I was watching reruns of Bones the other day. I love Kathy Reich’s books and her character of Temperance Brennan and the TV show is an interesting way of rebooting the series without following the books (although I suspect partly this was a way of ensuring that an actress in her 40s wouldn’t play the main character because middle age women are a no-no if they aren’t married with children). The entire subplot of one episode was of the male lead Special Agent Seely Booth, played by David Boreanaz, using his privilege as an FBI agent to investigate the new partner of the mother of his child. At no point during the episode was it made clear how creepy, controlling and illegal the act was; instead, it focused on what a good Dad he was.
This same story line was integral to the plot of Mrs Doubtfire: a movie which celebrates incompetent fathers stalking their ex-wives and gaining access to their personal life and house through deception. I’ve written before about my failure to recognise the abusive behaviour within Mrs Doubtfire:
The stalking of the mother and the wearing down of her boundaries is classic abusive behaviour. Being “jealous” of Miranda’s relationship with a new man isn’t the behaviour of a good man – it’s the behaviour of an abusive man who believes his ex-wife is also his possession. Daniel has no right to interfere with his ex-wife’s new relationships. He has no right to stalk her and he has no right to manipulate her. Lying to Miranda and the children about who he is isn’t a funny movie plot. It’s the creepy behaviour of a classically abusive man.
I’ve seen far too many police dramas recently where fathers misuse their power to stalk their former partners and spy on them. This is always presented as normal behaviour by a man concerned about his children’s safety. The male lead in Breakout Kings, played by Domenick Lombardozzi, consistently violates the boundaries of his ex-wife and screams in her face. Even when their child is abducted, he fails to talk to the ex-wife and, instead, screams repeatedly at her. This is the entire sum of their communication throughout the series: he shows up at her house screaming and demanding to see the kids. He pushes his way into the house, demands they do exactly what he says immediately and repeatedly refers to the child as his possession. Somehow, we’re supposed to believe these are the actions of a good cop who loves his children and not of an abusive man continuing to abuse both the ex-partner and child after the end of the relationship – that stalking and harassment are the signs of a good partner and not a criminal act.
I would like to see a cop drama run this story line and the police officer get caught and sent to prison. Just once, I want a program to reflect the reality of male violence, stalking and harassment.