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''He Raped Her''

By RD Heldenfels Published: June 26, 2006

There's been an ongoing debate about last week's episode of ''Rescue Me,'' because of the scene where Tommy and his ex-wife Janet had a confrontation that looked like a textbook rape. Even worse, it fell back on a pulp-fiction cliche, with Janet becoming aroused during the assault, suggesting as too many things have that conflict with a woman can be settled in a direct physical way.


You can see where I stand on the incident. It bothered me when I watched it, and it seemed even weirder when the episode airing tomorrow night -- which FX had made available for preview -- acted for the most part as if the incident was just another dispute in the long history of Gavin marital disputes.


But the reaction to the scene has been sufficiently strong that the makers of ''Rescue Me'' have been trying to address viewer concerns. (You can find a long interview with Peter Tolan and Denis Leary at my friend Alan Sepinwall's What's Alan Watching?) So I wanted another set of eyes to see the scene.


I turned, therefore, to the bride. She is a ''Rescue Me'' fan, as am I, although I had reservations about this season from the beginning. In fact, ''Rescue Me'' is a show we usually watch together.


We didn't do that with last week's, and I had seen the scene before she did. I waited until she had watched it, and kept quiet about the controversy. And when she was done, I asked her what had happened in the scene.


''He raped her,'' she said. No elaboration. No equivocation. No considering what the producers or the writers or the directors or the cast might have had in mind. She knew what she had seen.


So when I read the defenses of the scene, I feel as if someone is repeating the old line about ''what are you going to believe -- your eyes or me?'' I'll believe my eyes, and my bride's. And I have to think the people on ''Rescue Me'' just didn't see what they were doing -- didn't see that Gavin is the guy that we saw beat his own brother bloody not long ago, that Leary is quite capable of conveying a frightening aggresiveness, and that this show for the most part is not kind to the women on it.


Yes, the men are messed up, too, but they're allowed at least to be good at their jobs; the women are allowed to be good at sex but not much else.


The only women I can think of who have been portrayed sympathetically are Theresa, the probie's plus-sized girlfriend (played by Ashlie Atkinson), and Alicia, the new character played by Susan Sarandon. Then I'm not sure what we're to make of the probie's dealing with women given the latest turn in his sex life. And Alicia's taking of Franco's daughter can cause some arguments. I really liked the scene where she explained her motives to Gavin, since she turned the firefighters' views of women back against them. But when I was talking about that scene with Alan, he kept saying, ''Yeah, but she stole Franco's kid.''

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