Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I Didn't Need My Childhood Anyway

Remember Family Matters, the sitcom from the late 80s/early 90s starring Steve Urkel? Yeah, I loved that show as a kid. Unfortunately, I saw an episode today that ruined my entire childhood.

If you don't remember or never saw Family Matters, the star of the show was Steve Urkel, the ultimate nerd*: wildly intelligent, obsessed with science, completely lacking in social skills. Today, we'd probably diagnose him with Asperger's, but in the 80s it was still cool to mock people with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Anyway, in the episode I caught this morning, Steve's love interest, Laura is running for class president against a prototypical mean girl. The mean girl threatens to tell everyone that Laura is dating Steve in order to make Laura drop out of the race. What does Steve do to save the day? He takes a picture of himself kissing the mean girl and threatens to distribute copies.

That's right: Steve Urkel committed sexual assault.

This wasn't even Steve's normal, clueless stalking of Laura, which could be written off as a consequence of his utterly lacking social skills. This was deliberate sexual assault. He knew the mean girl didn't want to kiss him and, in fact, that's why he kissed her.

That's textbook sexual assault.

Even better, this sexual assault is portrayed as being acceptable because the mean girl was mean, therefore she totally deserved it. Sexual assault is wrong kids, unless she's a bitch in which case you're a hero for sexually assaulting her. You go!

Gah. I wonder how many other horrible messages about consent I spent my childhood internalizing?

*nerds are obsessed with science, geeks are obsessed with science fiction. in case you were wondering what the difference is. I am both. neek? gerd? whatever.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I guess that means I am a complete nerd in my resolute fascination with and absorption of science. Well, adsorption, also, I guess....

  3. I'm more of a geek with a splash or two of nerd.


  4. What? No it's not, it's the other way around: Geeks are the science ones. Nerds are sci-fi.

    And people who try to debate the meaning of either word are worse than both...

    On topic, that's not the only example of an old show doing double-standard crap. Pick any old sitcom with a female main character: I remember being thoroughly disgusted after watching an episode of "Bewitched," although it was much older than Family Matters (interestingly, Family Matters never made it to Australia. I only know about it from cultural osmosis).

    I think it's just proof of how far societies come in the last two decades. Faulting the show is a little bit like faulting Darwin for being racist: it was a product of its time.

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  6. [Reposted to remove improper attempt at humor.]

    I agree, that’s sexual assault according to textbooks, though I hardly think this specific case ought to be bad enough to ruin your childhood. =/ Also, I don’t think that someone like Steve would really understand that a mere unwilling kiss constitutes sexual assault if he really is as clueless as you described (I’d never heard of Family Matters until now).

  7. Oh my god, and it's blackmail, too!

    I don't think it's really a crime. Does that make me a rape apologist?

  8. So, am I the only person who's at least a little bit concerned about how a real life person would feel about have his very being used as a political weapon in high school?

    Maybe a kiss wasn't appropriate: a slap in the face would be more apt. I know I'd feel no differently if it was a guy.

  9. No, what he did was not alright. But I do understand where he's coming from. It's his own revenge. I've been in the exact same situation: my awkwardness being a weapon used to threaten others on their popularity. A girl from my class said these exact words to me: "I'm sorry I bullied you in school today, but I didn't want the others to think we were friends." Fun fact: until she said that, I had actually thought we WERE friends. So I know where he's coming from.

    That doesn't make sexual assault A-OK. No. Make no mistake about that. But let's also face that he had no other recourse, and telling an adult? Oh heck no. And don't think for a second that the attitude towards aspies and auties have changed at all since the 80s. Adults in my scout unit and my school made more friggin fun of me than my classmates did.

    Telling an adult that you're being bullied will only net you one answer: Stop being such a wuss.

    So what he did wasn't right, but when society doesn't give him any other way to assert himself and his personhood, how can we fucking expect him to use any other way?

    I've beaten up a girl from my class. She started it. And regretted it. No one messed with me since. But I was still the bogeyman in everyone's nightmares - gosh, what if someone would think I was their friend or anything. The horror.

    And a month ago or so? I and a few other auties were publically mocked in a national newspaper for being oversensitive when all the newspaper had done was equating autism with murderous tendencies displayed by Israel against the freedom flotilla. And don't we really have better things to do than be offended that we're treated like shit? Really.

    Since apparently autistics are murderers just waiting to commit murder, I suppose we could construe Steve Urkel's character to be the epitome of self-restraint and mercy, since he didn't actually kill the girl.


    No, he shouldn't have assaulted her.

    No, she shouldn't have used his very being as weapon of ickiness.

    No, it has never stopped being cool to mock people with ASDs. Please don't assume that that shit stayed in the 80s.

    Sorry for the rantiness. It hit a sore spot.

    Very sore.

  10. Big A does have a point there, and i vaguely recall that ep from waaaaaaaaaay back when, and i always thought the kiss/pic was at *least* as much Urkle getting back that b(*#& who went around acting like even knowing who Urkle *IS* is enough of a "bad thing" to cause one to immediately become a laughingstock. a sort of "I may not be popular, but i'm a PERSON, damnit". in the wrong way, yes, but...

    sigh. i'd need to re-see it, i guess. i barely remember it.

  11. Sexual assault for a joke smooch...

    This is why some men hold the belief that women blow things out of proportion. Real sexual assault is very bad, but if you have people over-reacting to basically nothing, you end up with a dangerous situation whereby people don't take real sexual assault seriously.

    Don't be the liberal who cried "sexual assault." Sexual assault should involve someone's genitals, ass or the woman's boobs. Anything else is just rude, creepy, wrong, inappropriate... but not criminal. If she slapped him for it, I wouldn't call that assault, just hilarious.

  12. i'm too tired tonight, Ginx, to explain reality to you. why not go read Fugitivus or similar blog, and some reality before you open your mouth and stick both feet into it?

  13. Ever hear of a show called "Three's Company"? How about "Bosom Buddies"? (That last one is early Tom Hanks, btw). See if you can find an old episode on Hulu or somewhere. And then make a drinking game out of the incidents of sexism.

    But apparently, it isn't that American culture is clueless, it's that exposure to TV cameras cause gender-based inappropriate acts. And some people are more susceptible than others.

    The costar on TLC's "Cake Boss" was charged with two counts of aggravated sexual assault, two counts sexual assault, two counts endangering the welfare of a child, two counts aggravated criminal sexual conduct and two counts criminal sexual conduct.

    A choreographer on the FOX television show "So You Think You Can Dance" was arrested for sexually assaulting four of his students, but charges were dropped due to lack of evidence (which doesn't mean that he didn't do it, just that nobody got it on film, and no DNA evidence was found).

    Oh, and the money shot [heh] in that story?

    Defence attorney Harland Braun says some of the people with whom his client had sex "don't understand the difference between being seduced and being raped."

    You know, I'll bet the ladies in question actually could figure that one out...)


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