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Jill Soloway’s ‘I Love Dick’ Brings the ‘Female Gaze’ to Emmy Voters

“Transparent” creator Jill Soloway has referred to her latest Amazon series “I Love Dick” as “a tool of the Matriarchal Revolution.” At an Emmy event and screening of the first two episodes Wednesday night in Hollywood, she and other principals on the show spoke further to that over-arching theme.

“Some people think of this book as the invention of the female gaze in literature,” Soloway said of feminist author Chris Kraus’ novel, on which the show is based.

The comedy, premiering May 12, stars Kathryn Hahn as a version of Kraus, a New York filmmaker who travels to Marfa, Texas with her academic husband (Griffin Dunne) for an artist’s residency, only to be tractor-beamed into the charismatic, enigmatic orbit of local art instructor and cowboy sprite Dick (Kevin Bacon).

It’s source material that allows for some interesting dissection of the female artist experience. At one point in the second episode, Hahn’s character even slags off on female directors like Sofia Coppola, taking particularly hilarious aim at her highlights.

“I think as recently as five years ago I was seething at people like Sofia Coppola and Lena Dunham,” Soloway confessed. “It’s because it feels like there are not enough spots. It feels like there only gets to be one at a time. There’s Sofia Coppola, then there’s Miranda July, then there’s Lena Dunham — all these people, I would never say anything horrible about them, but I’ve felt that feeling of, ‘Why them and not me?'”

She continued: “I think that happens either for women or for queer people or people of color. If you’re a straight white man, it’s kind of assumed that there’s work for you out there. And everybody else, we’re sort of reaching for our moments. And then yeah, you see somebody else get it, you can’t help but go, ‘That’s my moment that person got.'”

Co-creator Sarah Gubbins said Kraus’ book was exciting for a prospective adaptation because “there’s nothing else like it. It’s so ferocious and honest and you can’t look away from the way in which it’s narrated by a woman who is coming into her own. The journey she has to take to do that is not a pretty one, but it allows the audience to want to be a part of it and root for her.”

It was a bit like Richard Dreyfus in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” for Hahn. “She just sees that mountain and she has to keep making it and making it and trying to define it,” the actress said. “There is something about trying to define what that all-encompassing draw is.”

The creative approach to the show is bold and at times almost free-associative, totally singular in the television fray. That sense of something fresh, both on the page and in the making of it, is what attracted self-professed “jaded” star Bacon to join up.

“It’s something I love but something that’s hard to do in this current film market, to be able to do something that feels truly experimental and weird and challenging and edgy and off-beat,” Bacon said. “To have a place to do that is amazing as an actor.”

Soloway and Gubbins assembled an all-female writers room for the show as well, a historic footnote in all of this. “A lot of them had been the only woman in the room [on other projects] and had tried to play the role of, ‘Be game. Be funny. Don’t offend. Be careful what you say,'” Soloway said. “So everyone got really loose really fast.”

Added Bacon: “Leave it to a female writers room to create two of the best, most well-rounded male characters that I’ve read in a long time. Both of these guys end up being definitely male and definitely complex and definitely interesting. The idea that somehow [women are] not going to be able to deliver that is astounding to me.”

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