A hip "Christian pastor" offers a parable about "opium dick," a pop star who "listens to God" offers sex to high schoolers as an academic prize, and a pretentious teen gives philosophical justifications for prostitution in FX on Hulu's latest episode of The Premise.
The convoluted new episode of the anthology series, 'The Ballad of Jesse Wheeler,' premiered on Thursday, September 23. It began with pop star Jesse Wheeler returning to his high school alma mater to make a donation for a new library. When the students do not clap at the news of a library, he decides to add an additional "donation." He will have sex with whichever student wins valedictorian that year.
Wheeler's right-hand man, Cooper (O'Shea Jackson Jr.) flips out at him after the impromptu announcement. "What if the winner is underage, Jesse?" he asks.
"Then it's after they turn 18," Jesse replies.
Throughout the episode, Jesse uses "God" to justify his decision to offer a one-night stand to a high school stranger as a prize. "I don't listen to people, I listen to God," he says.
He goes to a church with a large Christian cross as its stained glass window. The supposedly hip-looking pastor gives Jesse a bizarre sexual "parable" to help him make his decision.
Jesse: Listen, pastor. The voice I'm hearing is not telling me what other people tell me it should be saying.
Pastor: For sure. I hear that.
Jesse: Can you hit me with one of those parables?
Pastor: For sure. There was this village... years ago. And in this village, there lived a chemist. Every day the chemist, he would wander the fields, picking flowers for his potions. One day, he picked this beautiful poppy, and he crushed it up and put into one of his potions. And do you know what poppies turn into?
Jesse: Poppy juice?
Pastor: Also known as opium. Now, the chemist, he put some of it on his lips to taste it. He felt totally amazing... and he rushes back to the village completely overcome with joy, and he asks this woman if he can kiss her. And then she too felt the surge. First on her lips, and then all through her body.
Jesse: Fire. ( laughs )
Pastor: Now hand in hand, they lept together through the village back to the chemist's house where they laughed and they danced. Do you know what the chemist did then?
Jesse: He put it on his dick.
Pastor: That's exactly what he did. He put it on his dick. Word spread through the village and the chemist, you know, all of a sudden, he's got all these women lining up to lay with him.
Jesse: Woof. That's a top story.
Pastor: It's not over.
Pastor: Some people, they questioned if it was fair that the chemist had this opium dick. Did the women want him or his opium?
Jesse: ( exhales ) It's all him because he made the opium.
Pastor: Your talent Jesse... your fame, the light music that shines through you.
Jesse: That's my opium dick.
Pastor: And opium is powerful. You know, some say that opium is a religion of the masses. But even when it's your opium, it's still not totally yours, is it?
Jesse: It's God's.
The weird message of that scene takes Hollywood blasphemy to new lows.
The senior destined to win the night with Jesse's "opium dick" is a slacker named Abbi (Kaitlyn Dever). She has skipped most of her high school classes for the last three years. How she can become valedictorian when her GPA is so low and she is on the verge of expulsion is never explained. She shows up for a class on "ethics and values" with her friend, Caleb (Brendan Scannell), and spouts off pseudo-intellectual Marxist claptrap that attacks orthodox religion, traditional sexual morality and "late stage capitalism."
Abbi: There's a more fundamental issue at play here. The central challenge is that you're teaching a curriculum that centers on a tradition formed by thousands of years of religious worship, but you're teaching it in an era where we worship celebrity.
Teacher: Oh, I like this, is everyone listening to Abbi?
Abbi: And, celebrity worship is better. It's an evolution.
Teacher: Okay, let's put a pin in evolution.
Abbi: Pop culture is a religion, it has its own deities, hymns, rituals, mythologies, except it's not based on make-believe and it hasn't started any wars. By definition, popular culture means that the common populace gets to play a part in defining it and changing it in real-time.
Caleb: Except that democratization doesn't mean it's superior. It can just be a shallow reflection of those same unjust structures. Case in point, a white savior figure coming into a majority-minority school and making a promise in which the prize itself escalates a value system that places himself firmly at the top of the social hierarchy.
Teacher: Okay, let's move back towards ethics and values.
Caleb: I'm sorry, does social justice not count under ethics & values?
Teacher: Oh, no, no, that's not what I meant.
Caleb: It's not a rhetorical question. It's about whether you see ethics and values through a societal lens or an individualistic one. Both valid but extremely different points of view.
Abbi: And, I'll connect them for him. Every day around the world as a maladaptation of late-stage capitalism, countless sex workers survive by economizing their sexual value through the enjoyment of the rich and powerful. Today, notably, we see a person who is powerful and privileged acknowledge his body as something of sexual value to others. He offers this of his own free will as a systemic incentive for the collective benefit of the disenfranchised. In that way, it's an act of social justice with repercussions far beyond school. As a step towards destigmatizing sex work, revolutionizing the lives of millions of people and treating the aesthetic appeal of status as a collective resource belonging to the people who created it.
The rest of the episode builds to more Marxist dialogue that reduces U.S. history and western civilization to the tired oppressor systems/oppressed dichotomy that is supposed to be a sign of student "intelligence."
Caleb gets an A+ from his history teacher, Mr. Holmes (Ed Asner), for a presentation at the history fair that posits, "The story of the world is that chains of oppression, morph into chain links of progress. Everyone who has been disconnected from society and systems of power, has rebelled, intersectional progress."
Abbi tosses in "sexual liberation" to her history project and also gets an A+. Through a VR presentation, she states, "sex... the force most capable of inspiring both infinite selfishness and infinite bonding is appropriated by all systems of power and must be liberated. If you want to matter to history, you must be as disloyal to its structures as you are loyal to its spirit. The world is watching, Mr. Holmes. Do you belong to history’s buildings, or the people who blow them up?"
One of the more insipid aspects of the episode is that the audience is supposed to believe these students' ideas are phenomenal and fresh rather than the tired, washed-up jargon of communism.
In the end, Abbi inexplicably gets the highest GPA in the class. Apparently, the writers know more about Engels than cumulative averages. She has sex with Wheeler at his mansion and announces, "I fucked him," at her valedictory speech at school. That is where the episode ends. The ending is as banal and boring as leftist ideas themselves.
Last week, the premiere episode of The Premise took amusing digs at social justice. A second episode initially offered arguments for and against the second amendment before ultimately turning against gun owners. This new episode dispensed with any nuance all together and merely wasted a half hour on morally bankrupt losers. What a waste of an audience's time.