The Great Divide

I was watching an episode of Boston Legal with bf and his father which had us greatly divided. Basically, Denny Crane is engaged to a manipulative, power-hungry gold-digger. She fires people at the firm at the smallest slight just because she can, even though she has no actual authority. She needles his partners and associates without fear of reprisal because she has Denny so thoroughly wrapped around her little finger.

How? Sensational sex and pandering to his ego.

When she has the sandwich man fired because he didn’t have the “˜low carb, low protein’ bread she wanted and Shirley, the co-founder and Paul, a senior partner, fight Denny – and win – to have the man reemployed on principle – Bev is not going to have the power to fire people at whim – Bev promptly gets him refired on principle. Her argument? The man didn’t just insult Bev, he insulted Denny Crane’s fiancee; he insulted Denny Crane. Denny’s blue eyes widen in comprehension, and he’s enraged at the thought that someone should be allowed to get away with insulting Denny Crane. Mission accomplished.

She panders to his belief that he’s God’s gift to law and women, knowing it’s the easiest way to endear herself to him. She sizes up the competition for his attention alienating from Denny the ones she can and befriending the ones she can’t. Manipulative tramp? Absolutely. But if Bev is a manipulative tramp, then what does that say about Denny, a brilliant man, that he’s being manipulated? That all it took for him to be wrapped about Bev’s little finger was great sex and an appreciation of his ego – that it likes to be stroked more than any other part of Denny? I don’t see Denny so much as a victim as an egotistical old fool who deserves to be fleeced for every penny Bev can extract if he falls for her manipulations.

And yet, bf and father were outraged at her manipulations, whereas I was thinking “˜well, he had it coming if he’s so willing to think with his dick and his ego’. This man is so full of himself he really can’t understand that he’s not God’s gift to women and the law; Bev coming along and telling him that is just proof of what he already knew, and he loves having someone else around who knows it, given everyone else keeps trying to prove he’s not God.

Basically, this man has such a God-complex that he falls for a woman who is willing to tell him that he most certainly is God in order to get a ring on her finger. He’s brilliant, but his ego ultimately comes before his common sense; if his common sense came first, he would realise that any woman so sycophantic was up to something.

But he doesn’t, because the ego and the dick come first. Because of that, he loses a substantial amount of money in the divorce settlement – because he cheated on Bev on their honeymoon. Because, you know, he’s God’s gift to women, he should spread the love around, didn’t she know that? She probably did, and married him knowing he’d stray soon enough.

Again, no sympathy. A little common sense, a little humility would have told Denny Bev was only after one thing: his money, and to a lesser extent, his power (OK, that’s two things). But apparently common sense and humility aren’t nearly as valued assets to a man as his ego and his penis.

* For anyone reading this after 24/06/06, I’ve deleted a reference to not seeing bev as a manipulative tramp so much as an oppurtunist. On discussion, I realise that she IS an manipulative tramp, as well as an oppurtunist, so a few words have been deleted.

Comments

  1. says

    Everyone has weak points that people can take advantage of. I just don’t want to live in a world where people feel that “they were asking for it” and “they should have known better” is justification to take advantage of someone else in any way.

  2. scarlett says

    I only believe that to the extent that if a person is intellectually incapable of making the right choice, ie a child or savant. If someone can be taken advantage of and do something chronically stupid because they’re thinking with something OTHER then their IQ, well, I kinda feel that DO only have themselve sto blame.

  3. says

    Intelligence has little to do with wisdom. Anyway, a lot of raped women do do things that are chronically stupid because they’re not thinking; would you be so caviler towards them? You can blame almost any victim for the crimes that happen towards them, but even if they left the keys in the car and the windows down, that doesn’t excuse stealing the car.

    I don’t want to live in a world where you build huge walls around yourself, both literal and figurative, because if you don’t, someone will take advantage of you and it will be considered your fault.

  4. Jennifer Kesler says

    I don’t think getting hosed in a divorce and getting raped are remotely worthy of comparison.

    According to Scarlett, Denny’s getting taken advantage of strictly due to his narcissism, not because he’s unwise in relationships.

    I don’t personally watch the show, but from what Scarlett says, Bev clearly has a lot of victims: everyone she hurts and fires just to show she can. She goes after people who can’t protect themselves against her power, which is just plain wrong. But Denny was in a position to protect himself and see through her: he chose not to, in order to feed his narcissism. I’m just not sure I’d count Denny among her “victims”.

