Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #40 on #MeToo Depictions in TV and Film

These sto­ries are all heav­i­ly watched, which means they’re enter­tain­ing: The 2019 film Bomb­shell (about the pre­da­tions of Roger Ailes), Apple TV’s The Morn­ing Show (about a dis­graced anchor), and Net­flix’s Unbe­liev­able (about report­ing rape) and 13 Rea­sons Why (about teen sui­cide result­ing from sex­u­al assault). But what’s “enter­tain­ing” about sex­u­al assault and harass­ment? What makes for a sen­si­tive as opposed to a sen­sa­tion­al­ized por­tray­al?

Eri­ca, Mark, and Bri­an con­sid­er which sto­ries work and why. How much diver­gence from true events is allow­able in Bomb­shell or Con­fir­ma­tion (about Ani­ta Hill)? By hav­ing char­ac­ters inter­pret their sit­u­a­tions (Eri­ca gives an exam­ple from the show Sex Edu­ca­tion), are writ­ers essen­tial­ly telling audi­ences how to feel about their own expe­ri­ences? Should cer­tain depic­tions be ruled out as poten­tial­ly trig­ger­ing, or is it good to “bring to light” what­ev­er ter­ri­ble things actu­al­ly hap­pen in the world? Should shows delve into the psy­chol­o­gy of the per­pe­tra­tor (maybe even treat­ing him as a pro­tag­o­nist), or must the mes­sage be whol­ly and unam­bigu­ous­ly about the vic­tim? 

Art is about risk-tak­ing and cap­tur­ing dif­fi­cult ambi­gu­i­ties; this does­n’t sound much like a pub­lic ser­vice mes­sage. So what respon­si­bil­i­ty to do show cre­ators have to con­sult pro­fes­sion­als about how to present dif­fi­cult top­ics like this?

We drew on some arti­cles to help us look at these ques­tions:

Here’s that weird scene where Jen­nifer Anis­ton and Bil­ly Crudup sing on The Morn­ing Show.

If this top­ic is too depress­ing, check out our episode #39 from last week about what to watch on TV dur­ing quar­an­tine:

Learn more at This episode includes bonus dis­cus­sion that you can only hear by sup­port­ing the pod­cast at This pod­cast is part of the Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life pod­cast net­work.

Pret­ty Much Pop: A Cul­ture Pod­cast is the first pod­cast curat­ed by Open Cul­ture. Browse all Pret­ty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

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  • Will Le says:

    the main thing that pod­casts like these impress upon me isn’t what­ev­er the cau­tion­ary tale of the day they hap­pen to be espous­ing might be but rather what their inci­den­tal ban­ter inad­ver­tent­ly reveals about them­selves hence and ergo vis a vis the mass­es-at-large.

    with­in the first 3 min­utes i was made aware of, and because of what i was made aware of, i was also made slight­ly nauseous.…of the fact that these aver­age grown up respon­si­ble adults believe lit­er­al­ly every­thing the TV tells them.…every ort of utter­ance. And they are aver­age true-blue typ­i­cal ‘Murkins, i’m sure. i find this deeply dis­turb­ing.

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