Spoilers for the show Sharp Objects below.
In Sharp Objects, a new series on HBO, journalist Camille Preaker (Amy Adams) is on assignment to cover the serial murders of teenage girls in her hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri. When she arrives at her childhood home after a long day, she’s greeted by her mother, Adora (Patricia Clarkson), who wears a pink lace nightgown with heeled slippers, and holds an Amaretto sour in her hands. Despite being on her way to bed, Adora is noticeably made-up, with her nails manicured to match her nightdress and her blonde hair coiffed into perfect waves. She looks like a character from Gone With the Wind, or a 1940’s Hollywood starlet. Except it’s 2006.
Adora wears nightgowns throughout the show, all of them in shades of white and pink. At first, I found them campy and sort of inspiring: Maybe we all should be wearing bedclothes at all hours! How dramatic! But as Sharp Objects progresses, they seem to be a sign of Adora’s darker side.
For most people, staying in one’s pajamas all day is passive; an act of extreme laziness. But for Adora, her fancy silk nightdresses are more of an active statement: a way to loudly signal that she cannot possibly muster the energy to get dressed. It’s a performance of weakness or fragility, which she expresses often in order to seem like a victim.
When her daughter arrives unannounced, for example, instead of expressing elation, Adora seems exhausted and inconvenienced simply by the sight of her. “The house is not up to par for visitors, I’m afraid,” she tells Camille in an almost-whisper. After she says this, we see a maid in full uniform descend the stairs of Adora’s Victorian mansion. Clearly, the house is “up to par,” but Adora is a woman whose energy is spent having things her way. Nothing is ever “up to par,” it seems — a taxing standard of living for everyone involved, but especially Adora.
Only three episodes in, we don’t know yet whether or not Adora is a redeemable character, but the evidence thus far is pretty damning. A witness recalls the town’s latest victim, Natalie Keene, being abducted by a “woman in white.” Hmm. People who wear silk nightgowns arguably have ulterior motives other than getting eight hours in. And for Adora, it’s definitely about more than impressing her totally checked-out husband, who sleeps in another room.
All we know is that we wish we looked this good in our pajamas, and that no one who looks that good in their pajamas should be trusted.