Cattle Call #1

I’ve been watching reruns of what used to be Australia’s flagship drama Blue Heelers, which shows daily at 2pm to cover the local content quota*. And it reminds me of a storyline which annoyed the crap out of me when it first aired, and has not improved with age.

Basically, you have Jo and PJ: lovers and a would-be couple who are cops in a country police station. Jo comes along a few months before PJ’s fiancee Maggie, another copper, is killed in the line of duty. For the next couple of years, they remain friends and colleagues, until they become lovers.

At this point PJ makes it absolutely clear that he’s not interested in being Jo’s boyfriend. He’s not over Maggie, and if he were, he wouldn’t be up for another relationship with another cop, given Maggie died in the line of duty. (Incidentally; he probably should have stuck to his guns; Jo dies in the line of duty a couple of years later.) He’s attracted to her, respects her, likes her as a friend and colleague. But he does not love her. She is more than welcome to share his bed but it goes no further.

Now, this could have been one of those cool adult relationships that television rarely broaches, where two people enjoy each other’s company and sleep together from time to time with no emotional obligation to the other. But what does Jo do? Ignores everything PJ said, falls in love with him and convinces herself that he’s in love with her. She doesn’t understand why he’s not keen on meeting her family, or planning a future together, or kicking out a perfectly good rent-paying housemate so they can have the place to themselves and be one step closer to that dream of marriage.

When he finally calls an end to her little fantasies by telling her he doesn’t love her she sulks, and doesn’t get over it for a season. And the shit really hits the fan when he starts dating someone else.

What the”¦? She knew from the get go he didn’t want a relationship. He was upfront with what he wanted; she took his words and heard something else entirely. It was her own damn fault she got her heart broken, and I had no sympathy for her being miserable. And it was such a stereotypical female thing to do, too; cling to a man, convince yourself he loves you, be blind to incredibly obvious clues that he doesn’t, etc.

Eventually, they get together, probably because enough shippers wrote in to complain. Another few months, and I would have been joining them. Not because I thought she deserved him, but because I was so sick of her moping around, that I would have accepted ANYTHING as an alternative.

Ech. It was so”¦ bloody”¦ stereotyped! It was embarrassing. I’ve known plenty of men who fooled themselves into thinking relationships existed when they didn’t; how come none of them make our TV screens? With a few exceptions (and I think Australian television is fairly good like that; more on that later) apparantly it’s just not acceptable to see men pining after women and convincing themselves that the woman loves them back.

* Australian free-to-air analogue television has to meet quotas of Australian/New Zealand produced television of 55% between 6am and 12pm. Though there’s a clause regarding first-run scripted television, much of it is made up in reality TV, news and current affairs and reruns. Channel Seven meets part of its obligation by airing reruns of BH that are a couple of years old in the “˜dead’ timeslot of 2pm)


  1. Mecha says

    I’ve known plenty of men who fooled themselves into thinking relationships existed when they didn’t; how come none of them make our TV screens?

    To me, they do, although not often as ‘lightly’ as this, and not always as a main character in the same sense. That’s the short answer.

    The long answer… ‘creepy stalkers’ are predominantely male. Rapists are predominantly male. Geeks who obsess over girls even when not engaging in stalkerish behavior are predominantly male. Students abused by teachers and sorta in a ‘Stockholm’ type setup are male and female both, although I’d say that women get that particular treatment more than men. All of these appear on TV. Quite frequently. To some degree, they are all men deluded into thinking a relationship exists (except in the strictest power-based senses of rape.)

    The lighter ‘male jealousy’ angle has been played so many times, in so many sitcoms and dramas. Often as an adjunct to a man being absolutely unable to express his emotions in any way except jealousy and anger and spite.

    I realize, to a degree, this was a bit ranty because ugh, thank you stereotypes… but men pine after women a lot. A _lot_. In an action movie? Usually no. In a comedy, or drama, or love story, or basically anything where there is time for the guy to? Yeah. I refer to you to the societal concept of the generic ‘my woman done left me’ song, often tied into a ‘please take me back baby’ song as a basis for this societally (whether those songs are often awful or not.) I refer you to Forest Gump, or Die Hard with a Vengance (where it wasn’t even a core part of the story, just a guy that realized he done stupid), or god knows how many stupid teen movies as movies. I refer to basically any family comedy where there was a male child. I refer to multiple sitcoms, including Cheers and Home Improvement and so on. Heck, Buffy the Vampire Slayer had a huge setup (Xander) like that, and the psychotic Spike/Buffy relationship REVELLED in this near-stalkerish relationship drive.

    Men (especially boys) pining after women is seriously a big societal thing, in general. Not so much in that specific way (which does happen in real life, and god don’t I know it, but is mostly done with ‘geek love’ in various media), but in their own ways. The main distinction may well be that the girl tends to fall for the guy back because they’re main characters (a whole ‘nother space to complain about, and I’m right there with ya on that if you do) but even that doesn’t always happen.

    Now, as I finish writing that, I wonder about the maturity distinction there, in that women of all ages may tend to that behavior in media (I’m not even sure I’ve seen it as much as all that, although I also feel it’s stereotypical so there are likely examples that aren’t on my mind for adult women) but the exact trend you talk about (as opposed to all the near misses I brought up) tends to younger or incredibly (obviously) immature guys. The mature guys that get hung up over a girl tend not to do the ‘lie to self’ thing in that specific manner, tending to ‘bear it silently and look on from afar’. Which is its own set of mental problems, but eh. Male chars are rarely are allowed to be in the middle on this, except in medium-to-long run TV shows. Either they’re creepy or they’re stoic. Or the woman gets with him after X period of time. Go Shippers.


  2. Jennifer Kesler says

    I think the big distinction is this:

    A male who thinks non-existent relationship is real is clearly presented as deluded or naive/youthful. But a woman who thinks that is presented as a secure, stable, usually professional woman like Sam Carter or Allison Cameron. It suggests that the writers unthinkingly perceive adult women as naturally prone to fantasy and unreality, perhaps even unable to cope with reality. Which fits in with patriarchal perceptions of women as more emotional and men as more pragmatic (in reality, I’d argue emotionalism and pragmatism are very much individual traits, no more common to one gender than the other).

  3. scarlett says

    This, I felt, was how they did the PJ/Jo storyline; she was otherwise a very capable woman who just happened to delude herself into thinking a relationship existed when actually it didn’t. In reverse, the man would have been an unstable character, but there doesn’t seem to be a problem with having otherwise competant, stable women deluded themselves romantically.


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