- December 28th, 2010
I've recently started on season 6 of nip/tuck and wow, it is even more misogynistic than ever. Let's start with this episode, episode 8.
Lola is fat. But when she comes into the plastic surgery office, it's to remove moles. The doctor, Christian, assumes she wants lipo because, you know, she's fat and obviously every fat person ever wants to be thin. He is rightfully called out on this, and I become more and more impressed with Lola. She is presented as a strong, independent, attractive women who is confident in her size. What is especially noticeable is that she isn't desexualized. Contrast this to, say, Mercedes on Glee (though her race is another factor). No, Lola is allowed to be own her own sexuality, and she gives Christian one of his most satisfying sexual experiences. And, unlike most of the women on the show, she seduces him, thereby asserting control over her own sexuality; she isn't tricked into anything. This is a great start. Especially on a show about plastic surgery, they need characters like this, even for just one episode, to show that you don't have to be a size zero.
But then they change gears. In true Christian behavior, he is awful to her. But it's okay, she thanks him for it and admits she's never been happy and she wants lipo and a tummy tuck. Which in and of itself is fine. We need all representations of people so of course I'm not going to say that women like her can't exist on television; the sad reality is many people aren't comfortable with their size, from those who are deemed over- or underweight alike. But this is a show that is partially about women hating themselves. We see it almost every episode, some women who needs some surgery so she can be closer to perfect, because society tells her that she shouldn't be happy with the way she looks. The show needs someone who turns those societal conventions on their heads and proves that beauty and, more importantly, one's worth aren't dependent on one's size. The show is effectively mocking the idea that you can be happy and be fat. Lola was just faking it all along, you see, because fat is always ugly and fat people can never be happy, right? They must be lying if they push against that, right?
Now, I can't relate to her situation. Perceiving yourself as fat, as I did for years when I had an eating disorder, is not not the same as others perceiving you as fat. I can relate in the sense that it's all part of the same system that tells women we must be thinner and thinner still, nevermind that this ideal is unhealthy and kills women, nevermind that bodies are built differently and your size isn't always an indicator of your health, nevermind that your body is yours alone and no one has the right to tell you that it isn't good enough and that you're not good enough because of it. However, no, I don't know what it's like to be fat, but I can imagine some teenage girl or young woman or adult in her 30s watching and maybe feeling an ounce of hope that they too can be accepted regardless of their size, only to have that hope taken away from them once again.
But it's okay though because she doesn't get the surgery because, you see, the men like her anyway. A group of male friends all march in and demand that she not do it because she's beautiful as she is, they love her like she is. I see where the show was going with this, but this is just as wrong. The message they're sending is that fat is only beautiful if a man decides so. She doesn't find worth in her own body, but men do so she listens to them. And frankly, not getting a surgery because someone else thinks you're beautiful isn't much better than getting a surgery because you think you need it. It's your body, and they effectively robbed her of her ownership of her own body. Men are making this decision for her, and her worth is defined by them. Really, would it have been so hard to throw in one female friend in the group? It would still be a little gross but it would be better. I understand that often the way we perceive ourselves is affected by how others perceive us. I get it, I do. But would it really be that difficult to show us one woman who's confident in her own skin, fuck what everyone else thinks?
Now let's get to the asexuality issue. A couple comes in, and they idolize Barbie and Ken. They want to be just like them and part of that is celibacy. He's had his nipples removed and she wants hers removed too. Yes, it's a little weird but I don't really give a fuck. I don't really care what a couple does as long as it is fully consensual and it isn't hurting anyone. But the problem the other doctor, Sean, had was the celibacy. How dare they not want to have sex? Something must be wrong with them! He even told the women as much and in no uncertain terms told her she was being ridiculous for not wanting to have sex. Because all people want sex, you see, it's human nature, so something must be wrong if they don't. Can we stop this? Because not all people want a sexual relationship, and there is nothing wrong with that. Intimacy and sex do not mean the same thing and saying that they can't have an intimate relationship if they don't have sex is ridiculous. But of course, Sean was right and he made the women realize that she does want sex. Again, we see men controlling female sexuality and telling them that their definitions of their own sexuality are wrong. It's especially gross because he is her doctor. He shouldn't be telling her that she should be having sex.
And I can't even touch Christian's relationships with two of the main women on the show.
I don't even know what I watch this. A majority of the female characters are called a whore or a slut. The others are pure victims, there for the men to save. With the exception of the victims, all of the reoccurring female characters have been a threat. They are murderers, liars, con artists and the poor men are their victims. Only one of the villains has been a male. Every other one has been female. Not even the three main female characters are spared. Kimber once tried to kill Christian- frankly, rightfully so- Liz tried to take everything Christian got after their divorce- again, rightfully so because he is a giant bastard who fucked her over- and Sean's wife, Julia, is regularly painted in a bad light. I'm not sure I've ever seen a show where its characters and its writers hate women this much. One of my favorite moments was when Sean commented that his daughter was worse tan his son. His son who brutally beat up a trans women when he found out she hadn't had surgery yet, dated a neo-nazi, became addicted to meth, and started robbing banks. His daughter was merely "acting like a 13 year old girl" because she was rude to him. Being a girl is worse than attacking people. Let that sink in for a minute.
One of my other favorite moments occurred at a strip club. Christian is trying to touch a stripper's chest during a lap dance because she has enormous boobs. She understandably says no because being fondled is not part of her job, he's paying for a lap dance, not to touch her. He ignores her and keeps asking while trying to grab her chest. He is treated as the victim when she snaps at him because obviously he has a right to her body and obviously he has the right to ignore her feelings and desires (she later awesomely smacks him with them, making her one of my favorite characters on the show even though we're supposed to hate her). Another good one in an earlier season is when they explicitly compared a woman's brutal rape and mutilation to Christian finding out that there's a chance he has HIV. By which I mean I legitimately threw up a little because they were glorifying her rape and making it sexy and dramatic and entertaining while poor little Christian gets to yell at a woman who he agreed to have unprotected sex with. Obviously having HIV is a very serious matter and I can only imagine how stressful waiting for the results of an HIV test can be. But these are not the same things. Do not compare the two. Especially since he ended up being fine because his womanizing is okay vs. Gina's sex addiction was immoral and should be condemned. I am saving Gina for another post because what the show did to her made me sick.
After watching this, it's no surprise that Glee fails so much with its female characters.
Oh, and one more thing about that episode. If your girlfriend is forcing herself to throw up, don't you fucking dare verbally abuse her. She has a problem, caused partially by you. Bulimia is a mental disorder, not something pathetic. If you claim to love this women- though everyone knows he doesn't- at least show some fucking sympathy. An eating disorder does not make her weak. It does not make her pathetic. It does not make her any less deserving of love and respect.