Life is a constant transition. From the moment we’re born we struggle to accept who we are, who we want to be, and how the world sees us.
Amazon Studios’ Transparent confronts the idea that most people sacrifice who they are until they can’t anymore. Created and produced by Jill Soloway, who was inspired by her own father coming out as transgender, the show brings to light a topic that has too often been faced in secret.
Maura Pfefferman (Jeffery Tambor) spent her life as Mort, raising three children who are also struggling to accept who they are as adults. As Maura transitions from man to woman, we watch her children transition around her.
Sarah (Amy Landecker) cheats on her husband with a woman, coming to terms with her sexuality. Josh (Jay Duplass) juggles relationships with women trying to find “the one.” Ali (Gaby Hoffman), the youngest sibling, is jobless, relying on handouts to get by.
The beauty of Transparent is that Maura’s transition isn’t the the sole focus of the show. Instead, creator Jill Soloway weaves each character into the larger journey human beings take to accept themselves and others.
In the pilot, Maura tells a support group, "They are so selfish," speaking about her children. She wonders aloud how she could have raised such selfish children, revealing that we don't even know those to whom we are closest. Throughout the series, Maura realizes this and hopes that those around her will understand and stick with her through her transformation.
Maura struggles with coming out to her family. The children learn one by one, the first coming as a surprise to eldest daughter Sarah when she is having a revelation of her own. As Sarah is reuniting with her college love Tammy in her father's house, Maura, in full female dress, walks in on them.
Ali learns the secret when she is high, when she is totally accepting, but is unsure the next morning how she really feels. As the family comes to terms with the new status quo in their lives, each must face his or her own reality, determing if they have the courage to accept themselves as they truly are.
Glimpses into Maura’s former life showcase how she hid her true self from her wife and kids. In the flashback episode “Best New Girl,” we see Maura as a married man on a retreat with other cross-dressers who aren’t yet ready to accept who they are. On this weekend, Maura begins to realize that she is beyond cross-dressing, and that her attraction to the feminine goes much deeper than her clothing.
One of the most poignant moments of that episode – and of the season - is when Maura and Marcy (now returning to his real identity as Mark, played by guest star Bradley Whitford) are heading back from the retreat to their everyday lives. Marcy confronts Maura, asking her why she’s still dressed like a woman. Maura spits back that she wants to enjoy being a woman for two more hours because that’s all she has for now. Marcy doesn’t understand that Maura has begun to accept that this is who she is, not just something she does.
In the final episode of the first season, Maura confronts Ali, asking if Ali would still like her if Maura didn’t give her money. Ali cannot answer and runs off, trying to find the truth within herself. Ali's vulnerability highlights what Maura’s been afraid of all along. She just wants acceptance from her family, but is afraid that it might not come.
The first season sets the groundwork for the evolution of the Pfefferman family as they learn to accept who they're becoming. This is what sets Transparent apart from other shows struggling to tell the story of transition. Transition is a matter of finding who you are, confronting life as it throws curveballs, and finding acceptance along the way.
Transparent is the first show from a streaming service to win a Golden Globe for Best Series, which it won in 2015. It will return for its second season in late 2015.
For showcasing transition as a search for one's authentic self, Transparent is a recipient of 2015 Television Academy Honors.
Produced by Amazon Studios
Watch Transparent on Amazon Instant Video.
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