Since the early days of PTA Mob Mentality went mainstream with Tipper Gore’s founding of the Parental Advisory in 1985, mothers and fathers everywhere have found irrational things to get angry about.
There were the spelling bee protests of 2010, which argued for the phonetic spellings of words; the same year, a school district in Ohio banned their high school teachers from showing historically valuable films like Schindler’s List after parents protested their violence; and then just last month, some Texas moms and dads successfully pressured the school their kids attend to stop letting them read 7 notable books because they had subject matter that made them uncomfortable.
Yesterday, after a Change.org petition started by a Florida mother reached upward of 9,000 signatures, toy giant Toys “R” Us removed a series of action figures based on the popular show Breaking Bad from their shelves. An excerpt from her petition stated, “While the show may be compelling viewing for adults, its violent content and celebration of the drug trade make this collection unsuitable to be sold alongside Barbie dolls and Disney characters.”
The chain’s initial response had been to continue carrying the product because it was only made available in their section that is for customers aged 15 and older, but perhaps fearing bad PR on the cusp of the holiday shopping season, they deemed the risk too large to stand their ground and flip-flopped, cowardly adhering to the noise.
This is ridiculous.
First, because from a completely corporate standpoint, these dolls had the potential to be a top seller for the chain. Though Breaking Bad ended last year, its prequel spinoff Better Call Saul is slated to debut in February, which has kept the characters front of mind for many fans. Plus, the publicity surrounding the petition made many aware of the toys who may not otherwise have known about them. Even the show’s star, Bryan Cranston, poked fun at the controversy with a hilarious tweet directed at the Florida mom.
Second, because it’s nothing short of hypocritical to pull one type of item from shelves for what it represents and then leave the others available for purchase.
Specifically, Toys “R” Us proudly offers the video game Grand Theft Auto, which has a “Mature” rating and features a content description that reads, “Enter the lives of three very different criminals, Michael, Franklin and Trevor, as they risk everything in a series of daring and dangerous heists that could set them up for life.” Warnings include: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Mature Humor, Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Drugs and Alcohol.
In the action figures category, they also sell a variety of G.I. Joe products, some that contain words such as “ambush” and “attack” in their titles.
Are you seeing my point here?
Though I would never be interested in violent video games or war toys, I certainly think Toys “R” Us has every right to sell them, just as I think they should have continued offering the Breaking Bad toys for those of us who have a sense of humor. In essence, this Florida mom has not removed any potential danger from children’s lives by causing this stir; she’s simply created an expensive collectors’ item that is now in much higher demand.
At the end of the day, if parents are worried about what types of toys their child is playing with (or, gasp, seeing on a store shelf), they should become more present in their lives.
My sister, who lives in the Eastern time zone, sent me a cryptic Facebook message last night, less than an hour before The Good Wife was set to air on my coast. She advised me of watching it like this: “Have your sedatives handy and for God’s sake, stay off of Twitter and FB until you’ve seen it. Not even remotely kidding. I’m in shock.” She told me to brace myself.
I got excited—let’s face it, the show has never been better. Five seasons in, the writers, directors and actors are all at the top of their game. I thought she was preparing me for another roller coaster episode like October’s “Hitting the Fan.” I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The episode began and it was solid. Alicia was cocky and confident with the pesky investigators; Kalinda was threatening to walk and Will was turning around a case that seemed to be tanking. It was solid, but not yet remarkable. Just when I started to yearn for my favorite guest regulars (Michael J. Fox and Carrie Preston) to appear and spice things up, the unfathomable happened: shots were fired and Will Gardner was gone.
It’s a testament to the writers that I felt like I’d had the wind knocked out of me. In fact, I went through all of the physical things one goes through when they receive traumatic news: chills, tears, nausea (in that order). The stages of grief were beginning. Denial was evident in the amount of times I re-wound my DVR to make sure I’d seen what I thought I’d seen. And I tried so hard to un-see it.
After I believed what happened, I settled into Anger. How could this show do this to the fans? Why couldn’t they just send him to New York? Didn’t anyone else think that Alicia and Will would end up partners again—in law and in life? Peter can’t get the girl. He doesn’t deserve her.
Next was the stage of Bargaining. Well, they surely will resurrect his character. I mean, he could come back as a ghost, right? It could have been a nightmare, right?
Of course not. The writers are too classy for that. And the scene was captured with such a haunting grace (we didn’t see him get shot; we only heard the firing of the gun and watched the horrified reactions of his two colleagues) that to make it all for nothing would be to disrespect the art.
