I saw my first couple of episodes of DaVinci’s Inquest recently, and something jumped out at me: in those two episodes, you could have switched the gender on any or every character in the show, and the story would have been the same. Gender was irrelevant.
I didn’t get the sense the writers were trying to be politically correct, either. Gender is pretty irrelevant in most work situations, unless you go out of your way to make a big deal of it. Some people do, and it’s okay by me if shows reflect that, so long as they reflect both genders making asses of themselves (because that’s certainly what I see in reality). But it’s nice to get a break from it, a little reminder that it doesn’t have to be an issue all the time.
The episode I saw last night was about a boy who’d been sexually abused by a man. Curiously, even switching genders on both of those characters would still have worked, because the instrument of rape was not a penis: it was a metal tool. This grotesque detail might have come off as pure ratings-grabbing shock value on one of the 8 billion Law & Orders, but in this case, it just served as a reminder of how impersonal rape is for the perpetrator, how cold and inhuman a person has to be in order to do a thing like that. How little rape has to do with sex, in the mind of the perpetrator.