Amanda Chantal Bacon is a wellness firebrand, a relentless peddler of juices, clean eating plans and nutritional boosters she calls “dusts.” The guru behind the Moon Juice Cookbook, the so-called The Joy of Cooking for the kale set, once described a food and beauty routine so abstemious, the internet exploded over the sheer ridiculousness of her preoccupation with fancy supplements and oblivion to the caloric deficits in her daily diet. Also, her impossibly undone, just-so beauty. The combination of these fixations suggested a sense of and need for control that bordered on creepy, or so the conventional wisdom of the outraged internet went. And that’s without even mentioning the gigantic chunk of rose quartz Father John Misty apparently stole from her.
We’re conditioned to be suspicious of people who treat their bodies like machines, as objects to be cared for and tuned up regularly with mechanical precision. And it’s especially irritating when those characters pass themselves off as free spirits, but do so while adhering to monastic (yet incredibly expensive) diets, impossible social consciousness standards and a schedule consisting strictly of Zumba classes and cardio barre. When one person’s body is a temple, what does that mean about the rest of us? That our bodies are garbage dumps?
At first glance, Bonnie on Big Little Lies, as played by the perfectly cast Zoë Kravitz, herself a lifelong vegan, seems cut from the same cloth as Bacon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Taryn Toomey and other flawlessly enlightened women of privilege . Bonnie appears to be the hippie-dippy canyon lady, the type to take her step-daughter to Planned Parenthood and dance a little too sensuously at a child’s birthday party. She seems down—certainly compared to the other uptight moms of Otter Bay, whose only release is a glass of Merlot or something made of chocolate and a wink from the cute barista on the pier.
The audience's complicated emotions about Bonnie come to a head in the second-to-last episode's disastrous "Kumbaya" dinner, and they were expertly personified in Madeline, who tells her hapless husband Ed (Adam Scott, doing an excellent pathetic second fiddle), “she better not teach me how to peel a potato.” Even before stepping through the threshold of Bonnie’s domain, Madeline was feeling oppressed by the self-restraint, entitlement, and moral superiority of her children’s stepmother. There's only so much wellness she could take before literally throwing up.
But while Kravitz' Bonnie can come across as self-satisfaction incarnate—an uptight neurotic masquerading as woke Monterey wood nymph—there's more to her than meets the eye. She may not ban sugary cereals in her house, or stir strange powders into the meal she makes for Madeline, but she does scold her husband for eating what she calls garbage with an edge that's something of a dare.
She may pass judgment on the women around her, but she does so silently, while being relatively untouchable within the psychotic social pecking order of Otter Bay. Bonnie represents a divergence from the “way things work” among the other moms, who, as Madeline explains to Jane in the pilot, either run Fortune 500 companies or stay at home. Bonnie is not only one of a handful of women of color at first grade pick-up, and certainly among its youngest—a position she uses as a source of power—but she is also a disconcerting exception to the rule, not an executive or a stay-at-home mom, but a fitness instructor with a flawless body who seems very much her own person, despite her marriage, a partnership of which she's firmly in control of. (Nathan is his own sort of second fiddle, to two powerful women no less.)
For all her patchouli activism and spiritual enlightenment, Bonnie's got the life—the hen-pecked husband, the adorable daughter, and a career that allows her to enjoy the fruits of her labor. She works but not too hard, and while the other moms are out chugging wine around fire pits and taking edibles, she’s making beautiful organic dinners and helping their picture-perfect Benetton ad kids navigate the realities of girlhood.
We all want to hate the woman who takes care of herself, and perhaps we're justified in that disdain when their health concerns border on the fetishistic. Bonnie, on the other hand, seems to be having her cake and eating it, too—gluten-free, no doubt. While her brand of wellness is likely commonplace in Los Angeles (she still has sugar cereal in her house after all, and that’s hardly silver needles and calendula), in the cloistered world of Big Little Lies, where conformity is the basis of social order, she may come across as out of the ordinary.
But perhaps it’s everyone else who’s obsessive, and Bonnie’s the only sane one around. Pass me the Mexican ceramic mug, thank you very much.