Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Thinking the Inadvisable: TV's Newest Most Uncomfortable Moment Ever

What went wrong? First impressions tend to be lasting impressions. Most of the time, anyway.

Barbara Kean seemed so grounded a character. That was the first impression. But that impression began to slip as the series wore on. Within a few episodes, it was gone entirely. Barbara was what you may call a girl with a history: drugs, lesbians, possibly even crime, and the series' writers only know what else.

But last night's episode of Gotham hit a pop fly into left field.

There were plenty of shocking and/or uncomfortable moments in the episode. In case you haven't seen the episode I'll refrain from spoiling most of them. But it's necessary to spoil one in particular: an extremely-uncomfortable exchange between Barbara and Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova).

Barbara -- still reeling from her discovery that James Gordon has moved on -- tells Kyle she's growing into "such a lovely young woman." She tries to touch Selina, but Selina shies away from contact.

She then takes Selina inside and offers her fancy clothes.

I instantly became a good deal more uncomfortable, but decided to sit on the particular thought that sprung to mind. Until I received a Tweet:
It turns out I was far from the only one to pick up this particular unwelcome vibe.

Why is this so interesting? Well it turns out that pedophilia isn't something that is associated with lesbians. A quick websearch turned up evidence of only a single study attempted into the subject. The study argued that pedophilia is more common among homosexuals than among heterosexuals, but this particular study strikes me as something not to be taken seriously.

At the risk of committing a genetic fallacy, it was published in the Regent University Law Review. What is the Regent University Law Review? "Regent University Law Review seeks to present academically excellent scholarship on relevant issues facing the legal community today from the perspective of a historic Christian worldview."

I'm not the type of person who is ordinarily dismissive of anything said by a Christian on the grounds that they are a Christian. That being said, socially-conservative Christians have hardly been welcome or accepting of LGBTQ people. So my first impulse is to take anything published in the Regent University Law Review which refers to "the homosexual movement" with a grain of salt.

The study garnered great interest on a number of fringe websites with track records I would consider questionable.

The other focal point of discussion on the subject of lesbians and pedophilia seems to centre around MRA (Men's Rights Activists) websites. While I have limited sympathies with MRAs (although I'd consider "men's studies academia" to be preferable to "men's rights activists"), this is not a discussion that I feel they've approached from a constructive perspective. From what I've seen, discussion of this subject on MRA websites has been more grievance-based than public interest-based.

That's just how I see it.

For their own part, MRAs seem to blame feminism for preventing any discussion of lesbians and pedophilia -- or, for that matter, homosexuality and pedophilia -- as a deliberate means of creating and/or maintaining an association between pedophilia and heterosexual men. In the case of toxic radical feminists, they may even be correct.

In the seeming absence of any serious study into the subject matter, no conclusion can currently be drawn.

A controversial 1999 study by Dr Harris Mirkin ponders, among some deeply objectionable ideas, one that is far more interesting.

The abstract of Dr Mirkin's paper reads as follows:

"There is a two-phase pattern of sexual politics. The first is a battle to prevent the battle, to keep the issue from being seen as political and negotiable. Psychological and moral categories are used to justify ridicule and preclude any discussions of the issue, and standard Constitutional guarantees are seen as irrelevant. The second phase more closely resembles traditional politics as different groups argue over rights and privileges. Feminist and gay/lesbian politics have recently entered the second phase, while pedophilia is in the first."

It stands to reason that in order for such issues to be considered "negotiable" there must be some sense of normalization. Discussion and good faith academic studies of these issues is necessary for that normalization. In the first phase, the battle to prevent the battle is waged by attempting to prevent discussion and study.

Let's make one thing crystal clear: pedophilia should never, ever be normalized. Ever. But key to preventing pedophiles from abusing children -- such as, say, through therapeutic means -- is a thorough understanding of it.

So while the goal cannot be to "normalize" pedophilia, serious study of it is obviously in the public interest, even though the subject alone is revolting and generally discouraging. I'd suggest that a problem that wreaks social and personal damage as deeply as pedophilia befits study through various methodologies, even if from limited perspectives, would be of tremendous societal benefit.

Dr Harris Mirkin credits feminism with the advancement of women's issues and LGBTQ issues from the first phase to the second phase.

In this he's definitely not wrong.

If "The Red Hood" episode of Gotham serves as a jumping off point tor second-phase discussion of pedophilia, an interesting detail is that Erin Richards, the actress who plays Barbara Kean, is a self-professed feminist.

Time, and how far Gotham is willing to take this uncomfortable moment, will tell just where this awkwardness leads.

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