Sunday, December 4, 2011

Thoughts on Ringer Mid-Season Finale (1x10)

Meh, I don't know if I want to keep watching this show. The latest episode (1x10 "That's What You Get for Trying to Kill Me") threw in some sexist content that just makes me not feel invested in it. Bridget sleeps with Andrew, Siobhan fakes domestic abuse, Charlie kills Gemma, and Juliet says her teacher raped her--played in a way that heavily implies she's lying. I don't know... One issue at a time:

Bridget sleeps with Andrew. As I previously described here, this is rape of Andrew. Andrew cannot meaningfully consent to sex with her because he doesn't know he's having sex with her. He thinks he's having sex with his wife Siobhan. He doesn't know anything about Bridget and probably wouldn't sleep with her even if he knew the truth. Consenting to sex with your spouse does not equal consent to sex with someone you think is them but is in fact an imposter. Duh.

Siobhan fakes domestic abuse. In order to make the guy she was leeching off of take her back after he finds out she's married, she pretends Andrew's physically abusive to her and gives herself a black eye (in a way I totally don't buy, incidentally). Now, except for some very simple platonic attraction to Gemma, Siobhan has consistently come across as generally wicked. It is not outside believability that she'd do something like this, and if she were a stronger character it's possible that it wouldn't come across as anti-feminist. However, it just repeats the trope of a woman pretending her someone is abusive in order to manipulate men. It contributes to how real incidents of women reporting abuse are regarded with skepticism, especially when this takes place in the same show as the Juliet accusation described below.

Charlie kills Gemma. After a long arc of wondering what happened to Gemma and then seeing her tied up in Charlie's basement, the storyline ends with Charlie just killing her. There's a bit of suspense where Bridget, Malcolm, and Andrew try to save her, and then nothing comes of it. After all that, he just kills her in the trunk of his car. But, wait! She's still alive! She... Oh, now he kills her for real. There's a pointless scene with her beating him to the floor and making a run for the car keys, only to have him catch up to her and then actually kill her. It's just there to make some extra drama in violence against women. Okay, I disagree with Feminist Frequency's comment on the pilot episode about the first scene having violence against women (implying that therefore it's sexist), because it fits in with the central Bridget vs. Siobhan conflict and Bridget is able to defeat and move past that minor antagonist. This, on the other hand, is just pointlessly playing up the drama with violent imagery stretching out a woman's eventual undignified defeat. All it really accomplishes is making Siobhan, Bridget, et al. sad, which is the woman in refrigerator trope.

Juliet says her teacher raped her. For multiple episodes, there's been this storyline about Siobhan's stepdaughter Juliet having a crush on her teacher Mr. Carpenter (aka Logan from Veronica Mars). He was a friendly figure who was the first to respect her in her bad situation, and Juliet developed affection for him. The moment this led to actual flirting, he stopped being so friendly and had her transferred out of his class. She continued to pursue him by joining a club for much younger students that he leads, and he allowed her participation.

In "That's What You Get for Trying to Kill Me" (really, worst episode titles ever!), Juliet describes to her friend how she has feelings for Mr. Carpenter and wants to marry him (the Bella/Edward age disparity gives her hope). This culminates to her flirting with him at the end of the day and practically asking him out. He loses his temper and rants at her for her inappropriate behavior. The friend is the only one in the classroom, and he sends her out so he can more thoroughly rant at Juliet. Toward the end of the episode, we catch up with Juliet in her room crying. Her friend calls and asks what happened. Juliet says that he had sex with her, which sounds like a boast to improve her image. The friend notes that she seems too sad to have really had sex with him, and Juliet adds that it wasn't consensual. It really sounds like she's just making this up off the top of her head. End scene.

I really hope that she's telling the truth here. It's even somewhat plausible she is. Juliet's storyline involves her redemption from her lying, junkie days--paralleling Bridget's story. When she first joins the public school (1x06 "The Poor Kids Do It Everyday"), a bully provokes her into a fight and then blames the fighting on her. Because of her background, no one believes Juliet but Mr. Carpenter, starting the whole crush. It could be that Mr. Carpenter really is a rapist, people are inclined not to believe her because of her past, but Bridget sees herself in her and helps her seek justice. That's kind of a best-case scenario.

On the other hand, they could play the false rape accusation trope completely straight. Everyone screwing each other over is a major theme of this show. Given the drama quality, that probably is how they'll play it. This is really problematic because of the pervasive belief that women commonly falsely claim rape as a way to hurt men, leading to the justice system not taking rape as seriously as other reported crimes. As a result, rape victims are less likely to report the assaults.

Even if my best-case suggestion turns out to be completely accurate, it would still be problematic for playing into the false rape trope. It's like the "Surprise! She's not hysterical!" trope in that it makes the fact that she's telling the truth a surprise. We expect women/girls like her to lie about this kind of thing, so the fact that she can tell the truth about it is a twist. And I hope that this problematic twist is what comes ahead, because that's the only way this can be even slightly salvaged.

Yeah, I'm really considering not watching this show again when it returns.


Joss said...

What's your take on Siobhan telling Tyler that he's the father of her baby?

Dragonclaws said...

She's a manipulative parasite taking advantage of Tyler in a way using gender aspects... I guess it depends how it's ultimately played, but I think it's in line with her character and not as problematic as the other stuff because it doesn't involve violence.