"I used to have really bad social anxiety. I’d be so afraid of saying something awkward and uninteresting, I’d stand on the perimeter of conversations and not say a thing. Which ironically came across as awkward and uninteresting."
Look at that smile! She knows exactly how much ass she’s kicking with that talent.
Why not ask whether heterosexuality exists? Are there truly people out there who are so disgusted by the same sex that they’ve never had a dream, a thought, a moment of desire for another person of the same sex? If so, why do these people have such a revulsion? Is it cultural? Is it biological? Both? We take heterosexuality for granted, but we still don’t know if it truly exists. All primates (with the exception of humans) are bisexual. Bonobos and chimpanzees especially. In human societies that are not corrupted by homophobia or biphobia (see Greeks, Canaanites, and various modern tribes), the people are bisexual. I think heterosexuality should be assumed to be a cultural invention until proven otherwise.
This dynamic has, unfortunately, long been a staple of sitcoms. Nothing draws out a romantic relationship longer than a guy pursuing an uninterested woman with increasing desperation. Ross’ through-line of being creepy about Rachel continued unabated right through their relationship; Niles pined for Daphne so long even the dog got tired of it. And you don’t have to look far to find this dynamic currently airing. On The Mindy Project, male nurse Morgan casually harasses fellow nurse Tamra, clearly unwanted and occasionally flat-out delusional. (In the winter finale, he asks a doctor, “Every time I ask Tamra out, she says no. Do you think she has a crush on me?”) It passes largely without comment, and while the show’s general consensus is that Morgan’s an off-putting cog in the Shulman & Associates machine, it’s also not as though anyone’s made him knock it off […]
Of course, plenty of good comedy features exaggeration of everyday ills—making light of the tragedy of life is the reason comedy exists. But dismissing the creeper dynamic when a guy won’t leave a woman alone downplays an often-dangerous real-life situation in a way that falling over a bunch of times in a yoga class doesn’t. And things played as textually creepy on Mad Men or Law & Order are being played for laughs in sitcoms with almost no change of context, except one: Sitcoms pretend there are no consequences for the woman being pursued. In most sitcoms, there’s an acknowledged comfort zone that allows us to enjoy what might be uncomfortable in something more realistic: We know these heroes are essentially harmless. The objects of their affection can turn them down a hundred times, and the gentleman will go right on as he has before, until sweeps week forces them into a locked closet together or makes them pretend to be married. She’s never punished at work for turning down the advances of a lovelorn superior. She’s never in danger of the behavior escalating into violence. Everything’s fine. It’s funny. (Also funny: Boyle’s behavior so far this season hits every single bullet point for the Romantic Stalker on this list of warning signs from the Network for Surviving Stalking.)
And that’s the problem: A generation of romantic comedies rewarding men for diligently pursuing a woman until she caves has normalized a behavior that has direct and unwelcome corollaries in real life. In an era when we’re having open conversations about representation and sensitivity in comedy, the shtick of a guy who won’t take no for an answer has lost any charm it once held. It’s become either a romantic signpost to set up a long-term romantic dynamic (which it shouldn’t), or it’s shorthand to denote a clueless creep while rarely taking him to task for it.
- Genevieve Valentine, “The Full Boyle: Guys who don’t hear “no” just aren’t funny anymore”
I read this piece from the A.V. Club about Brooklyn Nine-Nine and was strongly reminded of the conversation we had in August about the way Doctor Who has romanticized and normalized stalking in several episodes. Though the situations are in many ways different, both are part of a broader narrative that normalizes (or, in Doctor Who's case, romanticizes) creepy, aggressive behaviors by men pursuing women.