Alex Casey talks to PSUSY creator Jaya Beach-Robertson about pushing the webseries boundaries and dealing with thrush.
PSUSY is a lot things, but it is not here to be cute. The psychedelic, hilarious webseries created by Jaya Beach Robertson and directed by Annie Duckworth delves deep into the gnarly realities of sex, dating and gender roles in New Zealand, all in snappy online episodes less than five minutes long. And just like real humans, PSUSY contains multitudes. One moment it could be tackling the decriminalisation of abortion New Zealand, the next it could be eating a cooked chicken with its bare hands on the supermarket floor.
Free from the shackles of television, PSUSY isn’t afraid of gunk, nudity, drugs, and NSFW memes like the yoghurt thing and the grapefruit thing. In fact, it’s happy to wallow around in the muckiness of the female body, something most of popular culture would have you believe doesn’t exist. It’s a ‘How Embarrassment’ section come to life, it’s Broad City down under (literally) and it’s mostly just a huge fucking relief. Because if you’ve been there, or at least someone you know has been there, then PSUSY has definitely been there.
I spoke to PSUSY’s creator and star Jaya Beach Robertson following the release of the second season, all of which you can devour within the hour right here.
Every time I watch PSUSY I’m reminded that you don’t often to see this kind of raw, weird shit in New Zealand shows. Do you have a sense of that when you are making it?
Totally. When we were writing it I was constantly thinking ‘what am I bored of seeing?’. If I could think of something in pop culture that I had seen and I liked, I would try and figure out how to push it just that little bit further. Often just that pushing of ideas didn’t come from me. In that last episode, where my character is in the hairdressers, I wanted to go really subtle with the consent metaphor. Everyone else told me no, and insisted that I push, push, push it. A lot of the time I would write something and think… how do I make this more PSUSY?
I read another interview where you said there was certain sameness to a lot of the TV our country makes, that it didn’t necessarily represent what life looks like for a lot of us.
Yeah, that’s why my show is made for the internet. This is exactly where I intended it to be viewed. The people who are hanging out on the internet have seen some shit, man. I’ve been on Reddit for about six years and you come across the strangest, most fucked up things.
If you are consuming that sort of content on the internet as a young person, when you see a show that is portraying women as great and perfect and clean, who is going to relate to that? So many of my friends are disenfranchised with the characters you see on TV. That’s why we watch content, isn’t it? Because we want to see parts of ourselves reflected back?
The main thing is, I made it for an audience that is not going to be consuming network television. This is the for the people watching weird, black hole shit on Youtube. Webseries these days are not just tiny shows, you know? House of Cards is technically a webseries.
I’m also very into how PSUSY gets like elbow deep in sexual health stuff, and the gnarly clinical maintenance involved in having a vagina. I feel like you go even further than Broad City, was that also part of your mandate?
I just did it because nobody told me not to. It’s like, dude, women get thrush all the time. I could have talked about even grosser vaginal problems, like chlamydia. So many of my friends have had chlamydia but nobody ever talks about having chlamydia. I’ve experienced it, the whole thrush episode was something that actually happened to me.
I remember it was the first time I had used thrush cream, I was really baked and was not expecting that little plastic tube. I just sat there with my vagina on fire being like ‘what is going on’? It was really scary and confusing, I had to watch a Youtube tutorial. I think so many people can relate to that reality: sometimes, you have to put cream up your pussy.
The chemist scene was the realest shit ever, I had to get some cream once and the chemist yelled to the bloke out back “BARRY! THRUSH CREAM’ and they both laughed heartily. I think I died that day.
I was waiting in line behind was this family, who were trying to figure out how to get a cover for their daughter’s cast. They were taking so long, the the anxiety levels were just building and building. When I got to the front of the line, thank god the guy heard me the first time so I didn’t have to say it a million times. The humility of our own bodies is so real eh?
I find comfort in the disgust, you know? Like solidarity.
