By now I hope all of you have watched Special, a new show on Netflix loosely based on Ryan O'Connell's memoir Special and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves. If you haven't, go do that now — each of the eight episodes in the series is a mere 15 minutes long which means you definitely have time. I loved the show unreservedly and I want more. Specifically, I want more Kim — Ryan's stylish, body-positive, and inhumanly confident bestie. Punam Patel, who plays the character, wants more of Special too, and she and I have some thoughts on where her character should go next.
When Ryan first meets Kim on the show she emerges from the shadow of their overbearing boss like an angel of mercy and immediately tucks Ryan under her well-dressed wing. She squires him around fashionable parties. She delivers withering off-the-cuff buck-up buttercup speeches. She even arranges for him to lose his virginity. There are hints, of course, that Kim is not as fully together as she seems — moments when the cracks show beneath her DVF external layer. There are a few moments when she even confesses these, like when she admits she feels that as a curvy woman of color she needs to work twice as hard on her image as skinny white women — and she's going broke doing it.
But these speeches are merely teachable moments for Ryan, not unlike a wise older teacher in a teen drama relating his own problems to the real stars of the show. I, like Ryan, am a Kim stan, and I want to go just a little bit deeper into her as a character. As Patel herself acknowledges, there is a dearth of plus-size women of color on TV — and when you get a character as fun as Kim, people are going to want more. For starters, Patel tells me on the phone that she'd like the show to follow Kim home and see her "take her bra off literally and figuratively." I put in helpfully, "her bra armor." Patel would like to see the more vulnerable side of Kim, which is only touched on in the show — like at the pool party when the two thin white women applaud Kim for being "brave" enough to love her body. If you can be that confident then what are we complaining about, the skinny white ladies coo as Kim slips her head underwater in order to escape/drown to death.
Patel and I would both like to see a lot more of this. Because sure, Kim is confident in her body (as is Patel, who says she's never loved her body more), but that doesn't mean she's invincible.
But perhaps more important than seeing Kim's softer side, Patel and I both think it's time for Kim to get her own hot paramour. I mean, I am happy for Ryan and Ryan's mom for getting hot boyfriends because they totally deserve it but now it's Kim's turn. "Let's get Kim a love interest!" Patel exclaims to me. I don't know if I've made this clear yet — but I totally agree.
Special does so many things so well, not least of which creating engaging and relatable characters that you just want to see more of — particularly Ryan and his mom. Personally, I'd just like a little more from Kim than wise-cracking fairy godmother. So let's get on that, Special.