Monday, June 26, 2006

Rescue them from controversy

With the extreme packing I had to do for last week's trip, I didn't get a chance to watch and recap Rescue Me last Tuesday when it aired. Perhaps that's for the best, however, since the close of the show featured a violent sex scene between Tommy and his wife, Janet, that I'd have had difficulty describing.

I'd read the brief spoilers from Andrea Roth (Janet) in TV Guide's interview, so I was a bit prepared for the scene. However, Andrea's comments led me to believe that there would be a clearer demarcation between the violence and the sex. Instead, the line between physical pain and sexual pleasure was a lot subtler than I'd anticipated, and after the scene ended I came out feeling closer to Andrea's comment "you're not really sure what the hell happened."

While I wasn't sure quite what I'd seen, some viewers saw things all too clearly for their liking. They saw Tommy's actions as an unquestionable rape, something unforgivable, a storyline that rendered the show unwatchable.

For a show that bases much of its popularity and appeal on pushing the boundaries of what's appropriate, Rescue Me may have finally found an issue that's a little too far outside their viewers' comfort zone. Creators Denis Leary and Peter Tolan gave a post-ep interview addressing some of the negative response to the scene. Tolan also posted comments on Television Without Pity defending the scene.

After watching the episode, reading viewer comments, and absorbing Leary and Tolan's responses, I'm still not exactly sure what to think.

When I first watched the scene, I was reminded of the stairway sex between Tom and Edie in the recent movie A History of Violence. Both are violent sex scenes that start off motivated by anger, then midway through change into something (arguably) motivated by desire. Admittedly, the transition from violence to lust is more evident in History; it didn't come off as clearly as the people behind Rescue Me would have liked.

So why write a scene like this at all, if it's so apt to incense viewers? I'm hoping it's not simply to push buttons. I'm hoping they felt it was important. Maybe to show us that under the anger, there's love. Maybe to demonstrate that whatever emotions are present, these two characters connect on a base level. Or maybe they're just putting something out there that's dirty and repugnant.

In the end, it's up to the viewer to decide.


At 6:20 AM, Anonymous GMMR said...

Ok seriously...we share the same brain.


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