As Pookie says, "The man has no shame. Thank the Lord!"
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“Rescue Me” has crossed a troubling line.
Sure, Tommy Gavin, the bad-boy firefighter at the heart of the FX drama, has done awful things in the past. But when he raped his estranged wife, Gavin (who's played by "Rescue Me" co-creator Denis Leary) hit a sickening new low.
On the June 20 episode of “Rescue Me,” Gavin had a conversation with his estranged wife about how to split up their possessions. The conversation grew heated, and he became violent with her, shoved her on the couch and forced her to have sex with him.
It apparently wasn’t enough that the show depicted Gavin raping a woman, but it had to show that Janet Gavin appeared to enjoy it, or at least go along with it, by the end of the act.
The worst part? Gavin exited the house with a giant smirk on his face.
The smirk seemed to say, “Women love me, no matter what I do to them.” After all, Gavin had just gotten a string of phone calls (on “crazy chick call-in day,” as he dubbed it) from four of the women in his life, all of whom are needy or shrewish or sexually obsessed with him -- if not all three.
It’s one thing to create a show about a troubled alcoholic with rage issues, a guy who never shows much self-knowledge or any real interest in personal growth. It’s tiresome that Gavin only thinks of women as either sexual partners, nags or crazy sluts. But it’s another thing entirely to make the lead character of the show a scary sociopath who assaults women.
If FX wants to expand its viewer base beyond its largely male demographic, allowing the lead character on one of its flagship shows to be not just a sexist jerk but a rapist as well is not a good way to do it.
The irony is, “Rescue Me” has some meaty roles for women at the moment; Susan Sarandon is having a good run as the older lover of one of Gavin’s fellow firefighters (and her character calls Gavin on a lot of his b.s. in an excellent scene in Tuesday’s episode). Marisa Tomei, who begins a guest stint on the show on Tuesday, is highly watchable and her story line as Johnny Gavin’s uptown, upmarket ex has potential as well. (On the other hand, Tatum O’Neal is flat-out terrible as Gavin’s sister, Maggie, who is, what a surprise, a crazy slut).
“Rescue Me” has often glorified Tommy’s immature behavior and shown a lack of depth in other story lines (remember Probie with a gun?). It has been relatively easy to overlook those flaws, though, thanks to the overall excellence of the cast (especially John Scurti, Daniel Sunjata and Jack McGee), the good stories “Rescue Me” does tell and the cutting, bitter wit at the heart of the show.
Still, the scene between Tommy and Janet was not just gut-churning, but implausible as well. Wouldn’t the Janet Gavin we know get up from that couch full of rage? But she just sat there, and moments later was leafing through a magazine. Janet and Tommy chatted amiably on the phone in the next episode. And by the way, did Tommy have to trot out the “I’m a firefighter, I go into burning buildings when other people are running out of them” rationale yet again, just before he assaulted Janet? The entire scene was full of not just gratuitous violence but bad storytelling choices on the part of the show’s creators.
John Landgraf, the head of FX, recently told Variety that one of his goals for the network was to cultivate shows “that weren’t only for men.” A laudable goal, and the steps the network has taken in that direction (the casting of Sarandon and Tomei on “Rescue Me,” Glenn Close’s sensational run on “The Shield”) have often turned out well.
As a woman who’s enjoyed many of FX’s programs, I’ve understood that much of the networks’s edgy, male-oriented fare was bound to push the buttons of its female viewers. But with the rape of Janet Gavin, “Rescue Me” came close to having me push the Off button on my remote.
And I’d bet a lot of male fans felt the same way.