Please Like Me, Season 3 Episode 2: “Simple Carbohydrates”

One of my favourite things about Please Like Me is that it never judges people for what they’re feeling. Mental illness is built into the fabric of this show, but it’s not a show about mental illness, which is crucial. It’s just a show about these characters. While last week felt like a catching up/getting Josh and Arnold together sort of thing, “Simple Carbohydrates” has a more lived-in feel to it. It’s a hangout sitcom that revolves around Josh as he deals with the various people in his life. For the first time in a long time, Mum is in a really good place. She’s sick of being home all the time and begs Hannah, who is very clearly depressed, to take her to a lesbian bar. Tom is mad at Josh for breaking their “no bread” pact, Arnold wants to come out to his parents, and we learn that Mei had an affair while she was pregnant.

I may have speculated last week about Arnold being out to his parents, because I didn’t watch all of season two. This week we (well, I) know for sure that he isn’t, and it’s a contributing factor to his anxiety – the idea of coming out probably has him at a heightened state of anxiousness. His dad has always been worried about perception – when he was in the choir, he wasn’t worried that Arnold was gay, but that other people would think he was gay – but we don’t actually know him very well, if at all, so we only have Arnold’s stories to tell us what kind of person that he is. Arnold’s storyline converges with Dad’s, when Josh brings Dad over to hang out with him, Tom, Arnold and Claire (via Skype) after he can’t handle that Mei had an affair. Josh’s coming out to his parents involved Geoffrey telling his dad, making out with Geoffrey in front of Aunty Peg, and Aunty Peg blurting it out to Mum in church. Josh never had to tell anyone, so it’s really sweet that he wants to give Arnold the best experience possible.

There’s a small role play, but Josh and Tom aren’t convinced by Dad’s performance, possibly because he’s using John as a teddy bear. To be fair to Dad, he’s dealing with his own stuff right now, but Josh and Tom suddenly become producers with Claire as the audience. Arnold relives his time in the choir by singing Sia’s “Chandelier”, while Dad plays the father transformed by the performance. Maybe it’s cheesy that listening to Chandelier made him forget about his problems, but when it’s sung by the right person, music is pretty great. Dad hugs Arnold and tells him that it doesn’t matter that he’s gay, just that he’s a good person. It’s all any of us wants to hear, whatever our hangups. Arnold’s actual coming out may not go that well in reality, but he knows that it’s possible for the experience to be the positive one.

I didn’t realise it until watching “Simple Carbohydrates”, but the way Josh has become the Adam Braverman for his parents and Mei is quite impressive. Mum calls him when she can’t find Hannah, and both Dad and Mei call him about their affair. Josh is the person in his family that others look to for comfort and support, and I really liked seeing that. Mum of course calls Josh because she’s lost Hannah (who is being forced to have fun) at a lesbian bar. Josh of course pretends that this is his Mum coming out, because that’s the way Josh deals with things in his life. It’s clear from our perspective that Hannah is in a bad place – she forgot to pay her phone bill, so she’s been disconnected for an indeterminate number of weeks, but the process of being on hold is too much for her to handle (I would really like a service that tells me where I am in the queue, because that would be really useful). She’s self-harming by hitting her feet until they’re bruised, and she’s careful to put on socks before she leaves her room to see Rose. Rose has had her own struggles, but it can be really difficult to recognise that someone else is unhappy, even if you’re unhappy yourself. If you know that person really well it can be quite easy, but mental illness is such a stigma that we get really good at hiding things when we know they’re not okay. Please Like Me is nothing if not optimistic, so I think Hannah will be okay at some point. Not everyone’s going to be okay all the time, but they’ll support each other, which is what’s important.

Other thoughts:

  • Claire is coming back home from Germany, which means Caitlin Stasey must have gotten a break from being on Reign. Josh is able to pay for the change of flight, so the coffee cart must be doing pretty well.
  • I found the whole thing about bread hilarious, mainly because I love bread, but also because it’s reminiscent of so many things you hear paleo people say.
  • Tom was stress building a cardboard city, and Josh and Arnold had joined in by the end of the episode, which was a nice touch. Nowadays people are often doing things (usually playing on their phones) while having a conversation, and it’s nice to see that Tom’s hobby became a group activity.

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