Thursday, September 6, 2007

Gender Roles Topsy Turvy in This Week's "Damages"

This week, the women seem to be sketched as black and white archetypes. Glenn Close's Patricia Hewes seems completely venal; she does talk to her associate Ellen Parsons about how she needs to find a mate that will not be threatened by her, but one senses that her advice has ulterior motives, that, for some reason, she wants Ellen's fiance out of the picture. (Foreshadowing is at work here: we know the ending, that her fiance is killed, and so Hewes' words of advice about what to look for in a man are not seen by us as supportive "girl talk," which is how Ellen views it, but as Machiavellian, well-thought out words that will influence Ellen to act according to Hewes' mapped-out plans.)

Meanwhile, Ted Danson's character continues to be portrayed in a more nuanced way, designed to elicit viewers' sympathies. (See my post from last week). He has just as dark a side as Hewes; he tells an underling to do whatever it takes to deal with the witness Gregory, including, it seems, kill him. But in this episode, as in others, we see him interacting lovingly with his son. We seem that he cares about what his son thinks of him, about the "legacy," he's leaving him, which is why he is setting out to write his own biography (after punching the assigned ghostwriter in the face.) The only time we saw Patricia Hewes with her son was after she met with the school principal, and they walked down the hall together (with her husband), and when she meets him at a restaurant, then, in the antithesis of a loving mother-son relationship, has him seized by hulking men to take him, without his knowledge or consent, to a behavioral boot camp.

So the writers of the show have chosen to make the powerful female lead character one who is not at all maternal, who compartmentalizes her life so as to block any maternal feelings from influencing her career (which doesn't mimic at all the real-life constant juggling act of working women) but to make the powerful male lead one who is totally driven by his paternal urges.

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