Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Reverse Psych-ology

I don't watch a terrible lot of television, but I have noticed a trend in several of the shows I've watched. I've actually noticed two trends [1], but for this post I'll just be addressing the juxtaposition of a metrosexual guy with a beautiful girl who is tougher than him. Examples:
  • Alias: Jennifer Garner plays a tough girl (spy) with Michael Vartan as her wimpy counterpart
  • Battlestar Galactica: Katee Sackhoff plays a tough girl (pilot) with Jamie Bamber as her wimpy counterpart [2]
  • Battlestar Galactica: Grace Park plays a tough girl (pilot/cylon) with Tahmoh Penikett as her wimpy counterpart
  • Battlestar Galactica: Tricia Helfer plays a tough girl (cylon) with James Callis as her wimpy counterpart
  • Dark Angel: Jessica Alba plays a tough girl (an escaped, genetically-enhanced super-soldier) with Michael Weatherly as her wimpy counterpart
  • Dollhouse: Eliza Dushku plays a tough girl (an 'active') with Tahmoh Penikett as her wimpy counterpart
  • Firefly: Jewel Staite plays a tough girl (mechanic) with Sean Maher as her wimpy counterpart
  • Fringe: Anna Torv plays a tough girl (FBI agent) with Joshua Jackson as her wimpy counterpart
Now I'll grant that most of these shows have something in common: they're sci-fi shows and most have a female as the principal character.[3] However, I think that Psych also fits the trend (or is headed that way).

Obviously this means that Shawn is the wimpy guy. I offer the following as evidence: Shawn screams like a girl when confronted with scary situations, idolizes male actors such as Val Kilmer and Billy Zane,  has told several men that he loves them (Curt Smith and Despereaux) [4], obsesses over his hair, regularly under-performs in fistfights, etc. Quite often he has to be rescued from danger. In effect, he is the damsel in distress.

His counterpart is Juliette, who is a cop. Even though there have been a few episodes where she expresses her femininity, the focus has been on how she tries to fit in at the precinct by being tough.[5] She and her partner, Detective Lasseter frequently have to rescue Shawn from trouble, but whenever they do, it's Juliette leading the way. In effect, she is the knight in shining armor.[6]

My verdict: Season 4 of Psych was about on par with Season 3. There are lots of fun cases and Shawn and Gus are up to their usual antics. The writers continue to tease us with the possibility of a more serious relationship between Shawn and Juliette, but complicate things with a girlfriend for Shawn (Abby). Lots of funny moments, but I still think that Season 1 was the best. If you keep your eyes open you may spot the Dread Pirate Roberts, Leland Palmer, Colonel Miles Quaritch, Mohinder Suresh, Steven Urkel, Imhotep, Prince Humperdinck, Senator Robert Kelly [7], Borg Seven of Nine, and Colonel Saul Tigh.


[1] The other one being sitcoms which portray dads as lazy idiots and moms as hard-working, intelligent women who have to put up with their husbands' antics (e.g. Home Improvement, King of Queens, Everybody Loves Raymond, The Simpsons, Family Guy, Modern Family, etc.—I haven't watched all of these, but I have it on good authority that my evaluation of them is accurate).

[2] Katie Sackhoff plays Kara Thrace (codenamed Starbuck) and Jamie Bamber plays Lee Adama (codenamed Apollo). You can read what the original actor for Starbuck, Dirk Benedict, thinks of the female version of his character, here (warning: some language).

[3] I suspect that this is done to attract female viewers. However, watch these videos from the comedy sketch group Harvard Sailing Team: 1, 2, and 3.

[4] I offer this not as evidence that Shawn has ambiguous sexuality, but as evidence that he's unconcerned with machismo.

[5] For example, juxtapose "Scary Sherry: Bianca's Toast" (S01E15, where she goes undercover at a sorority) and "Talk Derby to Me" (S03E07, where she goes undercover at a roller derby).

[6] One notable deviation from this pattern is the finale of this season where Juliette is kidnapped and Shawn has to figure out how to rescue her.

[7] I thought about saying "The Elephant Man" instead of "Senator Robert Kelly" but I figured that was probably too obscure.

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