There’s a character on Boston Legal, Brad Chase. He’s in his forties, a gifted lawyer, but most importantly, he’s white, blandly good-looking and suave. Combined with his God-given intelligence, he’s a poster boy for invisible privilege and entitlement that would have Adolf Hitler drooling.
When he’s up for partner in one of the best firms in the world, he’s smugly confident that he’ll make it – even adds a dash of humility for authenticity – despite the fact his main competition is more intelligent then the next three smartest people in the firm combined. Why? Because this guy, as phenomenally brilliant as he is, is physically unattractive and socially awkward.
So now it’s not even enough to be a white Christian male to get ahead; you also have to be blandly good-looking with good social skills. Well, it’s kinda nice to know that these days even the majority of white Christian males are getting screwed over.
Basically (and I’m extrapolating here), all his life Chase has been told that if he works hard for what he wants, he’ll get it. I’m not doubting it takes a lot of intelligence and hard work to be made partner in a top law firm. But for Chase, things like race, gender and sexuality have never been obstacles. Chase was never going to be passed over for being a woman, a Muslim, a black man. He wasn’t even going to be passed over for be aesthetically unpleasing, or a poor socialiser. There was an assumption in his upbringing that if he wanted something and worked hard for it, he would get it. He would never be discriminated against; hell, he would probably be the beneficiary of any discriminating, the one who got opportunities over the woman, the Muslim, the black man. When he is made partner over a man with vastly superior intellect, he accepts it as if it’s his due.
Chase has lived his whole life being cocooned by the Patriarchy. He’s spent his whole life being told, in one unspoken way or another, that because he is intelligent, white, blond haired, blue-eyed and male, anything he wants is within his grasp. Beyond the obvious of law being damn competitive – everyone has to work hard at that, even before you throw in the discriminations – he’s never had to work for things, at least not in the same way people who aren’t of his gender, race and religion. He’s practically had life handed to him on a silver platter.
And yet”¦ I feel sorry for him. Why? Well, I’m sure you’re all aware of the biological theory that’s growing in popularity; the increase of diseases like asthma and allergies – largely thought to be dysfunctions of the immune system – are caused by hyper-hygienic environments. Children are no longer exposed to germs at a young age so with nothing to do, the immune system packs it in. When the germs do finally arrive, the immune system, not knowing what to do, allows asthma and allergies to develop. The immune system is deficient because parents attempted to keep the child cocooned from the nasty germs. Basically, the kids were much better off playing in – and eating – the dirt, training their immune systems to fight from day one.
I argue that men like Chase suffer from emotional immune deficiency. Having never faced negative discrimination, having never been rejected, bullied or treated cruelly, they have no idea how to face the smallest challenges when they do come around. When Chase returns to Boston at the beginning of season one to find his ex having – shock, horror – hooked up with another man, he practically keels over in uncontrolled rejection. When that boyfriend – the one and only Alan Shore – takes potshots at Chase’s Ken-doll looks and uptight personality, he’s flustered and distressed, instead of taking it in his stride. When his mate Laurie (woman) tells him she’s only interested in him as a friend, again, that keeling over in uncontrolled rejection.
To me, these are the responses of a man who has grown up not having to deal with rejection, discrimination, bullying, or any of the nasty things that most of us have inflicted on us at some time or another. And for the most part, we get over it, and become stronger for the experience. Remember when you were a teenager and The Boy not liking you would send you into hysterical tears? Nowadays, we just find another Boy to like. But not Chase; he remains fixated on the Girl, resenting bitterly that she doesn’t return his feelings.
And remember when you were in primary school and the bully used to make fun of your clothes, your hair, your whatever? Then we would have run home crying; now we shrug it off or make some witty remark in return. But Chase gets deeply distressed. For all his outward confidence, he has no real emotional strength; he’s never had to be emotionally strong. He’s never had to immune himself to people who saw it as their right to ridicule him.
And that’s why I feel sorry for him. Because his ingrained sense of entitlement has shielded him from rejection and discrimination, and in doing so left him vulnerable to the slightest rejection or discrimination. Like the parents who thought they were doing the right thing by protection their children from germs, the patriarchy may think they are doing the right thing by men like Chase by protection them from such rejections and discriminations; but in the end, both protections are detrimental because in the long run, even though they were meant to make the person stronger, they leave them weaker.
I may be reading into things. But everytime I watch BL, I’m blown away by the fact that the three male leads, for all their wealth and power, are miserable. Chase is the least aware of it; all he knows is that women don’t like him as much as he expects and people don’t respect him as much as he expects. Is it any easier to live in ignorant bliss then Denny Crane’s half-awareness or Alan Shore’s full awareness? I don’t know. All I know is that, for all those men have, I wouldn’t want to be any of them.