I’m still pleased with how Lifetime’s State of Mind is portraying women. The characterization goes deep enough that I know who each of these women are. None of them are redundant of the others – each woman has a distinct personality, distinct goals, distinct problems. They have both platonic and sexual relationships with the men. They have relationships with each other where they talk about subjects other than men.
But I have a quibble with one story arc involving one of the psychiatrists at the office. He is having an affair with one of the other doctors while his family goes to hell in a handbasket of denial. One of his daughters is starving herself. His wife tolerates the affair and keeps right on making sure her husband’s dinner is on time every night, because she believes that’s the most dignified and righteous thing to do. And the husband is a controlling bastard.
What bothers me is that the family are first generation Egyptian-Americans. Like we don’t have white Baptist families going through precisely the same situation right here in the US. Does giving this storyline to an Egyptian family allow American viewers to project the failings of patriarchal family structures onto some other culture, not ours? In this week’s episode, the daughter who’s starving herself blamed her problems on being born into a culture where a mother would tolerate that sort of disrespect from her husband.
Gee. I’m pretty sure I was born into a culture just like that, too. Oh, it may not be the norm in every square mile of the United States, but don’t stick your head in the sand: there is nothing foreign about the idea of controlling selfish fathers and mothers who don’t feel empowered to do anything but suffer through it and try to be strong for the kids. Anywhere you have patriarchy, this is going to happen. And not rarely.
Otherwise, the storyline has been excellent, and in this week’s episode, controlling hubby came home to find dinner not on the table, not in the fridge, not in the microwave. After his head exploded, he went to the doctor with whom he’s been having the affair and broke it off. She had to cut him short because she had a coffee date. His head exploded again. It’s like… the women are no longer rewarding him just for showing up! Weird!
And the show is also hitting the issue of whether just being a Nice Guy is reason enough for a woman to stay with a man. Lily Taylor’s character, as I detailed in the above-linked post, dumped her husband ostensibly because he had an affair but really because the relationship wasn’t fulfilling her. In this week’s episode, her sister (played by Mo Gaffney) had found the love of her life – and it wasn’t her decent, nice husband of twenty-two years. Should she stay with a Nice Guy, or move on to a man who is also nice, but really deeply understands and “sees” her completely? The real question is: shouldn’t “nice” be a minimum requirement rather than a special trait? Women are expected to be nice, plus sexy and interesting and all that, or else you dump them. But a woman dumping a man who is nice, unsexy and uninteresting? That’s just not right! /sarcasm
Another point of interest, and something I may attempt to write a separate post on eventually: there is only one regular woman of color on this show: Cordelia Banks (Theresa Randle), whose already had at least one storyline to herself. And the cheating doctor’s Egyptian family – a wife and two daughters – are beginning to play increased roles in the story. After appearances in two episodes, the wife and each of the daughters have distinct personalities and issues, like all the other women on the show. I hope this trend continues.