‘Bonding’: A Look at the True Story Behind Netflix’s Dominatrix Comedy

Netflix’s comedy Bonding is a show with an unusual premise for a sitcom, however, it was based on a true story. The two main characters were based on real people. Here’s a look at how the real story behind Bonding compares to the sitcom itself.

Zoe Levin and Brendan Scannel near a poster for Bonding
Zoe Levin and Brendan Scannell | Presley Ann/Getty Images

‘Bonding’ has a lot of sexuality in it, but it’s really about something else

Firstly, a little background. Thanks to the likes of Rihanna and the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise, BDSM had a bit of a pop culture renaissance in the 2010s. While Rihanna and E. L. James portrayed the practice as sexy, Rightor Doyle’s Bonding goes in a different, more comedic direction. It centers on an aspiring stand-up comic named Pete who becomes an assistant to a professional dominatrix named Tiff, who works under the name Mistress May. The show is about how messy — and funny — relationships can be, whether sexual or otherwise. While the show certainly has some outlandish moments (who could forget those penguin suits?), it’s actually based in reality.

“I moved to New York City and I knew a girl who had secretly become a dominatrix and she needed essentially a bodyguard/assistant, someone to come with her,” Doyle told HollywoodLife.”‘I guess the other word would be a ‘witness,’ in many circumstances, because [being a domme is] not totally a safe thing to do. So, I did that with her. And the show is highly fictionalized and sort of takes a very far left turn from that experience, but the idea comes from the [experiences.]”

A trailer for Bonding

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How ‘Bonding’ compares to Rightor Doyle’s life experiences

In an interview with The Daily Beast, Doyle revealed how Tiff differed from the real dominatrix who inspired her. “What you see on screen is highly fictionalized, and my ‘Tiff’ was nothing like the character of Tiff, who is quite hard,” he said. “She was joyful and lovely.”

During an interview with the New York Post, Doyle revealed why he didn’t want to make Bonding too similar to his own experiences. “I’m not that interested in a show about me, but I’m interested in a show about what happened and what I learned,” he said. Doyle explained his time in the BDSM community taught him about patriarchy and how people with less power under it — like women and gay men — can subvert it. 

Rightor Doyle at a bar
Rightor Doyle |Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

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How the show is subversive

Doyle wants the show itself to be subversive. For example, the world of BDSM is often associated with danger. In contrast, Doyle decided to make the aesthetic of the show joyous, with a focus on bright colors. He wanted it to look very different from Fifty Shades of Grey, which has a dark and muted color palette. In addition, Doyle wanted the show to explore the world of kink rather than exploit it. Bonding might be rooted in reality — but it still wants to challenge your expectations.