Prominent TV shows took a stand on #MeToo and its aftermath
As revelations of sexual harassment and misconduct continue to ripple through Hollywood — and beyond — and prompt a closer look at the industry’s long, sordid history of misogyny, a number of TV shows this year explored the themes of the #MeToo movement.
Here’s a look back at some of those episodes.
For a show about a group of female wrestlers trying to make it big in a male-dominated industry, this Netflix comedy has always been positioned to examine misogyny and the ways in which women are reduced to the sum of their bodies.
But an episode in Season 2 took on sexual harassment more directly. Though it was written before the allegations against Harvey Weinstein became public as a way to highlight the harassment women faced back then, the fifth episode, “Perverts Are People, Too,” felt ripped from the headlines when it was available to stream last summer.
In the episode, actress-wrestler Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie) attends a business meeting with a TV network chief at a hotel restaurant to rally support for the struggling wrestling show. But when she arrives, she is told the meeting has been moved to the executive’s hotel room. The platonic talk soon turns questionable when Tom asks Ruth to put him in a headlock and begins to rub his face into her chest.
When the executive then heads into the other room to get the spa tub flowing, Ruth flees. The network chief ultimately moves the show from its prime-time home and pushes it to the 2 a.m. time slot. Go behind the scenes of that episode here.
‘MURPHY BROWN’ (CBS)
Around the time CBS Corp. found itself contending with its own sexual harassment scandal — resulting in the exit of CEO Les Moonves after a number of sexual-misconduct allegations — the revival of “Murphy Brown” on its broadcast network featured an episode that tackled the powerful and the powerless.
After the staff of “Murphy in the Morning” is forced to sit through a sexual-harassment seminar, the show’s titular character remembers a traumatic experience involving a professor who attacked her when she was 19 years old after she received an award as a student reporter.
Murphy tries to excuse the event; he was a celebrated figure who mentored her; maybe she led him on, she wonders. She eventually decides to confront him about what he did, and he dismisses her account and lists off criticisms of the #MeToo movement, saying it’s just “women dredging up the past, pointing fingers, ruining reputations.”
Murphy gets her closure by reclaiming the award from the fateful night. She had left it behind when she fled his house in fear, and he had kept it on display in his office in the years since.
‘THE GOOD FIGHT’ (CBS All Access)
The third episode of the legal drama featured a case that was inspired by last year’s “Bachelor in Paradise” scandal. The firm represents a young woman who was sexually assaulted by a male contestant during a drunken night on a “Bachelor”-like reality dating competition. She’s suing the network for millions, claiming it was culpable in its tactics to manipulate the situation that rendered her unable to consent.
It later comes to light that a producer, seeing the woman passed out drunk near the hot tub, physically moved her and placed her in the water to facilitate the hookup.
Another episode in Season 2 saw the firm representing a news network that is dealing with blowback from an upcoming expose it is planning to run about a Hollywood actor accused of sexually assaulting two women who have anonymously come forward. The lawyers try to track down the women to assess whether their stories are real and also question the reporter. In the end, the news network runs its story.
‘UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT’ (Netflix)
In the Season 4 opener of the comedy, the show’s eternally optimistic heroine who spent years held captive by a doomsday cult leader is now working at a tech start-up. And she finds herself tasked with firing a male employee.
But Kimmy being Kimmy, she doesn’t want to hurt his feelings and, to keep his spirits up before delivering the news, becomes an accidental predator in this comedic role-reversal take on current events.
She compliments his eyes. She massages his shoulders and wonders whether their friendship is best suited for the “night hours.” To help keep him from feeling embarrassed, she drops her pants. At one point, she offers him a smoothie and says: “This thing’s not going to suck itself.” The employee then accuses Kimmy of sexual harassment.
‘THE ROMANOFFS’ (Amazon)
“Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner found himself among the high-profile men who have been accused of sexual harassment in the past couple of years. (A former “Mad Men” writer accused Weiner of serial sexual harassment, a claim Weiner has disputed.) So when “The Romanoffs,” his follow-up to “Mad Men,” featured a #MeToo-esque episode, people took notice.
Titled “Bright and High Circle” and co-written by Weiner, the episode cautions viewers about the pitfalls of believing everything they hear. Diane Lane’s character, Katherine, a professor and mother of three boys, is informed by an officer that her sons’ gay piano teacher, David (played by Andrew Rannells), has been accused of misconduct with a minor; the nature of the misconduct is not made clear.
Word gets out around town and paranoia develops about whether a child molester is in their midst, leaving David to grapple with how it will damage his livelihood and reputation.
It turns out David’s alleged misdeed was being accused of buying alcohol for a teenager. The ordeal has Katherine’s husband, Alex (Ron Livingston), angry that someone’s life could be ruined over “some random accusation.” He also tells his sons they have to continue their piano lessons because what happened to David is unjust.
‘JANE THE VIRGIN’ (The CW)
In the 11th episode of the fourth season, Jane (Gina Rodriguez) finds herself reflecting on her grad-school experience while seeking out a teaching job. In hindsight, she begins to reevaluate the nature of her then-relationship with her professor and adviser Jonathan Chavez (Adam Rodriguez) after she catches him kissing a current student and begins to wonder if it’s a pattern.
Jane is unsure how to proceed: She wants to warn the student, but she also doesn’t want to get involved and risk losing a job opportunity. There’s also not a strict policy about student-teacher relationships at the university, complicating matters and causing Jane to consider whether there’s any actual wrongdoing.
Jane is ultimately able to confront and hint to Jonathan that she doesn’t think it’s OK the way he uses his power on young, impressionable women. And she warns his current girlfriend about his behavior.
Yvonne Villarreal is a writer for the Los Angeles Times