  5. Mecha says

    Can’t be that strictly, he clearly made a bad choice of woman to associate with. The sleeping around thing on the honeymoon was stupidity on his part (seriously, what the hell?) but it was an ‘action’ of stupidity. But the woman manipulating him was… well, manipulating. That’s not exactly a ‘good for her’! Men manipulate women into having sex with them, and it tends to be somewhere between ‘slimy’ and ‘rape’ to anyone with a fair mind. If it were a guy who ‘preyed on womens’ insecurities’ would we be lauding him for taking it to those self-centered unconfident women? Taking advantage of someone’s weaknesses is not a ‘good’ quality. It can be a damn effective one, though.

    Everybody has weaknesses. Blind spots. If you want to say ‘it’s morally ambiguous to take advantage of someone’s weakneses’, which is what seems to be coming out here, then it just boils down to ‘blame the victim for not being X enough.’ Old enough, wise enough, perfect enough, strong enough, pick something. There are more than enough women and men that can be fooled by emotion, by situation, by knowledge they don’t have. If you wanna praise everyone who fools them… well.

    Now, is it more interesting because Crane’s weaknesses are caused by male privilege and patriarchy and being rich and such, causing there to be a partial realization by some that such things make you blind and you should be on guard for such stupidity? Yes. Is that a valuable moral which anyone watching should at least see? Yes. Does it make her less of a bad person, sexually and materially manipulative, just because he was ‘easy’? Making her ‘not so much a manipulative tramp’? I think not.

    Danny needs to grow up and learn his flaws with respect to being manipulated, and to be a better person, and such? But this ‘Bev’ is just doing the wrong thing. So why say ‘good job, woman’ here? Is it just because she’s sticking it to the symbol of the man, literally? Using the stereotypical ‘womens’ weapons’? I’m not so sure I see that as positive.

    -Mecha

  6. scarlett says

    I don’t have any respect or sympathy for Bev. I like that she’s unapologetic in her means to power, but I don’t like HER, or the way she went about getting power.
    I think there’s a huge difference between being taken advantage of because you’re physically weaker, or have limited intelectual capacity. But to be taken advantage of because you’re vain and will give anything to anyone who will go along with your delusion that you are, in fact, GOD, to not sign a pre-nup, to cheat on your honeymoon (from the trailer, it wasn’t even the honeymoon; it was the reception) because you think you’re so brilliant and everyone loves you, well, you +deserve what you get.

  7. Mecha says

    It just seemed you had some hedging language earlier. At first you said ‘Manipulative tramp’, then you said, “Well, she’s not a manipulative tramp so much as opportunist’. I think she’s a manipulative opportunist. ;)

    I was thinking about this as I was driving home, and I came to the mental conclusion that I don’t believe that people ‘deserve’ to get manipulated/hurt due to flaws imprinted in them by their upbringing, any more than they would deserve to be manipulated/hurt due to unchangeable physical characteristics such as height, weight, sex, mental defect, etc. The mind is one of the most slippery beasts in the world, and even if you try really hard, getting rid of every bit of situational blindness implanted in you is a herculean task. If you’re not in ‘instant reformation’ land, anyway (AKA, TV.)

    This is different from saying that he shouldn’t change, because clearly he should get some freaking help, and he can’t not be held _responsible_ for the actions he takes, to varying degrees it’s not worth arguing. But I don’t think it’s justice to see someone’s internal prejudices/mental blind spots, and then hit them like a ton of bricks and have someone skip off with the benefits while they try to puzzle out exactly what just _happened_. If they can even see it.

    Maybe he’s had every chance to change, earlier in his life. But once Bev starts the manipulation, the dominoes are set up, as it were. She knew where it would end up, and she did it. Can you really say he was anything but a pure patsy in anything but the specific choice to cheat on her? It doesn’t read like he had any more control than anyone else. They may not have had the social power to stop her, but he didn’t have the mental power to see he should have, and he hasn’t for years and years and years, or so it seems. It’s easy to say that people with nurtured blindnesses deserve what they get… but how realistic is it? If a person is rich, and sheltered, and doesn’t learn things they _should_, and then they get their metaphorical asses kicked, do we say, “They deserved it!” For what? For being rich? For not knowing that there was something wrong with them, magically? Heck, how many guys have read and thought about the invisible privilege list? How many white people the racial invisible privege list? They’re incorrect in their beliefs, but that _doesn’t mean they deserve to get screwed for it_. Or so I inexpertly argue.

