Monday, November 15, 2010
On Private Practice
About a month ago, my husband pointed me to this article regarding an upcoming storyline on Private Practice, which we don’t normally watch. The line To that end, the Nov. 4 episode will be unlike any previous hour of Private in that it will revolve solely around the immediate aftermath of the attack. “It takes place all in one night, and it’s [set] almost entirely in the hospital”, in particular, piqued my interest. Setting an entire episode in the immediate aftermath gives you a lot of chances to handle the presentation of the assault right - and an equal number of chances to handle it wrong. We watched the episode and the one after it (viewable online) last night, and I’ll discuss them below the fold - this is your spoiler warning and your trigger warning.
Unsurprisingly, I have a lot to say about this plot arc so far. Please keep in mind that this is not a show I normally watch, so I don’t know what these characters are generally like. I found many of them tremendously unlikeable, but I don’t know if they’re supposed to be unlikeable or if it’s just their behavior in the wake of trauma.
So, in very brief:
KaDee Strickland’s portrayal of a rape survivor was fantastic. This is one of the things I was most concerned about, but no, she was fantastic. She was raw, angry, struggling for control - it felt completely real and honest. Mad props to her and to the writer. Much has been made of the character’s decision not to report; this interview with Strickland lays out the reasoning behind that decision, and it seems internally consistent. And also realistic. The columnist is bothered that the three characters mentioned all chose not to report, but all the research shows that many survivors don’t report. I don’t see this as an inaccurate reflection of the reality of rape. (Note also that Katey Sagal’s character is gang-raped specifically to punish her biker-gang-leader husband - her not telling him what happened is her way of keeping the rapists from having the effect they wanted, and that’s internally consistent as well.)
So. Addison. Are we supposed to hate Addison? Because I gotta tell you, I’m not a fan. Since she’s the character this show was created for, I have to believe we’re not supposed to hate her. And yet. This character does everything wrong. From her “You have to report it or he will do this to other women” line to her telling her partner and getting him to spread the news through the hospital, this is a textbook example of how to do it wrong. As with the not reporting, this is also realistic, and I have no problem with realism - but what I worry about is that we’re not being shown that this is the exact opposite of what she should be saying and doing. (She also scoffs at the idea that a woman could possibly be beating her husband in the second episode, so maybe she’s just an idiot, but I don’t know.) Charlotte does take her down a peg when she’s doing an “I know just how you feel”, which is great, but I’d like to see more reinforcement of that from characters who aren’t the survivor - some positive examples to contrast this. As more people become aware of what happened, we may see that. I live in hope.
Speaking of doing it wrong, there was one part of the second episode that just absolutely infuriated me. Violet, who is apparently a psychologist - and apparently the worst psychologist ever - figures out (given many hints) that Charlotte was raped. And she chooses to confront Charlotte about this. In the office where the assault happened.
By describing her own rape (years ago, in college) is extended graphic detail.
I am not kidding.
Point by point, blow by blow, in extremely vivid detail, this person stood there and told her recently-raped co-worker all about her own rape. You could see Charlotte pressing back against her chair, clearly appalled, clearly triggered. And Violet ends with a sappy “so I totally know how you feel,” smiles, and walks out, leaving her shaking, retraumatized coworker behind.
Do I even need to say you should never do this?
Charlotte refers to Violet earlier in the episode as a terrible therapist, and Violet refers later to projecting her issues onto Charlotte. So it may be that the character is supposed to be horrifyingly insensitive. It’ll be interesting to see that, and Violet’s possibly-repressed issues around the topic, develop.
So they’re doing some things right - most notably everything Charlotte does. They’re doing some things wrong - Addison and Violet’s reactions. What I would like to see - hopefully soon, before viewers internalize Addison and Violet’s actions as anything other than messed up - is for Addison and Violet to get called on their appalling behavior. We’ve seen some of the “normal” reactions - now I’d like to see some examples of the way this should be handled. I hope Private Practice steps up and gives us that.
Anyone else watching the show? Thoughts?