Warning: Spoilers ahead!
It's Season 2, Episode 3: Oh CW, what have you done?
While I'm one of those people who, perhaps too easily, sees more than a little Stockholm Syndrome in retellings of Beauty and the Beast (not so much the originals but many stories "after" it), but the places the CW's Beauty and the Beast has gone/is going, is... kinda a not-good thing.
OK. No "kinda". It's just not.
Quick summary after the jump to catch you up, in case you haven't seen the episode and don't care about spoilers.
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Catch-up: Last week we left Cat stunned and bruised after Vince went Beast on her. She decides Vince is a threat (duh) and should be brought in. Cat covers up her bruises, covers for Vince and learns how to cheat on a polygraph to deceive him. Sadly, she's clearly as drawn to him as ever, and spends the episode on an emotional roller coaster dealing with layers of lies, including her own. She nearly dies (again), he saves her (again), he says sorry (again), and she breaks it off (again).
I'm appalled to admit, I didn't even realize exactly what I was watching until about halfway through. I totally bought into the whole "my mistake", "I'm so sorry" and "not his fault" excuses until it suddenly dawned on me: this is exactly how abuse starts, is explained away and continues - with excuses and pleadings and the oh-so-obvious lie that the actions were "just an anomaly", never to be repeated.
(Clue: could you make a solid case for "insanity" in front of a judge? No? It's not an anomaly.)
It also worries me that I bought into this storyline for as long as I did, as just being the normal troubles of a girl in love with a "beast" (you can substitute: stranger, difficult man, temperamental husband etc). I should have had red flags popping up immediately yet I didn't. Is this because I/we now expect "real" love - at least on TV and in movies - to put up with more-than-your-average crap? Many of the B&tB variations, of which today's vampire stories are often a version, tote "love conquers all" as their banner but they're really walking an extremely thin line and showing people in abusive relationships (thank you Twilight) . Has this become "acceptable TV"? Because if it has, we're teaching some very bad things to both men and women today and it should be no surprise that violence against women is again on the rise, especially in the teen-to-college aged demographic.
|This is where we left Vince & Cat the week before...|
Although fans and critics have been a little wary of the CW series reboot with the new "less-procedural-more-beastly-Beast" bent to the show, the premise showed promise (to more than just me, might I add) in that the relationship between Cat (Beauty) and Vince (Beast) would need to go beyond first love and adrenalin addiction to survive and become something solid, that is, something more true-to-tale. That was supposed to be a good thing.
And yes, I did equate that to marriage in a post as the show aired its season premiere (HERE) and, although issues of domestic violence were likely to surface at some point in a modern storyline on TV, it's the dealing with - or should I say EXCUSING OF (!!O.O!!) - the DV issues that is NOT OKAY!
What. The. Flop?!
And yes, I'm aware the show writers/creator will argue they were doing the opposite but I'm afraid that backfired, mega-time. Read on for an explanation.
(Also, please excuse the random over-punctuation and distressed emoticons. I have just caught up on viewing this episode and haven't yet recovered...)
While searching for reviews to this week's show in my state of OMG-DID-ANYBODY-SEE-WHAT-JUST-HAPPENED-THERE?!? I found a soulmate on iO9 who, yesterday (at this writing) laid it out really well (and prompted me to delete my incoherent ramblings of WhaaatThe...NOOOoooooo!!! so you can be treated to a far better summary than I could pull together in my current mind-tangle of no-no-no-no-no).
Here's a summary/excerpt, along with an example of one of the "O.o" exchanges at the head:
Cat: "It's just that he's never done anything like this before. We both know someone's controlling him, but when I came at him with questions —
Gabe: So this is your fault? Blame the victim?
Cat: No, of course not. But this isn't exactly a domestic violence case. Vincent is more of a victim than anyone.
It's (a fascinating exchange) in the sense that, (again,) the show is aware of how this all looks — but thinks that just pointing it out will make it go away. That kind of lampshading may work with a plot hole or a deus ex machina, but not abuse. Saying that they know something looks like a really sensitive and complicated topic and then throwing even more of the tropes associated with that topic on it just doesn't cure the problem. Nor does this make it look like an intentional attempt to use the show as an allegory for the problem. (iO9's )And then, there's the ironic double-whammy of Cat using her relationship with Vince... It's twisted, as you expect shows to be, but in this case the show is ultimately excusing this sort of behavior - both ways. >:( (That's a frustrated-unhappy face for those who don't read 'emoticon' by the way.)
Last week, (FTNH Edit: after Vince basically manhandles Cat in a fit of rage, resulting in her covering bruises on her neck this week) I guessed we'd get "angsty-conflicted Cat." How could I have known? And now that he's coded as an abuser, and she's explicitly using him for information, there's nobody to root for. It's hard even to enjoy how she's still an awful cop with horrible plans when the show keeps alluding to abuse. Because after Cat "learns" how to beat Vincent-the-polygraph, she goes to his boat to look for information. And when Vincent shows up, she says they need to talk, going with: "You can't ever do that again. You can't cross that line." STOP IT. I know it's supposed to be her plan and all, but after all the talk about domestic violence, this really looks like an allusion to how victims return to their abusers. This does not make me root for them to figure this all out and get together.Exactly. (Emphasis in bold is mine.)
A commenter (Craig) added this in response to another viewer, who thought the iO9 writer (and, apparently I) had a slight over-reaction to the show:
Well said.(Commenter 1:)"...So there's no reason to stigmatize Vincent as an abuser or Cat as a victim just because of one anomalous event."----- (Craig's Response:) Here's the big problem I have with that. This show doesn't exist in a bubble above and beyond a culture where, yes, domestic violence and abuse within relationship is dismissed every damn day as an "anomalous event" and, anyway, the victim and perpetrator alike don't "fit the profile", whatever the hell that is. If you're going to play around with abuse tropes, like this show is doing, I'd prefer they be a LOT more careful about face-planting into the very stereotypes that enable abusers and silence their victims.
And then there's the ending with "all-the-feels" and all the wishy-washy the-relationship-is-off-again thing with it inevitably being "back on again" because "it's YOU!" (and, what a surprise, there's a whole lot of heart-feels in the trailer for next week.. so that'd be a YUP) but the author of the iO9 column is right: no matter where it goes from here, the stain of this comparison will never come off, especially if the relationship DOESN'T end which is kind of the point of the series.. ugh.
Beauty and the Beast is already on the list of shows "most likely to head for the chopping block" and this just makes me think maybe they're actually right about that*. :(
Argh!! There needs to be some very smart writing to pull the show out of this stinky hole of hell-no. Why does that now feel impossible without breaking Beauty up with her Beast forever-and-ever-after? :(
P.S. It's weird, writing a post on such a topic. Obviously I feel it's important enough to share, to somehow get the word out there, but I feel woefully unqualified to do a good job of it. (See? You want to blog on something like fairy tales because they're important to life and suddenly you end up discussing all the issues you wish you had twenty times the brain size to deal with.) Whatever you take away from this, can I just say one thing: whether it's once or whether it's a hundred times, abuse is abuse and should be treated seriously. There is no "sliding scale" (as commenter Craig put so well) when dealing with domestic violence (and that includes in the dating phase). Abuse is abuse. And abuse is never acceptable. Never.* Note: This show really isn't my "thing". I'm not a romance girl in general and this is very R heavy BUT it is a fairy tale hand-me-down and I'd rather it stayed on. Mostly. Unless it's bad. As in, they provide excuses for abusers of domestic violence. Then it needs to go away. Far.