    This is a subtle and murky area to talk about, too. ^^; How much does he actually deserve blame, how much could he have actually changed were he a real person, does he have mental disorders underlying his beliefs or is it a pure hale and hearty mind that consciously chooses to believe he’s great… meh. I guess I can’t do much but leave it at what I think about the situation in general. I really need to figure out what station this show is on and when. *goes to look*

    – Mecha

  8. scarlett says

    It’s a good show, IMHO, hence why I review it each week. And let’s call Bev an oppurtunistic, menipulative tramp :p
    I stand by my opinion, simplistic or not, that I think if someone was as arrogant as Denny was, then he had Bev’s manipulations coming. The main reason he fell for her in the first place was because she was so willing to pander to his belief that he was, in fact, God, or at least, the God of All Lawyers. I understand why you mean that you can’t have one set of standards for people with physical or mental disadvantages and another set for people who’s weaknesses are those of personality flaws, but I still don’t have much sympathy for him.

  9. Mecha says

    Yeah. Tuesdays at 9 Central! I can actually watch. I think I’ll start next week. And I think I can live with that if you can. ;)

    It’s a fair opinion, and from a logical standpoint, yeah, it was inevitable, so in that sense he definitely had it coming. Just waiting for the person to pull it off. I mean, come on. And ‘powerful rich white male’ doesn’t do much for sympathy. ^^;

    -Mecha

  10. scarlett says

    Yeah, that was the argument I tried to make to bf and his dad. Yeah, like I’m supposed to have sympathy because a white, powerful rich male got screwed over by a woman because she pandered to his penis and vanity? It may be reverse double standards, but it made for good viewing.

  11. Jennifer Kesler says

    Wait a second. Am I missing something?

    Vain, selfish women characters – those vile, vile creatures – have been punished on TV in droves for decades. And many, many men and women I’ve known have said, “Good, the stupid bitch got what was coming to her.”

    Now a vain, selfish man character is getting punished – poor little privileged thing! – and Scarlett is saying, “Good, the jackass got what was coming to him.”

    Maybe I’m missing something, but what I’m seeing here is people jumping to the defense of a white guy. I have to question whether the same defense would be mounted if it was a Joan Collins rich bitch getting played by some guy who’s conned his way up from the streets into her bed, in hopes of taking over her company or something. And I honestly think Joan would get her share of blame from most people in that situation, so why shouldn’t Denny?

  12. scarlett says

    Actually, Jackie Collins (she’s the writer of the two, Joan is the actor) constantly writes of such scenarious, and it usually ends up with the con guy getting his ass kicked back to the curb :p
    You reminded me of what drove me to write the article in the first place – basically, why am I supposed to be sympatheic that this guy had his vanity, arrogance and sex drive taken advantage of? OK, so Bev was manipulative, petty and vengeful (I found this out is later eps), not exactly the saintly heroine, but no matter how much a manipulative tramp she was, her manipulations were fairly transparant and Denny was a (otherwise brilliant) fool to fall for them. He wanted a woman to treat him as God, and when one did, he ignored all her blatantly obvious personality faults.
    This was not a woman who cannot physically fight off her rapist, or an intelelectual disabled person who cannot outwit a con man. This is one of the my legendary lawyers in Boston who CHOSE to ingore a person’s manipulations because they liked what they heard. His vanity came as a result of being an intelligent white man, and his vanity was his undoing. He totally had it coming.

  13. says

    Most people who are conned are perfectly intelligent people who “should” know better. Part of the reason people who run cons get away with it, is because they know people will blame them for it. So they keep their mouths shut, don’t take it to the police or press and let the next person take the fall.

    There just aren’t that many intellectually disabled people with large pools of money to make good targets, senior citizens with Alztimers aside.

  14. scarlett says

    The thing is, nothing Bev did was illegal. She played to his vanity and, as an added bonus, he screwed around at the reception.
    I’ve known middle-class, intelligent people to be conned by people who’ve put a fair bit of effort into making the con look legit. I have sympathy for them. I don’t have sympathy for a brilliant, arrogant man who put his vanity and penis ahead of common sense.

