Sunday, May 18

I <3 Desperate Housewives (mostly!)

I love Sunday night tv with my roommate. It's part of our Sunday ritual where I cook dinner and sometimes dessert for the week and we sit down for some good yelling at the tv fun. the evening usually starts with me crying through the entire episode of Extreme Home Makeover, and then we watch Desperate Housewives (DH).

DH is usually mindless entertainment at its best; lots of sex, drama, and the occasional tornado cruising through a suburban town. Tonight's episode has been extra dramatic, but definitely not mindless as it has been dealing directly with domestic violence. I've been incensed and impressed by the episode for several reasons..

First of all, i think it's great that DH is dealing directly with domestic violence, especially in a suburban context. Usually women and men in abusive partnerships are portrayed as lower class; the men drink beer and wear dirty t-shirts, and the women have greasy hair and are slovenly trailer-keepers. So, it's great the DH is showing it's 20+ million viewers that women in the suburbs get beaten up too, and that they're not as alone as they might think with their problems. I also think it's great (in a sad way) that this episode in particular has shown how often the legal system fails women and their children. When Katherine goes to the police to report her ex-husband, the detective who listens to her story quite clearly blows her off..because her ex, Wayne is also a policeman. The show then flashes back to show when Katherine tried to report the abuse when she was still married to Wayne, and how a female officer told her that the buddy system on the force was probably the reason an earlier file had magically disappeared, and that her best bet was to get as much money as she could and run. I hope people realize that this is what women often face, and that even if you are lucky enough to get restraining order, it is often impossible to enforce. Also, women who do run with their children often end up dead or maimed. Overall, I think they did a great job showing some of hurdles women face when trying to leave their attackers, how truly dangerous these situations can be, and the that the cops are often useless.

Now, on to the problems with the episode..which, to be fair are pretty stereotypical issues with the media portrayal with domestic abuse. For one thing, Wayne is pretty much a monster. There is no nuance, just an abusive jerk who beats on his wife and then goes after her and a friend years later with a gun. While I certainly don't think there is an easy way to show such a bad relationship, people who abuse are not monsters. Also, it makes sense for the storyline that the abuser was a man... but it should be noted that this can happen in any relationship. Also, (SPOILER ALERT!) it is pretty unbelievable/unusual that Katherine would get off after shooting Wayne even in self-defense. On average, women serve WAY more time than men after they kill their partner, even if they feared for their life. Men on the other hand serve something like 8 years on avg for killing their partners, and they can rarely claim self-defense. While I'm glad for the character that she didn't end up getting arrested and serving time, most real women would never be able to kill even a man like Wayne and not face serious jail time. Juries punish women for defying gender norming stereotypes, and a 'violent' women is apparently something worthy of exorbitant jail sentences.