Still In Shock That a Show This Good Had an Episode This Bad
Never in a million years would I expect "Barney Miller" to make an episode this ghastly. In "Rape," a woman named Catherine Lindsay (Joyce Jameson) accuses her husband Marvin (Michael Pataki) of rape for having sex with her without her consent, and there's actually doubt that he did it. Not because some of the facts are inconsistent, or because the men of the 12th Precinct decided, in this episode, to smoke every drug they confiscated off the street, or got struck in head with a large metal object, thus damaging their mental faculties, but because in 1978 apparently women were expected to have sex with their husbands regardless whether they wanted to. As a result, the episode is rife with the laugh track as this poor woman explains how her worthless husband doesn't treat her like a human being, and the DA (Linda Dano) arrives to defend her, saying this might be a test case to define the laws of rape the way they've since been defined as I write this in 2016. Since that wasn't the case then, the whole thing is played as a big joke, with William Bogart, of "Small Wonder," uh, "fame" as a shyster who swears up and down that Mrs. Lindsey has no case. I won't spoil how it ends, but just suffice it to say that I found it extremely difficult to watch, especially in "Barney Miller," the king of all multicultural shows, where the writing is usually above reproach. "Rape" just made me sick, and I spent the whole episode in utter disbelief, despite the fact that we just elected a President who bragged about being able to grab women by the crotch due to his celebrity. I'm a firm believer in not blaming the past for being the past, but there are many times when I really struggle with that. "Rape" is one of those times. Whether the jokes that aren't about rape were funny I couldn't tell you, and though the acting was as good as it always is, I found it incredibly difficult to care. All "Rape" did for me was illustrate how lucky I am to have been two years old when this episode aired. It's an episode I gladly doubt they could make today, one that I hope the writers of "Barney Miller" are ashamed of now. The fact that they did however, just reminds me that there are generations of men raised with this mentality, including the progressive men that wrote this show. I thought "Barney Miller" was great for reflecting how society had grown in the '70s. Knowing what we know about the world today though, it reminded me that even with a show like that, there was plenty of ground to cover that we're only scratching the surface of now. I just hope that it doesn't take another 38 years before we are able to wipe out all of the beliefs of those earlier eras that make me feel this much revulsion.
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