Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Problems with Stereotypes in "LA Woman", Episode 10 of TNT's "The Closer"

TNT's The Closer: L.A. Woman, Episode 10-Plot Problems Based on Stereotypes of Iranians

The episode perpetuates a lot of stereotypes and promotes an anti-civil liberties atmosphere.

It seems to me that the biggest problem with this episode is the one Deputy Chief Brenda Lee Johnson identifies at the end, namely, divorce is a much easier solution than murder. Why does the show imply that Muslim women or Iranian women could not get a divorce? Definitely, in the United States, it happens all the time. I was born in Egypt, and I still have a lot of family there, and two of my female cousins have initiated divorce proceedings and were granted divorces. One cousin who married here in the United States and got a divorce actually had a worse situation, since she was held responsible for debts her husband had accumulated. To my understanding, Iran's divorce process is more liberal as well, but that's only something I've heard.

The next thing that seems completely way over the top is the portrayal of the murderer's family life. I personally have never witnessed a son trying to control a mother, and the episode portrays this as "normal" behavior in the Iranian or Muslim family. The episode suggests that "observant" Muslim women do not speak with physicians and police officers of the opposite gender. That's inaccurate. Muslims may express gender preferences in medical treatment, such as women choosing women OB/GYNs, or same sex airport security officers doing the patdowns and other searches, but the vast majority of Muslims would consent to these kinds of contacts in situations where there is a need, such as emergencies or the absence of a female physician nearby, etc.

The episode also gives the protagonist (Marina Sartis, playing Layla Moktari) a bizarre accent, despite the woman's having fled the Iranian revolution (1979, almost 30 years ago) and lived in the U.K and the United States since then.

Aside from the stereotyping, the civl liberties implications of this episode are grave. Ms. Johnson's implying that a jury might be lenient in the murder trial of the doctor (Ivar Brogger playing Dr. William Graham) and Ms. Moktari because of the presumed domestic repression is rather frightening. Should that mean that Muslim domestic violence should not be treated by social workers and law enforcement because it is somehow inherent? The broader context of aggregious civil rights violations is taken for granted. The FBI investigation of the murdered Mr. Moktari, the detention of the son Faraz Mokhtari and the threat of torture are all treated as if they were "normal."

Honestly, the episode would have been a lot better if it was a normal, everyday murder committed because of marriage problems without all of the cultural, stereotyping baggage that surrounded it.

P.S. Report on Terrorism and Drug War in TV Dramas 

No comments: