Last night I threw my remote at the television and stormed out of the living room. To understand why you have to know four facts.
- One: Every night between the hours of six-thirty and eight p.m. Easter Standard Time, Boomerang plays Tom and Jerry
- Two: My child adores Tom and Jerry, right down to the cockles of her heart.
- Three: I have grown to loathe Tom and Jerry.
- Four: We leave our television on Boomerang so that upon turning it on our child is not exposed to dead bodies or golf.
Now that you understand these four key facts, I can begin my story of remote throwing.
Last night, take-out in hand, we returned home and sat down in the living room to watch television as we ate. As I usually do, I held my breath and wished upon a star as the picture loaded. If Tom and Jerry is on and my daughter catches it, it is not worth the argument that will occur if I try to change the channel.
Luck was with me last night, however, and there was a commercial on. Squealing with the unholy glee I derive from winning a battle in the war that is raising my child, I turn to The Big Bang Theory.
Now, I should point out that I really enjoy The Big Bang Theory. Sure, it has its flaws, but for the most part, its a humorous show highlighting geek culture. Not always in the most flattering light, sure, but it’s there. It’s our imperfect start. And if the show handles some things poorly, at least it’s trying, right?
I desperately try to cling to that notion during the slut shaming jokes. Or when Raj is portrayed in a homophobic or a xenophobic way. When Sheldon is given a girlfriend erasing what was, arguably, a touch-adverse aroace in order to make him more “normal.” The way Sheldon is mocked for being atypical. Basically just how Sheldon is handled at all times…
But the problem I find it hard to ignore is how Howard Walowitz was originally portrayed as a sexual predator.
I know, you’re gasping right now. How could I call this adorable little Jewish boy a sexual predator? He’s not a bad guy! He’s funny and charming in his own way!! And in later seasons I would agree with you. When he knocks over the game of Jenga after Bernadette has a breakdown spying on Priya in The Wildebeest Implementation? I would marry that man. But his redemption via Bernadette does not change how his character began.
We repeatedly see him getting women drunk for the sole purpose of having sex with them, knowing they wouldn’t otherwise. He uses gimmicks, games, and tricks that would make one of those oh-so-lovely pickup artists cringe. On multiple occasions, he proves that he thinks of women as nothing beyond instruments of sexual gratification. A vending machine, if you will, that he can stick his dick in and get orgasms out of.
And this is without addressing his treatment of Penny.
From the moment he meets Penny, he sexually harasses her. By repeatedly asking her out and making passes at her after she has said no, he is harassing and abusing her. This behavior- and the fact that it’s used as a gag in a television show- is why we need courses on consent in high school. It’s not okay to treat people like this. You don’t get to wear them down until they say yes.
I’ll say it again for the people in the back:
Last night, when I tuned into the reruns of the Big Bang Theory on channel thirty-eight they were showing “The Killer Robot Instability” (Season two, episode twelve). The episode I hate more than any other episode of The Big Bang Theory.
If you’ve seen the show, this is the episode where Howard builds a robot that they’re going to enter into a robot fighting competition. Penny comes over, as she seems to every day, and Howard begins to hit on her once again. Finally, my prayers are answered and Penny gives him the dressing down he deserves. Hallelujah, praise the lord and pass the biscuits.
Now let’s get to the robot fighting while Howard becomes a better man.
Except instead of that, the show treats it as if Penny has just crushed Howard’s poor little rapist heart, forcing him to retreat to his room. During his dark days of depression, Barry Kripke challenges our boys to a robot showdown. Now I love Barry Kripke (and think it’s a travesty that they use his speech impediment as a running gag on the show) so that’s just another thing I cannot forgive this episode for. I get Kripke with an amazing story line and a killer robot, and Sad Little Rapist Howard has to go and ruin it for me.
Because you see, when they see the video of the Kripke Krippler destroying a car, they try to get out of the fight. Kripke refuses, so Leonard goes and begs Penny to apologize.
Instantly this episode goes from the highlight of the series to the low light. In fact, when Leonard likens Penny to The Hulk because she was so, so mean by insisting Howard stop abusing her, I feel so much rage that I risk turning green myself.
I mean, the sheer nerve of it! Penny could’ve had him arrested. She could’ve cost him his job. But all she did was say “stop hitting on me, no means no and I’m saying no.”
In the end, Penny caves to the patriarchy and male writers/directors and goes to soothe the man child’s poor hurt feelings. It’s okay that he’s a sexual predator. Some chicks dig that… And while she does punch him when he makes another pass at her (because of course, he does) they end up better friends because of it.
Cue the unicorns, the rainbows, my vomit, and the cheering of misogynists everywhere.
This bullshit makes me so angry, but eventually, that anger fades leaving bone-deep weariness in its place. It makes me tired, this episode. Fuck, just summarizing the issue makes me tired. And when you throw in the thrill of victory that’s quickly crushed when you realize what episode you’ve landed on. The one you have to change so your young and impressionable daughter doesn’t grow up thinking it’s okay for men to treat her as nothing more than a sentient blow-up doll…
Causing you to flip back to Tom and Jerry that’s just as sexist and racist but veiled behind animation…
Well that, my friends, is enough to make me throw remotes and storm out of the room. Life is too short (and too full of shit) to put up with it from a show that should know better…