Like basically everyone else, I was ecstatic when Beyoncé released her seventh studio album, “Renaissance,” this past summer. But perhaps unlike everyone else, my initial thought when I heard the album’s eighth track, “Plastic Off the Sofa,” for the first time was: Did Beyoncé just write Sylvia Fine’s anthem?
I know, I know — when you think of Beyoncé, you don’t necessarily think of Sylvia Fine, Fran Fine’s fabulous mother in the crown jewel of Jewish TV shows, “The Nanny.” However, the two have more in common than you might think. Or, rather, while “Plastic Off the Sofa” describes Beyoncé’s marital life, it also fits Sylva Fine’s life and personality to a tee — so much so that I can’t stop thinking about it, even five months later.
So, let’s discuss.
The song title alone is a dead giveaway to its connection with Sylvia, the underrated sex goddess of “The Nanny.” In the very first episode, after Mr. Sheffield has fired Fran, he shows up at her mother’s house the following day to talk to her. Max takes one look at Sylvia’s place and remarks to Fran, “You have plastic on your furniture” to which she responds, “Yeah, they’re preserving it for the afterlife.” And throughout the rest of the show, the plastic-covered sofa set returns every time there is a scene in the Fine living room.
But I’m here to argue that Sylvia’s connection to the Beyoncé song goes beyond the literal. Melodically, “Plastic Off the Sofa” has a smooth and sultry feel to it. It’s sexy. The R&B (presumably autobiographical) pop song is all vocal runs, light snaps and rhythmic bass, which come together to produce a sound reminiscent in feeling to that of bumpy relationships. The song oscillates between highlighting perseverance through relationship troubles and hinting at sex through subtext. With lyrics like “nobody’s perfect, so I’ll let you be” and “Even when you let your feelings get in the way, I still like it,” the song’s narrator is clearly stating that she will stick by her partner (*cough* *cough* Jay-Z) through thick and thin, no matter his imperfections. Then, with lyrics like “And I know you had it rough growing up, but that’s okay, I like it rough,” she infuses the song with sexual innuendos.
Despite the fact that Fran seems like the obvious sex symbol of “The Nanny,” and thus maybe a better comparison to Beyoncé in the song, I say that Sylvia also has a spot in the running. Although Sylvia’s main schtick was that she was always eating or making comments about food, one of her lesser-emphasized but punchier bits were the random moments of unwarranted sex advice she’d give to her daughter. Yes, Sylvia’s main objective throughout the show was to get Fran hitched to a hot British millionaire producer (and honestly, same). However, she was also a sex-positive icon who often encouraged her daughter to embrace her sexuality. The original freak in the sheets, Sylvia clearly knew what was up way before “Fifty Shades of Grey” hit bookshelves and screens.
For instance, in season three episode 17, “The Grandmas,” after Fran has complained to her about how she feels her relationship with Mr. Sheffield has grown static, Sylvia says, “Did you try unscrewing the light bulbs for a little mood lighting? Whenever I want to turn your father on, the first thing I do is make it dark.” Later in the episode, after Sylvia kicks her husband Morty out after a fight, Fran tries to parent-trap them back together and heads to her grandmother’s house to get Morty. When Fran goes looking for him, she learns he’s in the bathroom and says, “Daddy, come out of there, what are you doing in there?” — to which Sylvia comes out in all her flair and enthusiastically responds “Me!”
In the following season, in the episode “The Tart with a Heart,” Fran witnesses Sylvia flirting with Pauly the Butcher. Afterwards, she says, “You know, Ma, when you flirt and use your looks like that, men do not respect you.” To which Sylvia ultimately retorts, “There is nothing wrong with a woman using her God-given gifts.” And in season six episode 3, “Once a Secretary Always a Secretary,” Sylvia gives Fran more advice about how to spice things up in the bedroom: “Do whatever turns him on. Your father used to like me to dress up like a French maid.”
With these examples in mind, let’s delve into specific Beyoncé lyrics that fit Sylvia like one of her sensational animal print outfits. The lyric “I know nobody’s perfect, so I’ll let you be” perfectly describes how Sylvia regards Morty: Although she makes his imperfections known (how he always forgets his hair piece or is constantly watching baseball), she makes it clear that she loves him anyway and lovingly jokes about him with others. In addition to this, the lyric “I like it rough” clearly applies to Sylvia, as she’s already hinted that she likes to get kinky in the bedroom with roleplay. As for her up-and-down relationship with her husband Morty, the lyric “I know we’ll make up and make love” fits them perfectly, as they do exactly this in that episode in season three. Another lyric that captures Sylvia (and describes Sylvia and Morty’s overall dynamic) is “It’s the way you want one more kiss after you said you were leavin’” because although they are perpetually on-again and off-again (as seen in seasons three and six), the Fines always end up back together.
Even though Beyoncé and Sylvia Fine don’t typically exist in the same universe, I now believe the two are inextricably linked by “Plastic on the Sofa.” So next time you’re dancing at the club to one of Beyoncé’s hit songs and you find somebody you want to go home with, think to yourself: What would Sylvia do?