I’ll say it. I’m fed up.
If you’re interested in, or moderately aware of, issues of social justice, then it can be excruciatingly difficult to watch even some well crafted shows without suffering from rage-inducing cringeworthiness.
I’ve managed to enjoy 3 seasons of Game of Thrones while only occasionally puking at Daenerys Targaryen’s overt Stockholm-syndrome as she tries to learn to be a better rape victim, gratuitous and imbalanced female nudity, or the female characters (including the ones portrayed as strong) constantly being put in situations where they are rescued by men.
I’m sorry, but this is just messed up.
[TRIGGER WARNING: Some pretty awful stuff below]
It was bad enough that we had to put up with the stereotyped portrayal of the Arab slave trader (sneaky, untrustworthy, etc.), and the lack of any people of colour in prominent roles, or Missandei taking on the trope of ‘black best friend’ (because it’s totally not racist if she has a black best friend, right?), but her entire storyline in regards to her rise to power is one we’ve seen 1000 times before. It is the white saviour myth. She roams from town to town liberating dark skinned people (who are far too oppressed and weak to liberate themselves), which would be great and all if she wasn’t THE WHITEST CHARACTER ON THE SHOW. The moment that really made me hurl was when she liberated the “Unsullied” and granted them free will, only to have them chose to do exactly what they would have done had they been her slaves. Only, they’re the ones making the choice, so it’s ok, right? Nope. It was clearly established that these are a people who are raised to follow orders. Free will has been brainwashed from their systems. Of course they will “decide” to follow her, because that’s what they do. And then they keep their dehumanizing names because it’s cute or some shit like that.
What’s that you say? If you don’t like it, don’t watch it? Funny how people keep telling me this. And it would be an acceptable argument were there viable alternatives. Please name one high-budget, well crafted, epic fantasy series that does not perpetuate or engage in misogynistic, racist, or homophobic tropes.
I guess I should stick to fire-house dramas.
Which brings me to…
Chicago Fire is (was?) an awesome show. It successfully confronts race issues and normalizes homosexual characters in everyday situations and normal lines of work. The show is so engaging and generally sensitive to avoiding stereotypes that, had I not just watched an episode of Law & Order: SVU (don’t get me started) that shared THE EXACT SAME PLOT LINE, I might not have noticed how terrible it was that they were engaging in the done to death and disgustingly harmful trope of “the false rape accusation“.
I’m not the only one who’s upset about this.
The plot of several episodes revolves around the character of Severide being accused of raping a former acquaintance. His ensuing behaviour, involving meeting her privately against the instructions of his supervisor, is beyond inappropriate. The fire-house is forced to undergo sexual-assault sensitivity training, which is portrayed as a waste of time and played up for laughs. And finally, after conducting his own investigation, Severide finds that his accuser has a history of extorting hush-money from men by waging false accusations of rape against them. He busts her on this, and the charges are dropped.
Let me be clear on something. This kind of thing happens so rarely in real life that it’s not even worth talking about.
Meanwhile in real life, we have fire-fighters attempting rape at parties, sending offensive packages to stations that hire women, or raping women in their sleep and molesting teenagers.
This in no way implies that fire-fighters are in any way worse than the rest of the world. But rather, if you’re going to portray issues regarding rape on television, you are absolutely going about it the wrong way. We, as a society, on hearing an accusation of rape immediately ask questions like what the victim was wearing, how much did they drink, and how can we rationalize this as their fault? The disproportionately common portrayals of false rape accusations on television send a clear message that when someone accuses someone else of rape, our first instinct should be to doubt them. This is why rape is, and continues to be, under-reported.
In the meantime, I’ll go back to watching my favourite program that avoids unhealthy portrayals of rape, women, people of colour, homosexuality, religion etc.
You guessed it.
Watch Paint Dry:
Oh damn it.
Even the paint is white.
Mansplainer is a social-justice blog, mostly about women written by a man. The goal is not to speak on behalf of women or present myself as a saviour, but to present my views and understanding of feminist issues, to show solidarity with the feminist struggle, and to hopefully contribute to the dialogue in a meaningful way. If I am wrong about something, let me know and I will address it.