Damaged Goods: The Importance of Being Messy

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Directed by Vincent Martell

It’s 7:59 p.m. on Tuesday night and I’m headed to the release party for Damaged Goods, the first original series from Chicago’s preeminent, POC/LGBTQ-led production company and “film collective,” VAM Studio. Doors opened about an hour ago and the pubs said the screening would start “promptly at 8.”

My Uber driver - perhaps the most directionally challenged man in Chicago - turns onto Kedzie and barrels past the building. As calmly as possible, I tell him that 1621 is “back there.” He wheels around and drops me on the wrong side of the street. I slam the door, and weave through on-coming traffic to file in behind the other stragglers.

The promos for Damaged Goods depicted its characters traversing the kaleidoscopic demimonde of Chicago’s nightlife. The raves, alleyways, and bedrooms that make up the majority of the sets bleed color. Stepping through VAM’s door on Tuesday night was a bit like crossing over into that hyper-colorful, hazy world. After binging the first season of the series twice, I can’t wait to return.


The show, directed and co-written by VAM’s founder, Vincent Martell, is perhaps the first of its kind. LGBTQ+ people of color shine both in front of and behind the camera, bringing life to a side of Chicago that is seldom depicted.

Damaged Goods follows four beautifully “messy” roommates - Marlo, Caleb, Ezra, and Sanavi - as they embark on a perilous, if playful, journey of self-rediscovery. Over the show’s six episodes, each roommate experiences their own watershed moment. They are forced to choose - stay on their current path or change course. As they decide, hilarity and chaos ensue. Saying more risks spoiling the plot.

I can say that the show’s themes run the gamut. Damaged Goods deftly touches on everything from sexual harassment, to self care, drug use, and, of course, fluidity - both in gender and sexuality. The show’s creators understand a truth that so many seem to miss - messiness and freedom are indivisible. More than that, messiness is the wonder ingredient that produces growth.

From the actors, to the wardrobe, set design, direction, and writing, Damaged Goods is anything but. It's got all the style, comedy, and poignance of a primetime drama with the rawness and meaningful representation that those shows almost never deliver.

Season One is streaming on YouTube now. Do yourself a favor, go be messy.