Totally. It’s real, a lot of us have to go through this stuff and you shouldn’t be ashamed of it.
I was thinking about movies like American Pie and Old School that are entirely geared towards the man’s sexual experience. Growing up, we find out so much about boners and wet dreams before we even learn about our own bodies.
Totally, men are allowed to have these sexual experiences and be sexual creatures and have these weird funny things happen to them. But as soon as you start talking about losing your tampon, getting thrush or the other million, trillion things that happen to you when you have a cavernous area in your body, people freak.
If you watch this show and are like ‘oh my god’ think about why. Why do you feel that way? Take a step back and really think about why you’ve been conditioned to feel like that.
We’re all just disgusting, seeping messes at the end of the day.
I think another thing is that I always used to compare myself to shit like The OC. I thought Marissa was so beautiful and that I should probably go on a diet or think about dying my hair blonde and start straightening it. You have these expectations and you are never, ever going to beat them. That’s what Broad City did for me, it smashed those expectations. Like oh, you’re a funny-looking Jewish girl? I’m a funny-looking white girl with weird things on my face! I should make cool shit like you
Is Broad City the main inspiration for PSUSY? They feel like spiritual sisters for sure.
Yes the TV show inspired me – two girls doing weird stuff – but I think the main thing was that they gave me was the permission to be. I would look at those two Broad City girls and think ‘well, they’re doing fine’. They were making a show that wasn’t conforming, they didn’t look like cookie cutter girls, in fact I hadn’t seen anyone that looked like them on TV before. And maybe that meant that I could be on TV.
There are some episodes that tackle abortion and consent in quite a serious, nuanced way. How did you choose what to tackle in the heavier political episodes?
I think a lot of it came from what people were talking about, and what was going on in pop culture at the time. The abortion episode was a really last minute one. I had been reading some news articles about the legislation in New Zealand and had been to see a play at The Basement about it. People online were talking about how the laws in New Zealand were very antiquated.
I went and talked to the woman who runs the Auckland Medical Aid Centre on Dominion Road, Leslie Wood, and she schooled me. It was amazing. She was so passionate about it and she gave me all these photocopies and took me around the whole premises. We should yell about this, it should be part of the culture that yes, you still have to claim you are mentally incapable of carrying a child if you want an abortion.
Can we talk about funding PSUSY for a sec? Because I understand that this was all self-funded?
Yeah. We had some funding that fell through for the production budget so I was like ‘fuck, fuck, fuck, shit, shit, shit – what am I going to do?’ It was really close to when we were starting filming, so I decided to break the cardinal rule of filmmaking, which is never spend your own money.
I poured like 90% of my life savings into that season. Everything I had, I put into it. We also ran a really successful crowd funding campaign, which was amazing that we actually made our target. The whole thing was just a really intense fucking roller coaster.
Most people would just give up.
I don’t think I’m that type of person, I think I would have regretted it forever if I gave up, but I could have put a little bit more thought into it before I rushed in. But it is what it is, it’s out there in the world and I’m so proud of it. I’m so proud of what me and Annie have made. I’m so proud of everyone who helped out.
Have you applied for NZ On Air funding before?
First thing: I hate doing applications. The amount of time you put into doing and application versus how small the rejection letter is… that’s soul crushing. I don’t want to be told no, and we have such a limited amount of funding in New Zealand that getting behind a show like PSUSY would be very risky. So no, I’ve never applied for funding because I don’t want to be told that I can’t put a big knitted vagina in a shot.
What does the knitted vagina do in the off-season, by the way?
It stays under my house wrapped up in plastic. You never know when you’re going to need a knitted vagina.
This content, like all television coverage we do at The Spinoff, is brought to you thanks to the excellent folk at Lightbox. Do us and yourself a favour by clicking here to start a FREE 30 day trial of this truly wonderful service.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed daily digest of New Zealand’s most important stories, delivered directly to your inbox each morning.