In the ninth episode ofÂ Terriers, Britt takes a solo case while Hank recuperates, and Hank finds out that Jason has a scary past. Intrigued? Then itâ€™s time for Mark to watchÂ Terriers.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of pedophilia/child molestation, transphobia and transmisogyny.
Man, a lot of uncomfortable topics were shoved into the same episode, werenâ€™t they? LETâ€™S DISCUSS.
Iâ€™m thinking that the show deliberately chose such a polarizing and rage-inducing past for Jason so it could set us up for Hankâ€™s failure. My knee-jerk reaction? Get everyone and everything away from Jason. The very idea that he could have assisted his parents in molesting dozens of children is horrifying to me, but thatâ€™s sort of the point. The show puts Hank closer and closer to some kind of truth. Yet as Hank feels like heâ€™s found the bombshell to ruin Gretchenâ€™s marriage, heâ€™s unaware that the â€œtruthâ€ for her isnâ€™t the same as it is for him.
Thatâ€™s the complication that comes from this. Hankâ€™s actions backfire because he pursues this with his own interests in mind. In the end, Jasonâ€™s complicity in his parentsâ€™ abuse isnâ€™t really the conflict, and we never find out what actually happened when he was a teenager. Instead, Gretchen angrily rejects Hank because he tried to shock her and derail her wedding whenÂ she knew about Jasonâ€™s past and name change the entire time. Hank did not talk to her about any of this, nor did he even think to ask her if she needed his help. He just assumed that she did. As I said on video, I was surprised (in a good way) that the script addressed this dynamic. Hank comes off as the ex who canâ€™t move on and who paternalistically invades someone elseâ€™s life and privacy.
Yeah, heâ€™s kind of a huge trainwreck. AndÂ TerriersÂ is consistently willing to portray that. I also mentioned on video thatÂ this show seemed to come out right on the cusp of television turning darker and grittier, yet it never got the same sort of attention as shows likeÂ Breaking BadÂ orÂ Mad MenÂ did. Why is that???
Itâ€™s always a challenge to watch things years after they come out and try to write about them in a way that respects the time when they were released and who I am in the present time. I canâ€™t claim to have been as knowledgable about transphobia or trans issues of representation in 2010 as I am now. Yet that doesnâ€™t mean that large parts of this episode are fun to watch. The language here is appalling at times, both in the consistent use of slursÂ andÂ in the constant misgendering of trans characters. The show canâ€™t seem to figure out if these characters are trans women, genderqueer people, or cis men who like to wear womenâ€™s clothing.
And thatâ€™s the problem. ThereÂ isÂ a stark sympathy offered to Michela and Crystal throughout this episode, and Britt even has a moment where he insists that parents who reject their gay or gender-nonconforming children are completely are absurd. (Sort of.) In one breath,Â TerriersÂ tries to tell us that toleration is a beautiful thing, that we should accept people from all walks of life. Like, I canâ€™t deny that I teared up during the scene where Britt and Michela confront Crystalâ€™s parents! That moment felt so real and visceral and sad. But my relationship with that scene is different from the one the writers seem to have intended. It made me sad because IÂ knowÂ what it is like to feel rejected because youâ€™re not straight, because you donâ€™t fit the gender roles assigned to you. I ran away from home at sixteen, just like Crystal, and I was homeless off and on for years. Thatâ€™s not just a subtle element of a plot; it was my life.
Yet this ultimately isnâ€™t really about me, even if I felt close to Crystalâ€™s story. Thereâ€™s an element to representation politics that often goes ignored, and this episode is a prime example of that. Yes, Shangela does a fine job with this character, but the script is so openly flawed that itâ€™s hard to count it as â€œdiverseâ€ representation. This is now the second show that Iâ€™ve watched this year where DJ Pierce played a sassy trans sex worker. Thatâ€™s less of a criticism of their acting choices and more of a condemnation of the fact that people canâ€™t seem to write trans people in anything but the sex worker trope. And even worse, itâ€™s the â€œHooker with a Heart of Goldâ€ trope. And even worse, the onlyÂ otherÂ trans character, Crystal, is dead. And misgendered. And not even on-screen.
Hereâ€™s what bugs me about all of this. Toleration is not a good thing. I donâ€™t want people to tolerate me for being mentally ill, for being latinx, for being queer. Toleration means that I can still exist out of sight, out of mind, and as a political notion, thatâ€™s pretty fucking terrible. Iâ€™m looking for liberation and empathy. I donâ€™t need people to know every detail of my life, but I certainly need folks to understand why marriage equality might matter, why we should be spending time, money, and energy on homeless queer and LGBT youth, and why itâ€™s important to use the proper pronouns for people. â€œPimp Daddyâ€ has a sweetness to it that I didnâ€™t expect, yes. Britt could easily become friends with Michela, and I bet that would be entertaining on some level. But the same script that tries to portray these characters sympathetically cannot figure out what to call them, nor what identity they actually are. It cannot give us a reality for trans women that shows that they arenâ€™t all sex workers, that their lives are not all full of heartbreak and suffering, and that theyâ€™re part of the fabric of human existence instead of a bizarre Other. Try as they might, the writers ofÂ TerriersÂ missed the mark on this one, loaded the script with their preconceived notions of trans and gender-nonconforming individuals instead ofâ€¦ well,Â askingÂ them how to tell their stories.
The video for â€œPimp Daddyâ€ can be downloadedÂ here for $0.99.
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