This realization, of course, brought on significant Depression.
I couldn’t sleep. I watched a few more shows (comedies) and tossed and turned and had a dream about JFK with Will Gardner after I finally dozed. I think my subconscious was telling me I will always remember where I was when I saw Will die (or that Kalinda’s comment to Louis Canning in an upcoming episode had a “You’re no Jack Kennedy” ring to it).
As I awoke this morning and talked with more friends and fans about the revelation, I settled into Acceptance, proud of the show for being so fearless and intrigued by what must lie ahead.
As I cope with my Good Wife-induced post traumatic stress disorder, I hope that everyone involved in this epic twist will be handsomely rewarded for their genius. I can’t imagine what the show will be like without the sexual tension and chemistry of Will and Alicia, but I will stay the course.
If you aren’t caught up on the current season of Downton Abbey, and you don’t appreciate spoilers, please stop reading right here.
If you have seen the show—specifically the episode where Anna gets brutally raped by a visiting valet—then I’d love to know in which camp of viewers you’d place yourself.
Camp A (the louder camp): The show pulled a horrific ratings stunt and degraded women by allowing a beloved character to be sexually assaulted.
Camp B (the calmer camp): The show should be applauded for weaving in a realistic, terrifying act of violence upon a strong female character, who has so far beaten life’s challenges.
As you may have guessed, I’m firmly in Camp B, and honestly quite astounded that Camp A even exists.
For a show that’s constantly ridiculed for its soapy story lines, and a narrative that shockingly killed two major characters off last season, I can’t imagine how anyone could be surprised that violence would make its way into subsequent episodes.
Not long after the season premiere aired here in the U.S., I read a number of whiny social media posts about how “boring” the show had become in its fourth installment.
Still bored? Didn’t think so.
Placing a well-liked, strong, feminine character in such nauseating peril is a perfect way to communicate the restrictions of the era and the reality of class division.
If the rape had happened to Lady Mary or Lady Edith, the police would have been called or Lord Grantham would have handled it with no fear of repercussions. There would have been what we would now call a media “gag order” to protect the Lady, and—save for the victim—everyone would move on.
If the rape did happen to a servant like Anna, it would be her word against her attacker, and if she reported it, she’d undoubtedly bring shame to the residence. Furthermore, she’d most likely be shamed out of her job, leaving her penniless and without a sense of normalcy to help cope with her pain.
Just a few decades ago, the British royal family underwent scrutiny after a male servant alleged rape by another male employee of higher regard. The Palace denied the event took place, and the victim died of an “unknown illness” at age 44. Princess Diana was said to have a recording that would reveal the truth about the incident, but that was lost shortly after her death. Whether the victim was telling the truth or lying to damage the royal reputation, the whole situation is tragic.
Quite frankly, us Americans shouldn’t be criticizing any writers or actors about choosing to spotlight the horrific crime of rape. We practically ignore it here, allowing an estimated 400,000 rape kits to go untested because of “budget restraints” or “inadequate funding.”
Never mind the ladies who have suffered at the hands of these attackers; just think of the women still out there who will soon be in their line of fire.
And that’s another point: Sometimes viewing a television show of something horrible that’s happened to you in life can inspire you to seek help for the first time. A spokeswoman for the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, is quoted as saying, “When an episode is well done, it can really help viewers.”
On March 18, 2001, I sat down with my ritual glass of red wine and a bowl of pasta to watch my favorite show, The Sopranos. In that episode, a strong, beloved female character was raped in a far more visually graphic way than Downton depicted. We saw nudity, we saw facial expressions, we saw the emptiness of the parking garage, devoid of people to hear the victim scream.
Following the episode I promptly threw up, cried and went to sleep, only to have nightmares about the fictional attacker. I parked only on the street for about a year thereafter.
It was a disturbing, sickening episode, but I don’t remember the outcry surrounding it nearly as much as the overreactions I’m seeing in regard to Downton.
Some may argue that The Sopranos was an inherently violent show and those who are bothered by such violence wouldn’t watch it anyway, but I beg to differ.
Just because Downton Abbey doesn’t feature mobsters, doesn’t mean it should be exempt from exploring real-life scenarios. In present-day U.K. an estimated 1 in 5 women has experienced sexual violence; in the U.S. the number is 1 in 6. Until we recognize that these statistics are unacceptable, we need reminders of the crimes.