‘Sex/Life’ follows the dual life of Billie Connelly, a suburban housewife and mother of two, as she relives her carnal past. The Netflix series is an exploration of female desire and freedom that follows the conflicted Billie’s thoughts and actions intimately, both in her monogamous present and wild past. Things get further entangled when her straight-edged husband gets involved and alternately attracts and repulses Billie with his attempts to match up to the men from her past. The layered characters with complicated inner demons and external relationships seem to be quite realistic, despite the story being so steamy and dramatic. Let’s take a look at how much of ‘Sex/Life’ is based on a true story.
Is Sex/Life Based on a True Story?
Yes, ‘Sex/Life’ is based on a true story. The show is based on ’44 Chapters About 4 Men,’ a memoir by B.B. Easton that details her sexually adventurous past. Published whilst she was working as a school psychologist, her book tells the story of a very different period in her life during which she had relationships that were particularly wild. In addition to her detailed descriptions of the erotic adventures she had whilst in the punk rock scene, she also describes the tumultuous emotional and sexual adventure with her husband after he found out about her past from her journal. Her memoir has spawned 4 other books, each focussing on one of the 4 men she has detailed (including her accountant husband), which the series also draws from.
Parallels between Easton’s life and Billie, the protagonist of the show, include both of them having two children and being married to a dashing albeit “stable” husband who works a corporate job. The author’s past as a psychologist is also hinted at, with Billie and her best friend Sasha both being psychology majors. Despite the arc of the story and the dilemma of its main characters remaining unchanged, Easton’s books have been significantly reworked in bringing them to the screen. In what is most likely a tip of the hat to the show’s source material’s author, the characters of Billie and her steamy ex-boyfriend Brad both have names beginning with the letter B, making the couple’s moniker “BB,” much like the author’s initials. Brad, in fact, gets a tattoo of 2 bees to signify the same.
The responsibility of turning the books into a show fell largely on the show’s creator Stacy Rukeyser, who adapted the memoir. Her vision for the show was to create a world of nostalgia for the protagonist, one in which she was living the adventurous life she always dreamed about and contrast it with the responsible lifestyle of her older self, exploring all the things she had to give up on the way. According to Rukeyser, much like Billie, the show also attempts to find the answer to the elusive question, “Can you have it all?”
The show draws authenticity in large part from the majorly female team behind it. The female perspective that Easton brings to her books has been attempted to be retained through Rukeyser’s adaptation of it and also by having the series directed by female directors. The entire camera team on the show’s crew is also female, literally keeping the show’s “perspective” authentic.
Despite a few embellishments and artistic license, ‘Sex/Life’ retains the core of Easton’s detailed memoir by portraying the seemingly idealistic but incredibly conflicted life of the protagonist as she dwells on her sexually adventurous past. Multiple aspects of the show, including its female-centric crew, the inner-monologue-driven format, and the complex and layered relationships between the main characters, keep it true to the spirit of its biographical source material.
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