Don’t Let the Excellent Acting Distract You. Mare of Easttown is a Misogynist Mess.
Do not read until you have finished all seven episodes unless you like things spoiled!
Part One : Girl on Girl Gone Wrong
Let me begin by saying it’s okay to like or love this show. There are a long list of excellent elements that make it enjoyable, compelling and entertaining. This is not a call to cancellation by any means. I sincerely hope the show gets a second season. If it does continue, I desperately hope the single male writer will seek input from other perspectives, perhaps staffing female writers and other diverse voices. My hope is that a second season could move away from the ugly toxic masculinity that drove almost all of the first season narrative.
Things to love about MoE:
- Kate Winslet
- Jean Smart
- Julianne Nicholson
- The entire cast.
- The environment & location.
- The accents.
- The cheese steaks.
The performances in the show make it successful. In some ways, the plot details and the story being told are almost irrelevant. These actors give flawless performances of deeply flawed characters. It would not matter if they were performing Shakespeare or Dr. Seuss instead of a detective drama. Winslet and Smart are too dynamic to ignore. They suck the viewer in and keep us glued. Along with the whole cast, these actors take the material to the highest possible levels and deserve all the awards. No one can fault the actors.
Things to investigate further about MoE:
Let’s do what Mare Sheehan does not and take a closer look at the evidence. The show as a whole is dripping with misogyny both external and internalized. There is nothing I absolutely hate more than girl-on-girl hate. Seriously. I cannot stand women hating on themselves by hating on each other.
The series begins with Mare’s dismissiveness about Missing Woman Katie Bailey. Mare does what far too many in law enforcement have done for far too long and disregards the urgency of finding Katie because she is a “known drug addict with a history of prostitution.” For a female detective to de-prioritize a case because the missing person is a sex worker is misogyny of the highest order.
I almost turned the first episode off during the basketball ceremony scene when Mare unrelentingly badgers her one-time friend and teammate, Katie’s mother Dawn, because Dawn held a press conference to question whether the police were doing all they could to find her daughter. Mare is soooo offended that someone is questioning whether she is good at her job. Guess what Mare? You SUCK at your job. AND, you’re an asshole.
Honestly, I almost did not come back for the second episode because Mare is such an asshole and that scene especially made me initially despise the character. I would have been fine to walk away then and there. I only came back to the show because my mother may be Jean Smart’s #1 Fan and I promised her I would give it another chance. So, indirectly, you can thank my Mamacita for this rant.
I can appreciate a flawed and multilayered protagonist, but I’m getting pretty burnt out on all the anti-hero assholes that have been all the rage since Breaking Bad. We can only hope that an anti-hero will achieve some redemption throughout their journey, but I did not find much for Mare. I respect that she’s a shrew, i.e., she eschews politeness, speaks her mind and doesn’t give a fuck what others think of her. But I still didn’t like her. I eventually came to have some compassion and empathy for Mare’s enormous loss and excruciating grief journey. I know what that’s like. Nonetheless, she never truly redeemed her bad behavior and continued making terrible mistakes.
Mare is really, really, really bad at her job. Her ineptitude causes devastating pain and loss for those in her wake. Does she just want everyone around her to be as miserable as she is? Dawn was right that Mare wasn’t doing enough to find her daughter. Once she put the tiniest bit of effort into investigating, it didn’t take too much to get that crucial lead. All she had to do was talk to the sex workers, y’know, all those women she has been disregarding as unimportant for the past year. There was no great detective work in this detective show. We don’t need Mare to be the stereotypical detective whose powers of observation are almost superhuman (Holmes, Poirot, Shawn from Psych) but can she at least cover some of the basics?
The girl-on-girl hatred continues with Mare’s relationship with her grandson’s mother. This is nothing more than the tired old “monster-in-law” trope, but Mare takes that to a whole new level by planting drugs on a recovering addict?!? Now Mare is not only a bad cop, she’s a corrupt bad cop. She should have been fired and faced charges of her own for that super shitty stunt. You don’t have to be Sean from Psych-Holmes to know that was a fucking stupid thing to do. Administrative leave? Really? Can’t we at least get some fictional police reform that makes sure rotten cops pay some real consequences for their rotten behavior? I don’t care if Carrie is an unfit mother or not, there is no justification for what Mare did. In the end, Carrie recognizes on her own that she’s not ready for full custody. If only these two women could have worked together the whole time for the good of the child. The figurative hair pulling and eye gouging were completely unnecessary.
Now for the literal hair pulling, let’s talk about mean girl Brianna Delrasso. Her internalized misogyny is truly disturbing. Have we learned nothing and has nothing really changed since Mean Girls came out over 16 years ago? Why is everyone in Easttown so freaking abusive? The phrase “If I see it, I can be it,” has a flip side. Perhaps there’s a little bit of Bully OVER-representation out there these days. When a bully sees bullies in entertainment, does it discourage bad behavior or reinforce it? When teen girls are constantly portrayed as at each other’s throats, picking fights over BOYS, it normalizes the stereotypes of jealousy and catfighting. Brianna shows almost no redeeming qualities, but neither does Mare (especially in the first couple episodes). When the hero/anti-hero/villain waters are this murky, the messages are painfully mixed. When bullies see themselves on TV, we might hope they feel some shame and/or remorse, but what if they also feel a thrill of validation? “This is the way things are. Everyone’s a bully. It’s normal, no big deal.” Does someone with already violent tendencies get turned on by seeing their violence reflected back at them? And, do women learn to hate each other because we see it ALL. THE. TIME?
Mare of Easttown is a Misogynist Mess, Part Two: Bad Boys Are Dumb