Monday, May 9, 2011

Morality on TV: What's the line?

I don't take tv shows as examples of how I should live my life. I'm not stupid. I find it insulting when networks like ABC Family decide that every single characters who has sex must get pregnant, to teach a lesson about contraception and how premarital sex is evil. I'm smarter than that. I believe teenagers girl are smarter than that. We don't need moral lessons handed down to use my some middle age network executives thank you.

If Emily can be so smart as to reach the Olympics, I believe she can be smart enough to use contraception. And now that Emily is pregnant, I have no problem with her getting an abortion. Not because I agree or disagree with the practice, but because I can understand that this is a character on a tv show. If I disagree with her, I don't have to be like her. When I watch tv, I can separate myself from the characters. I am a teenager girl, but I am not stupid, no matter what adults may believe.

I don't judge tv shows on moral standards. I judge them on entertainment quality. I didn't care when Lux slept with her teacher on Life Unexpected. I didn't care when Amber started doing drugs on Parenthood. I don't care when the kids drink on Glee or when the people have sex all the time on Gossip Girl. I appreciate those shows for what they are--entertaining television programs, not moral compasses.

But even I have a line. And this week, Gossip Girl crossed it. Specifically, Chuck Bass crossed it when he attempted to rape Blair. That's too far. I'm sure the show will forget it in an episode or two, but I won't. It a line you can't cross, a place of no return.

Due to my outrage over the whole thing, I've read a lot of interviews and articles discussing the incident at length. Many of those articles made me really mad.

For example, one suggested that any Chuck and Blair fans got what was coming to them. We had bought into a character that was fatally flawed, from the beginning, and now we were shocked when he repeated an action he attempted in the pilot. No one was outraged in pilot.

To me, the situation was entirely different. I didn't care about Chuck in pilot. If I recall correctly, I was largely concerned with Blair and Nate, and Dan and Serena, as hard as that is to believe. At that point, Chuck was the random character that didn't fit in with the rest, the oddball I kind of ignored, the way I now ignore Serena or Vanessa or Jenny. But over the course of the next four seasons Chuck stopped being that guy that tried to rape Jenny. He became Chuck. He made me buy into him, and he made me buy into Chuck and Blair as a couple. I felt like Chuck had changed. I didn't care that he drank a lot. I don't find alcoholism morally reprehensible, and even beyond that, I don't think it matters what I think is morally right and morally wrong on tv shows. Moreover, it didn't effect his relationship with Blair. I don't love Chuck as a character. I like Chuck as part of a specific relationship. When he's off screwing Raina, I don't care. When he has troubles with his mother or father or uncle, I don't care. I only care when he's with Blair. Period.

I cared when he traded Blair for a hotel. I didn't think it was morally wrong. Chuck and Blair manipulate each other all the time. I was disappointed in Chuck, but I wasn't repelled by him. My line wasn't crossed. If one is to use that as evidence of an abusive partner, than Blair abuses Chuck just as much he abuses her. Neither of them or good people. No one ever believed that for a second. But what people did believe is that they loved each other, that they were good enough for each other.

Than, we saw last week's episode, and many of us were disgusted, scared. I've almost abandoned the couple all together. Because I had bought into Chuck and Blair. I cared about them now. They're the only reason I watch the show! Chuck has told us that he loved Blair, again, and again, and again. And I believed him. But his actions don't match his words. Never before had I been scared for Blair's life. I think that's the line for me--is it harmless tv? Or are there actual stakes?

Click to view full size image

So, I was upset as a person, and I was upset as a Gossip Girl fan. It's not that I think the attack is out of character for Chuck--it's that I'd hoped we'd long since seen the back of that part of his character. I thought he had grown. I thought they had grown together. I feel tricked almost. Crushingly disappointed, to say the least.

I don't think they should have gone there. Normally, I don't judge characters or tv shows by moral standards. But when you've spent so many episodes--full seasons--trying to get me to buy into these characters and their future as a couple, I find it insulting that they went there. I almost feel like I have no choice but to stop watching. I would, if I had any self control.

But it isn't the fact that I think teenage girls are going to learn from this example, think that is the proper way a relationship should be. No teenage girl is basing their relationship off Chuck and Blair. Teenagers are young and impressionable and confused. But they are not, nor they will never be, stupid. That is not the problem. The issue is that the show turned what used to be a good relationship into a poisoned relationship--which is both bad television, and bad moral standards, so far past the line, that it seems to me that they're forgotten that the line exists. Normally, I don't care about morals and tv. Right now, I do. Not because I think this episode makes rape okay--nothing ever could. But because I think this episode makes rape okay in Chuck and Blair's relationship--which I hoped it never would.

The creator of the show came out and defended Chuck. I don't think that's right. Here's a link to the article. And here's a link an interesting video, with a very different take.

What do you guys think of the whole mess? Should we have seen this coming? Was it appropriate for the show to cross that line? And, most importantly, will you keep watching?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for pointing out that "Blair abuses Chuck as much as he abuses her." First of all, this is the first time Chuck has ever grabbed Blair forcefully (in non-lustful way). She has multiple times kicked and pulled his hair.

    Chuck was also drunk, and Nate was obviously in the apartment when things were going on. Chuck also had a long line of deceit and betrayal. I am not defending rapers at all, but Chuck Bass does not seem to be the kind that will cross that line.

    First, you can see the first incident with Jenny, they were downstairs and then they are next thing on the roof top, she texts Dan twice. So, Chuck obviously allowed her freedom to decide whether she wanted to do it or not. Next, Serena, he tries to kiss her in a kitchen, which momentarily empties out in which he paid the staff to go for the night, but obviously he's been friends with Serena for so long, that if she wanted anything she would give it up or kick him in the balls (which she does).

    But, for those who are young, it may seem impressionable, but I would also note that Chuck despite his crazy outlandish behaviors, has not harmed any female, but only scared them deeply by his not-so-gentlemen like demeanor. However, as we can see up to current Season 5, Chuck is growing up after all the lies and manipulation from Bass industries has simmered down at last.


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