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8 Obnoxious Cliches about Men, Women and Sex in Otherwise Good TV Shows

As television becomes more daring, there are still many basic feminist ideas that read as taboo on the small screen.

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A word to every television writer who thinks it’s clever to write a plot where a woman “cries rape,” is instantly believed, and turns out to be a liar: you’re not clever. That may be the stupidest cliché ever on television. To watch TV, you’d think all rape victims are instantly believed and comforted, and that the vast majority of them are lying. In reality, the percentage of rape reports that are false is 2-8 percent, in line with false reports of other crimes. Victims who speak out don’t actually face a warm bath of social acceptance; more often they get mostly hostility from friends, family and law enforcement. Because of this, only an estimated 6 percent of rapists actually spend a day in jail. TV writers who want to do something daring and interesting about rape would actually be going against the grain by showing a determined crime fighter getting justice for a rape victim who is being stonewalled at every turn. Learn from the failures of “Veronica Mars,” which was summarily canceled after the feminists-are-evil plot of season three.

6. The baffling would-be abortion on “The Walking Dead.” Lori Grimes on “The Walking Dead” is pregnant, and for very good reasons, doesn’t want to be. After all, the show follows a band of people trying to survive a zombie apocalypse, which ranks at the top of least ideal situations in human history for bringing forth new life. Zombies are known to pick off the slowest member of the group, so waddling along heavy with child simply isn’t in your best interest. To make it worse, Lori might be pregnant by her husband’s best friend, whom she sought comfort with while mistakenly believing her husband dead.

The show deals with this in the worst possible way. First of all, Lori is shown trying to take a box of pills comically labeled “Morning-After Pills,” even though that’s just a nickname for emergency contraception. This, even though the morning-after pill is not abortion, and taking it after testing positive for pregnancy is likely to work as well as jumping up and down. But even allowing for the slim possibility that the writers were trying to show that the characters are stupid enough to believe this, the way the entire plot goes down is unforgivable. The writers employ the standard “woman gets talked out of an abortion” cliché that follows every time someone has an unintended pregnancy on TV, right down to using a sad and desperate husband bully his wife into having a baby by saying, “We’ll find a way.” Oh really? A way around the zombie apocalypse? If you actually had such a way, you wouldn’t be holding back until someone has an emergency pregnancy situation to break open the glass labeled “finding a way to raise a happy family during a zombie apocalypse."

7. April Ludgate and Andy Dwyer get married on “Parks and Recreation." Fans love “Parks and Recreation” for its warm-hearted but satirical take on life inside small-town, middle-America government agencies. After countless jokes about how April is too young to do much of anything, including go into a bar with her over-21 boyfriend Andy, the writers decided that the best thing to do with these two characters is marry them off. That wasn’t so much of a problem, since there’s no rule on television against characters doing profoundly stupid things (and in fact, you need characters to make bad decisions to make sure the plot keeps churning).

The problem is that the show clearly wanted the audience to root for immature marriage as an objective good. The main character Leslie Knope plays the role of the curmudgeon throughout the episode, and her wise reminders to take your time and not rush into marriage are portrayed as clueless moral scolding. The climax of the show centers around Leslie giving up her cherished feminist beliefs about delaying marriage until maturity and joining in a sentimental celebration of two very immature people making an important decision they’re clearly not ready for.

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