I love Mary McDonnell. And not in a little, hey I respect her and enjoy watching her work kind of way. It’s more of a Hi, nice to meet you. I’m Sarah. Do you know who Mary McDonnell is – because if you don’t I’m about to fix that for you! kind of way. I love her in a gigantic, spend all of my money following her up and down the East Coast kind of way. All of my friends and family know that there is this Mary person that I’m consumed with, even if they aren’t familiar with her work.
So, when I decided to stop watching Major Crimes last year, it came as a surprise to many people – myself included. Major Crimes has many problems: it under-utilizes Mary’s talent (to the point that she began a podcast to appease the increasingly angry fans and give a voice to her character); it focuses far too extensively on Rusty Beck who is not a member of the Major Crimes unit; and it seriously lacks good female representation. However, I continued to watch the program because of my devotion to seeing Mary’s face every week. The breaking point finally came through the show’s perpetuation and glorification of harassment and emotionally abusive relationships.
We all know the story. A woman doesn’t have any interest in a man beyond friendship. That, of course, doesn’t stop him from trying to pressure her into dating him. He misleads his friends and family into believing that there is more to the relationship than there is. When his deception sees the light of day, he tries to gaslight the woman into accepting his lies as fact. This man is Andy Flynn and the fact that Major Crimes felt that this was an acceptable means of navigating Andy and Sharon (Mary’s character) into a relationship is disgusting. I wonder if the writers sat around in a circle and thought to themselves let’s set up Andy and Sharon. But, let’s make sure that we do it in the most repulsive way possible!
Andy Flynn is the stereotypical “nice guy”. The only thing missing is his fedora. He lies to his family and misrepresents his relationship with Sharon – telling them all that they are dating. Oh, but it’s cute, he’s so awkward! the fandom screams. Andy is confronted with his lies in front of his daughter and Sharon’s son. Instead of confessing and apologizing to this woman that he claims to have profound respect for, he insists that they are in fact dating, even if Sharon doesn’t realize it. When Sharon continues to protest, Andy enlists the help of Sharon’s teenage son. No Mom, it’s true. You two are totally dating. Thank goodness that young Rusty was present, otherwise Sharon may have believed that she had some agency – and therefore some choice – in the matter. The fact that the fandom bought into this bull was only further proof that it was time for Major Crimes and I to part ways.
This is classic gaslighting. Andy is challenging Sharon’s reality, attempting to convince her that her perception of their relationship is wrong, and that his is right. Even though any rational adult knows that two people are only dating when they both consent to it, Andy forgoes Sharon’s consent and insists they are together because it’s what he wants. Sharon is an intelligent, capable, mature woman. She does not need a man to tell her how she feels.
If Sharon had a single female friend outside of her workplace (or even a female in the writers’ room), those friends would be telling her to get out. Yesterday. They would assure her that Flynn’s behavior is downright creepy and not at all acceptable. They would tell her to file a complaint with HR. They would offer to kick his puny ass. They would absolutely remind her over and over again that she is an intelligent, grown woman and no one gets to dictate to her who she is dating – not even her teenage son. Because the real life Andys aren’t cute or awkward – they’re assholes. Hollywood must stop normalizing this type of abusive behavior. It is terrible storytelling and perpetuates harmful ideas.
I love Mary McDonnell – but I love honest female representation even more.