  15. Mecha says

    Maybe she would from the majority of people. She wouldn’t from me, and I wouldn’t like it much, especially if it was made clear that she was basically an inevitable conee. I don’t much get enjoyment out of rich people getting their comeuppance, male or female. I wouldn’t much enjoy it if it were romantic naivete that made the people blind either (and god knows that happens to n+1 women in media. Sigh.) The fact that a guy was the example in this case was just a function of the discussion. Also, Scarlett had built up an expectation, in my mind, of the character’s general blindness to this sort of thing, and hedged on the language of ‘Bev didn’t do a good thing’ slightly, making it confusing that she was celebrating what looked like a wrong to me. I think we sorta hashed that out below. ^^;

    In a sense of ‘responsibility’, he clearly is responsible for his actions. He did them, he’s responsible. Welcome to adulthood. Does that mean we can’t peer at the fact that he was only manipulable (easily) because of mental conditioning and go, “God, you’re sad, Mr. Crane. Could you even be helped?” as opposed to going, “You got screwed? Good. Sucks to be you?” I’d hope not.

    There’s muddy questions, like I posed above. How much of this is ‘willful’ blindness, versus conditioned blindness and so on, because if he’s being _willfully_ blind to privilege and ego flaws and such, then it’s entirely different from simply not _seeing_ it. (And maybe he is, if people he should trust around him are TELLING him, but I’m not sure if it’s just random people who tell him, or everyone. Scarlett mentioned that people were telling him, or something similar.) In Scarlett’s descriptions, earlier, I got the feeling that he was basically an inevitable target, without the ‘power’ to fight this woman, even though he appeared to have it. And, I have a very soft spot for mental blind spots that doesn’t involve celebrating when you can hit someone in them. Just because it’s a mental blindspot formed by the patriarchy instead of, say, religion, or an overbearing mother, or a long term bully, or whatever, doesn’t give us a mental free pass to say anyone who gets hit by it deserved it for being brought up in a specific environment they had no control over.

    Ultimately, it’s a very specific case that set me on speaking up here. If he had been described as more draconian, more uncaring, more abusive, more willfully ignorant of his blind spots and unwilling to address them, then I would be far less inclined to think anything but, “People tried to help you before you got screwed over, and you didn’t listen, and now you got screwed over. That’s what happens.” Presentation’s a very detailed thing on this, I think.

    Even if you don’t think he ‘deserved’ it, it should still send an important message (which I hope Scarlett’s BF and dad-in-friend get) which is that all the things that made him an easy target are something we should all look out for, although making them bad because they ‘lose you money’ is a weaker statement than saying they’re bad in general. But Scarlett has said the show’s general trend shows that the patriarichal expectations and such do make them unhappy in general, showing that they are bad in general. This is just one piece of the overall message, in my mind, and I don’t think you have to turn your nose up at Crane to get it. And I think that message appears even when a woman gets this sort of thing, although tinged by the anti-female undertones of the presentation.

    And like I said below. It’s not exactly unreasaonble to be unsympathetic, and I don’t expect people to pat him on the back and give him cookies or nothing. Especially if he comes off worse than he has in Scarlett’s tellings, which is entirely possible. Just a little examination of ‘how much does privilege, or any mental blindness, entitle you to be scammed?’ Hopefully I’ll know better once I start watching.

    -Mecha

  16. scarlett says

    Interesting observation… basically you’re saying that these people’s privlidge made their mental blindnesses no LESS of a victim then someone’s more obvious physical/metal incapacities.
    The show does, generally, show the downside to the patriachy – the emotional disconnectedness that it wreacks – but in this particular case, it was difficult to have any sympathy. He was warned by all and saundry that this woman was a gold-digging oppurtunist (not to mention the entire audience knew it). I guess I should have differenciated between ‘got no sympathy for a rich man losing a considerable amount of his fortune for thinking with his ego and dick’ and ‘he deserved it’.

  17. Mecha says

    Yeah, that was the overall point I was driving to. Of course, in general, this sort of blindness is not an excuse for sexism, and it’s something we all should attack as a bad thing, via education and pointing it out, but… well, to be slightly pithy and pull from religion, ‘Hate the sin, love the sinner.’ Not that I have any love for this guy, but…yeah, you get it. I used all my well thought out thoughts earlier in the conversation. ;)

    And yeah, if in this case he’s warned time and time and TIME again, explicitly, and he still ignores it, at some point you definitely say, ‘Look, we tried, okay? The end is on your head.’ That I totally buy, and you can’t give people infinite patience, ultimately hoping that him getting screwed over teaches him a lesson (I doubt that!) Even better justification for saying that, in the end, what did he expect?

    -Mecha

    -Mecha

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