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If you are a glutton for punishment, you might want to check out Netflix’s show Bonding. The off-beat romantic comedy follows the adventures of Tiff, a psychology grad student who moonlights as a dominatrix, and her newfound assistant Carter as they navigate the ups and downs of New York City’s BDSM scene.

The show is not devoid of charm. It’s often funny and occasionally touching. Still, Bonding can’t help but beat viewers over the head with its message, making the show painfully cartoonish at times.

Our protagonist Tiff is supposed to prove, contra your stereotypes, that one can be both a diligent academic and a successful sex worker. That’s fine. But the heavy-handed show demonstrates this by depicting her studying flash cards labeled “sexism” or “misogyny” while decked out in her dominatrix gear.

That a sadomasochistic-themed rom-com exists at all is noteworthy. However hokey, Bonding is a good illustration of society’s increasing acceptance of alternative lifestyles. The fetishes it portrays attract little of the shame or stigma in real life that they once did. Collisions between the hero’s seamy side gigs and her vanilla life cause more confusion than scandal. That’s a win for tolerance if a loss for drama.

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