike & Gian) who are keenly aware of the culture and experiences of a very real community. Bro Science’s easily relatable content is perfectly distributed and labelled to be found on YouTube and forms part of an ongoing and ever evolving conversation with other fitness enthusiasts/creators, such as The Hodgetwins, Mike Chang, Ian Mccarthy and Scooby who are also entertaining and hopefully educating interested viewers.
So there we have it, another edition of head to head web series reviewing. On The Heated floor loses by a mile but you knew that already. Not just for content but also for its marketing. Disagree? Leave a comment.