Thursday, June 22, 2006

Misogyny for friends and lovers

I used to think maybe Rescue Me just didn't have very well-developed female characters.

Then, in season two, it insisted on turning every female character into a shrewish witch. It was sexist, but I could live with it because the scenes between the guys were so well written that I could at least fan wank my way to believing the show portrayed the women as the men saw them (and men very often see the women in their lives as shrewish -- it happens, though it shouldn't).

Spoilers for this week's episode follow. So back out ye who have not seen it yet.

But I honestly think the show may have become irreparably misogynistic when it had main character Tommy force his wife (whom he is separated from) to have sex with him (in an unpleasantly raw and violent confrontation). I've seen this not called rape because his wife gets in to it after a long few moments, and I've seen it called hate sex, but I just don't see a way around this being vile and disturbing and borderline rape (if not outright rape).

Obviously, I don't think rape (or hate sex, if you must) isn't subject matter adult television can't cover. Indeed, I think that the protagonist of a morally ambiguous show like Rescue Me can engage in such activities, provided the activities are seen in a negative or neutral light. Rescue Me did all right with this (the rape itself was presented as matter-of-factly as possible, that we might judge on our own), but when Tommy left his wife's house, he whipped out his sunglasses, got in his car and drove off to the strains of triumphant pop-rock. I suppose one COULD argue that this wasn't to be seen as a moment of triumph for our hero, but they'd have to make a pretty great argument to convince me.

I'm not bailing on the show, but this episode left a bad taste in my mouth, and I'm not sure this can be just swept under the rug. To their credit, Denis Leary and Peter Tolan (the creators and writers of nearly every episode) have long memories and will probably deal with the ramifications of this at some point, but I'm not sure I'll be watching. There needs to be some sort of acknowledgment that what Tommy did wasn't great. A line or two. And I'm still there.

This show is still great as a comedy. And the story of Lou has ended up being surprisingly touching. But when this show gets involved with female characters, it goes all wrong. Even Susan Sarandon, who started out so promisingly, appears to be being set up to steal Franco's kid. And that's not just sexist, it's unrealistic.

I'll give it the rest of the season. But I want to see some improvement.

1 comment:

Libby said...

Oh, I get it ... now 'rape' is a 'bad' thing ... sheesh ...