Mozart in the Jungle – leaning away from sex to… something more

Oh. You thought I was done with Mozart? Yeah, me too. Apparently not. The other thing that going back and rewatching season one after finishing the third season has illuminated is the (unhealthy?) obsession that the series seemed to first have with sex which slowly dissipated away throughout the first season and is now pretty much a non-entity. That’s not to say no one has sex anymore. They’re all still getting plenty of it. But everyone’s a lot less sex obsessed than they used to be. Particularly the writers.

I imagine the whole sex thing became such a central element because that was a major aspect of the book that the series was based on. The series bandied about these taglines when it first premiered:

‘sex, drugs and classical music’


‘what happens behind the curtains at the symphony’

It really sets up that this is the premise of the show. Simply an expose of musician’s lives. There are so many moments in Mozart’s pilot episode that play off this. Right from the outset. Like a lot of pilots, they use the first immediate sound/image to communicate what the show is ‘about’:


Yes. Woodwinds are a penis. And the like. I like this fun misdirect though, especially because that scene ends up playing into Hailey as the frustrated artist. But… it doesn’t let up. Even the throw to the opening credits is based around two completely unimportant men bantering about a sexual conquest locker room style until we get to…

Screen Shot 2017-04-14 at 11.20.24 am

Interesting choice to use such a conversation and payoff as the moment of metonymy of the series. Especially since on reflection I’m sure they would’ve done it very differently. And it does keep going. There’s a sequence later in the episode where Cynthia informs young innocent Hailey of her sexual conquests with musicians and how that relates to the type of lover they are. You can imagine how it goes, pianists are good with their fingers, etc. But sitting down watching this first episode again I’m all very much OH MY GOD WHAT IS THIS? WHY DO I EVEN LIKE THIS SHOW? But then the show decided not to do that anymore. As an Amazon show, the pilot episode was produced and up and talked about before the series was even ordered to a first season. And the writers here obviously came to the same conclusion, and decided to drift away from this centre point to such an extent that later episodes are barely recognisable from the pilot.

I wonder how this turn came about – if it was based on feedback or reflection from the pilot episode. Or if it was because the writers quickly came to the realisation that basing a series around such a superficial notion would dry up fast. Music as conceit for sex. Because the series has moved to something greater, and did so throughout the first season, into this exploratory excursion of what music means to us, how it can change people, how art elevates, the joy (and pain) of experience, how music connects us. All these really big, bold, philosophical ideas. Music as conceit for life. Wayyy more interesting, and grounded, than just giving the audience a bit of a gander at the hijinks of musicians. I mentioned the taglines for the first season – but for the second and third? They are, respectively:

‘they’re all just looking to find their rhythm’


’you can’t have harmony when everyone goes solo’

Wowsers. How far they have come. And what much more interesting story it gave them when they looked in this direction. AND WHY I LOVE IT SO. The series has definitely developed a beautiful sense of premise over the course of it’s three years. And it has still got the rapturous melodies to go along with it.

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